Seychelles Creole Academy Publishes First Monolingual Creole Dictionary

A total of 22,000 words from the Seychellois Creole language now feature in the newly launched monolingual dictionary, the first dictionary of its kind published by the Seychelles Creole Academy (SCA).

The dictionary is the culmination of 14 years of work and is described as both a historic and symbolic effort.

Seychellois Creole is the French-based Creole language spoken by the people of Seychelles. Creole, English and French are the three official national languages of the island nation in the western Indian Ocean.

Before the launch of the monolingual Creole dictionary, in 2017, the “Diksyonner Trileng – Kreol Seselwa, Français, English” [The Trilingual Dictionary – Seychellois Creole, French, English] was published by Collette Gillieaux, after 19 years of research. Prior to that a Creole-French dictionary, written by the late Danielle de St Jorre and the late Guy Lionnet, was used.

The monolingual dictionary is the end product of a 15-member committee, passionate about the Creole language. The committee did extensive research work on all three main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue and consulted different groups of the community such as senior citizens, farmers, and fishers.

The senior researcher for language development at the SCA, Erica Fanchette, recounted in a recent programme on national broadcaster – Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation TV – how working on the dictionary was a labour of love, with many challenges but the end product is a national pride.

Fanchette explained that before the actual work of word definition started the technical committee did a lot of background and preparatory work involving consultations of other dictionaries.

“The Creole language has its own specifications that other languages do not have so it took us some time. Also, you tend to think that Creole is an inferior language but it is not. It is very rich in vocabulary, and this can be seen in the 22,000 words defined in the dictionary,” said Fanchette.

The secretary general of the Seychelles National Institute for Culture, Heritage and the Arts (SNICHA), David Andre highlighted the crucial importance of the dictionary, not only as a linguistic tool to improve vocabulary, to conduct research, or verify spellings and word meanings.

“It is more than that. It helps to reinforce the transmission and preservation of the cultural know-how and knowledge, spreading culture and linguistics on the same level as English and French within our trilingual context,” he said.