I get asked a lot what language people speak in Guyana.
Let me just say that it’s a little difficult to explain.
If you didn’t know, people in Guyana speak Creolese; which to the best of my knowledge, is essentially a spoken language formulated by a mix of others that have influenced the country through out its history (via colonization, immigration, trade etc). There is no single Creolese language. Depending on where you are in the West Indes/Caribbean the mixture changes.
In Guyana, Creolese is British English based with hints of Awarak (indigenous language), Hindi, Dutch, and Afrikaans. It was challenging to understand and speak at first, but I’m comfortable enough now that I don’t have to think about it too hard anymore.
I’ll do my best to give you an understanding of Creolese, but I don’t think that I could do any justice explaining how its grammar or spelling works here. Here are some of the phrases and expressions I hear/use the most to get around Guyana and how I would translate it into American English:
oh shucks // oh shucks, me forget to call she!
kind of like oh shit, but more polite; used when you forgot something, when you learned some new gossip about someone’s auntie, or when you realize the time gone by
jus’ now // yea yea jus’ now my friend.
used when you want to say “hold on” or “wait” or “I’ll get to it eventually”. There’s no telling when though, but just when I’m ready. That could either be in 2 seconds, 2 weeks, months… years
w’em deh (wa-uhm-deh) // w’em deh gyal? I ain see you for a long time nah.
this means what’s up? what are you up to?
leh we go // come, leh we go
when you’re getting people together to leave at one time
me nah no // me na no, he gone out since the afternoon.
I don’t know
don trouble wid he/she/it // don trouble wid he, lef him dere.
don’t even bother, you’re wasting ya time
me nah able // me nah able wid dat.
I can’t dude, I just can’t.
w’happen (wuh-happen) // w’happenin dere?
what happened or what’s up
don tek stress // nah man, don tek stress. it gonna happen!
don’t worry about it, let it go
go long/ go on so // HELLO, GO ON SO!
you’re telling someone to go away or to be somewhere other than here
pickneys // dem pickneys be showin’ off bad.
fuh truth // fuh truth, da sun hot bad.
yous problem // mel, yous problem gyal
basically when you’re being ridiculous and making others laugh
please for *insert item* // please for a banks (local beer)
when you’re asking for something
you gettin’ fat // look at he belly, he gettin’ fat
usually means you look good or healthy… or that you are indeed getting fat–don’t take it personally
catchin’ a ting // ehhh she catch a ting nah!
you’re seeing someone *winks
up the road, over the river // she livin’ up the road or over the river
depending on where you, this is how you give directions. if you’re from east berbice, this means up the main road of new amsterdam or over the berbice bridge to region 5
come // come jeremiah! or come nah man!
get your ass over here or “ugh seriously”
how you do // good night, how you do?
how are you?
usually said as someone is passing by; kind of like you guys are acknowledging that you see one another by don’t want to ask how you do or say good day
pull in da corner
my host mom says this to me when cars are passing by and she doesn’t want me to get hit by one of them
push ya body // why you so slow, push ya body
hurry up, get movin’
I’m sure I’m leaving out some other common phrases/expressions, but these are just the ones off the top of my head that I use pretty often. Try them out! Don’t fret if you don’t understand it or get the accent right away. You get the hang of where the he’s and she’s and me’s and we’s go in your sentences and people will start to say, “You a proper Guyanese now!”