Guyanese “English”

On the surface, Guyana does speak English. Before getting here I anticipated absolutely zero language barrier and as soon as I was trying to go through customs at the airport I was terrified that I couldn’t understand a single thing being said to me. They speak English, but they also speak Creolese, and they also have strong, strong Caribbean accents. Oh, and grammar is pretty non-existent here. It took only a few months to understand it all, and now its rare that I can’t decipher what someone is saying, but it was much more of an issue that I had expected it to be.

Obviously I don’t have the accent, but a few phrases of Guyana-speech have made their way into my vocabulary. It’s pretty fascinating the way their English differs from mine so I thought I’d try to compile a little cheat sheet. You know, JUST IN CASE any of you find yourself knee-deep in Guyanese-Creolese and desperately need to decipher your way out of it…

-Lime (hang out with friends, low-key; “we gon’ lime at the sea wall tonight”)

-Walk with (bring with you; “walk wit’ ya ID card to get your voucher”)

-Gyaff (talking with friends, chit-chat; “we was gyaffin’ til he show up”)

-Biy/Gyerl (boy and girl, this probably didn’t need an explanation; “Ay biy, who dat gyerl ya wit’?”)

-Budday (buddy, with emphasis on the “ay”; “naw budday, I ain’t got ya money”)

-Tablet (pills; “Gettin’ tablets for dis pain, biy.”)

-Getting through? (are you lost/do you need help; when you walk into an office and stand there looking as lost and dumbfounded as ever… “you gettin’ through?”)

-Not as yet (not yet; “Na, I haven’t paid as yet”)

-Just now (see previous post)

-Study (think about something; “I ain’t gon’ study it, I go fa’ studyin’ it”)

-Enough/Plenty (lots of times; “I saw plenty white girls in America”)

-Papaw, pear, pine (papaya, avocado and pineapple)

-Ring out (when no one answers the phone; “I call she but she phone ring out, mon”)

-Mints (they mean cough drops, they eat them as mints; not good)

*As soon as I post this I know ten more will come into my head, so DON’T WORRY there will be more.

Example Sentence (spoken at the speed of light):  “Mi don’ know wha’ she do wit’ she baby biy but she an’ he ain’t mi problem I don’ study they I jus’ do what mi gots ta do for mi own self’s ya unda’stan’? Mi don’ got nottin’ fa do wit’ dey.”


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