A mosaic of Kanak languages
French is the official language in common use in New Caledonia, with a number of colourful local expressions you’ll come across during your stay! The Kanak languages are also widely spoken throughout the country.
- Pwapwâ (Voh)
- Sîchë (Bourail / Moindou)
- Drehu (Lifou)
- Nengone (Maré)
- Xârâcùù (Canala / La Foa / Boulouparis)
- Paicî (Poindimié / Ponerihouen)
- Ajië (Houaïlou / Poya)
The Kanak languages belong to the Austronesian language family. 28 languages are currently spoken, together with 11 dialects. Most Kanak people still speak the language used in their native region.
However, the number of native speakers of any one language varies greatly, and some of these languages are likely to disappear over the coming decades despite determined efforts to keep this precious intangible heritage alive. Only a few dozen speakers of Pwapwâ (Voh region) and Siche (Bourail/Moindou) remain.
On the other hand, some languages are in everyday use by several thousands of speakers: Drehu (Lifou), Nengone (Maré), Xârâcùù (Canala/La Foa/Boulouparis), Paicî (Poindimié/Ponerihouen) and Ajië (Houaïlou/Poya).
For a number of years, some Kanak languages have been taught as optional subjects in schools and can be studied as a subject for the baccalauréat (high school diploma). In addition to primary school pupils, around 3,000 students at colleges and high schools study Kanak languages. A course of study in Drehu is even included in the curriculum of the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris.
The preservation, promotion and development of the Kanak languages was a provision of the Noumea Accord (1998) and led to the founding of the Kanak Language Academy in 2007.