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Nearly 30 vernacular languages are spoken in the various areas and by Kanak tribes throughout the country. So it is difficult to draw up even a short glossary. On the other hand, all the country’s inhabitants speak French today and so, with some French, you will have no difficulty communicating, even if some expressions will probably surprise you. Here are some reference points to help you better understand this often colourful and sometimes very imagistic way of talking…

Astiquer: beat or strike (literally, to polish!)
À bloc, à la tôle: in depth, in great quantity (tôle is corrugated iron used for roofing)
Aouh!: in pity, please “Aouh, give me a spring roll!” »
Awa!: interjection expressing astonishment
Baby-car: bus
Barrer: leave
Ben là…: I don’t know!
Ben lôngin!: wow! hell!
Bétail: laboured (literally, cattle)
Bibiche: slingshot
Bleu de mecs: full of people (literally, blue with blokes!)
Boucan: black magic
Boulette ou quoi?: fishing?
Bouteille carrée: whisky (literally, square bottle)
Broussards: everyone who doesn’t live in Noumea (literally, bushmen)
Buffalo: variety of pasture grass
Ça de wizz: it’s really cool
Camp Est, île de l’Oubli: prison (literally, Camp Est or Oblivion Island: Camp Est is the Noumea prison)
Carport: covered parking space at a house (one of the many English words in New Caledonian French)
Casse pas la tête: common expression meaning no rush (literally, Don’t break your head)
Château: large colonial house (literally, castle)
Claquer une photo: take a photo (literally, snap a photo)
Claquettes: thongs
Coaltar: tar, and by extension the verb, se faire coaltarer, means to be fined or penalised by the gendarmes.
Corner: to blow one’s horn (corne)
Coup de pêche, de chasse ou de fête: a fishing or hunting trip, a big party
Creek: a little river, often full of yabbies (called chevrettes or little goats)!
Donner la main: help (literally, give a hand)
Faire du pouce: hitchhike (literally, use your thumb)
Faré: open hut
Fin valab': really great
Gamelle: tiered portable container for home delivery of cooked meals, a New Caledonian institution
Gratte: ciguatera poisoning (literally, the itch)
Haussaire: abbreviation for the Haut Commissaire, the French High Commissioner
Il est bon?: ça va?
Kaï kaï: eat, food
Kalolo: super, good
Kava: relaxing drink based on a macerated root
Kermesse: big party
Manou: pareo
Nakamal: dark quiet place where kava is drunk
Kiwi: New Zealander
Plate: little aluminium boat for visiting the islets (literally, flat)
Poka: pig
Poken: Australian (from English Spoken)
Run: stockbreeding area
Stock: large cattle
Tabou: taboo or prohibited (for a place or a topic)
Tata: goodbye
Topette: beer can
Toutoute: large shell used as a calling horn
Viandard: poacher
Wharf: marina landing stage
Wanamatcha: astonishment (What’s the matter)
Yossi!: untranslatable expression indicating stupefaction
Zoreille: French person from France (from les oreilles, the ears)