What are Pidgin languages?
Pidgins are blended tongues that were brought into use because of necessity. They combine two languages to facilitate communication where it would otherwise be impossible. Ethnologue lists 16 pidgin languages with speakers all around the globe. Nigerian Pidgin English, for instance, has about 75 million speakers in Nigeria, Haitian Creole has 12 million speakers, and Jamaican Creole has 3.2 million.
Pidgins are used for effective communication all over the world: Africa, Indonesia, the Caribbean, the Philippines, northern South America, and Malaysia are just some of the nations where they are extensively used. It’s often English-based, which means that Pidgin-to-English translations are regularly carried out by professional translators around the world. In addition to this, some pidgins are also Portuguese-, French- or Spanish-based.
The Majority of these were constructed to increase cultural, societal and business opportunities, yet the modern business world largely avoids their use. In West Africa, for instance, a Pidgin originated to carry out Trade — The trade of humans being shipped to the New World to be sold into slavery.
With the enormous number of pidgin speakers out there (ranging from thousands to hundreds of millions), the use of pidgin languages in business has all the hallmarks of an opportunity that is ripe for the taking.
Taking Nigerian Pidgin English as an example, statistics show that 3–5 million Nigerians speak it as their first language, while an astounding 75 million Nigerians speak it as a second language (out of a total population of about 190 million people). It is only fair to then agree to the effectiveness Nigerian Pidgin would bring to various marketing campaigns. It would not only fit into topical marketing strategies linked to current events but would also serve to create a more profound sense of engagement with consumers. With about 80 million speakers all over Nigeria, this pidgin has become a cultural force in itself.
Leveraging Pidging Languages
What then, prevents this from being embraced by the market, say by the food and beverage industry, for instance? Food is an inherent part of any culture and has unwavering linguistic ties with the pidgin, just as it does with other languages.
Alternatively, Nigerian Pidgin English could cater to a far more practical purpose by being used, for example, in a sexual health awareness campaign. The said initiative would not only benefit the society in a significant way but using Nigerian Pidgin English would also ensure that the message reaches a varied and diverse audience.
While famous pidgins have grown into creole languages, with Pidgin English recently being recognized as an official language in Hawaii, there are still many pidgin languages around the globe, primarily in countries where cities have rapidly progressed with people who are multilingual.
Pidgins are also gaining favour with advancements in technology, with Pidgin English being used by BBC for reporting, and the Wycliffe Bible Translators creating a Pidgin English website for the Bible.
Mentioned above are some of the prime examples of the impact that language localization holds. These cultures are being tapped into, in languages that can be identified and understood by them. This holds a lot of truth while talking about countries like Nigeria, where pidgins are frequently used as a first language, as discussed before.
To say the least, pidgins and creoles shall continue to rise and evolve throughout the world, and with the huge influence they have on cultures, it’s clear that technology will have to continue keeping pace.
By Ira Mahajan