Communicating with Guyanese

English is the official language of the country, but most Guyanese speak a dialect known as Creolese. The base structure of Creolese is the same as English, but words and concepts from different ethnic groups enrich the vocabulary.

Native people, who live inland, still speak their original language. Some Chinese families speak Cantonese within the family. Older East Indians may understand Hindi or Urdu which is important to use on religious occasions for Hindus and Muslims.

Guyanese have a great sense of humour and love to tease one another. This is seen at social gatherings and even on solemn occasions such as funerals. Their humour is not meant to be unkind or to ridicule. It is intended to break the ice, cover up more serious emotions or simply to have fun.

Guyanese love to illustrate what they say through proverbs. The proverbs are a rich legacy from the many different cultures. Here are some common examples with the explanations under them.

Cat ta ketch rat but ee teef ee masta fish.
The same person is capable of both good and evil deeds.

Every best friend's gat a next best friend.
Your secrets are spread from one best friend to another.

You can't plant plantain and reap cassava.
You reap what you sow.

When Mumma dead family done.
A mother keeps the family together. When she dies the members tend to scatter.

When coconut fall from tree he can't fasten back.
What's done cannot be undone.

Nah mine how bird vex, ee cann vex wid tree.
Even if you are frustrated with your job or home, sometimes you have no choice but to stay with it.

Did you know?

The same grammatical structure is used for both questions and statements. The difference is conveyed in the tone and pitch of the words. The statement "John mother sick", spoken in a flat even tone, means that John"s mother is ill. The same words said in a higher pitch and a questioning tone means "Is John's mother sick?"