Writing in Mauritian Creole

From a translator’s perspective, translating into Mauritian Creole is easy in terms of terminology, but difficult in terms of orthography. One can easily find an equivalent of a word in Morisyen, but the issue lies in choosing the correct orthography of a term among its multiple existing orthographies.

A word in Mauritian Creole is written based on its pronunciation 

Many Mauritians are not familiar with the standardized orthography. As a result, there are several orthographies for a single word, and orthography can vary from one Morisyen translator to another. Moreover, the predominance of French in Mauritius leads to the adoption of the French writing of a word (Hookoomsing, 2004), especially if that particular Morisyen word is of French origin or has a close French word family.

A translation into Morisyen tends to be half Morisyen

Many terms are usually borrowed from French or English. Morisyen academics do not find it necessary to invent new terms for new concepts or establish a standard writing system based on the Morisyen alphabet for new terms. It is also striking that there are not many professional Morisyen translators or non-professional Mauritians willing to provide translation and localization services into their native language, as they find it natural to just use the English or the French texts. This is proven by the existence of many books and documents in those two European languages, and the absence of versions translated into Morisyen. This is not the case, however, when translating from Morisyen into another language; many resources are available for conducting this task, like hard-copy dictionaries and online dictionaries, among resources.

Mauritians of all social backgrounds and communities understand and use Morisyen in everyday life. They are often bilingual and some even speak more than two languages. It tends to be spoken in homes and informal situations, while French is used in work places, in the media and in literature. English is the official language and medium of teaching of Mauritius, but French is also used in schools and formal situations. “80% of news print (…) is in French although Mauritian TV channels use English and Hindi”, but in recent years, Mauritian Creole is more and more used in the media as the government tries to promote its use through radio and TV programs, the Mauritian Broadcasting Corporation even introduces new radio and TV channels dedicated to Creole language, music and culture.

Morisyen uses the Latin script

However, there have been obstacles and issues in terms of orthography. Like many Creole languages, Morysien is close to African languages in terms of grammatical structure, whereas its lexicon resembles in great part that of its European origins (Félix 2007).

Morisyen has many particularities:

  • The letter g in French is replaced by g in Morisyen, e.g. “garage” => “garaz”
  • The letter j in French is replaced by z in Morisyen, e.g. “joli” => “zoli”
  • The letter k is used for all [k] sounds of k, c ou q
  • Complicated [n] sound: the pronunciation of the letter n at the beginning of a word is easy, but at the end of a word/syllable, the letter n needs to be doubled to have the same sound
  • A single n at the end of a word/syllable nasalizes the vowel. However, the letter u does not take a single n, but only a double
  • The [r] sound at the beginning and at the end of a word/syllable is pronounced differently
  • The letter u in French is replaced by i in Morisyen (oral and written), e.g. “utile” => “itile”
  • The consonant x is used for the [ks] sound, e.g. in expilse
  • The letter y has a different value at the end of syllables from at the beginning
  • Adjectives do not have gender and does not inflect, and are preferably doubled in the superlative form.

Last but not the least, in this technology era, the Morisyen language has gained in status and recognition, as more and more Mauritians, particularly the youngsters, are using it to communicate through text messages and in social networks. This fact also may contribute to the future form of written Morisyen – given the fact that the present standardized orthography is still subject and vulnerable to changes – and may promote the creation of new terms which will enrich this language.


About Gabriella Ralaivao

I am a professional translator living in Mauritius. I have a strong command of Malagasy, English, French, and Mauritian Creole. I received my B.A. in English and M.A. in Translation Studies from the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar.