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Kriolu the local language of Cape Verde

Report from T a resident of Santa Antao

Kriolu is the language spoken by all Cape Verdeans. It’s the first language, and is spoken in the home, on the streets, between couples, at bars and on the beach, amongst family and friends. When children learn to speak, they learn kriolu. It is, for the most part, not yet a written language. (I’ve found only one book printed in kriolu, and that was on Praia.) Each of the inhabited islands has its own particular dialect of kriolu, and oftentimes dialects can even differ from village to village within the same island. Although all the dialects are closely related, there are big differences in vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax, grammar and punctuation. Consequently, a stranger to the islands might hear someone speaking the Badiu kriolu of Fogo and someone else the Sanpadjudo kriolu of Santo Antao, and think they were speaking two completely different languages. (This presents an especially difficult challenge to Americans, as we all learn the badiu of Santiago, but are then shipped off to various islands and forced to learn a new kriolu once at site.) Cape Verdeans can, for the most part, understand all of the various dialects, although each island would claim that their particular version was mex seb, (better…as we’d say here on Santo Antao).

Portuguese however, is the language that is spoken in schools, government offices, and on the television. All written documents and books in Cape Verde are printed in Portuguese. During classes at all the schools, teachers teach in Portuguese, and the students respond in Portuguese. When the kids head into the hallways during a break, they speak to one another in kriolu, then return to the classroom, and to conversing in Portuguese. Homework and papers are completed in Portuguese.