Do Trini’s speak English?

I’ve traveled over a small part of the Caribbean sea to experience what has been titled as “The best show on earth”.  If you’re familiar with the worldwide event of Carnival, you’ll know that I’ve landed in one of the top celebrated locations.  Welcome to Trinidad! Before we dive in to the controlled chaotic parties, elaborate costumes, all night events and some of the most energetic people on this planet… Lets meet the country first. If you’d like to see past detailed posts, click here and check out the land, food, adventure and culture. For now I’m just going to familiarize you with where the island is on the globe. 

Here’s a glimpse of its proportion to other parts of the world to give you an idea of the land size populating over 1.3 million people.

 Now for the fun part of this post! I often get asked “Do they speak English where you are?” Lets find out…

English Language: a west Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England; a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation.

Language used in Trinidad: Not English.

Trini slang:mixture of shortened words and phrases commonly used in daily communication.

Technically the language of Trinidad is English, however let me tell you that their verbiage is far from what the average English speaking person would recognize. Take a look at some of the phrases you may encounter while visiting the island of Trinidad. Here are just a few of my favorites!

Jus’ now – in a little while (5 minutes, a day, next week. Pretty much anytime except right now… Go figure)

One time – right now.  “Yuh come dis way one time” (I’d be like, just once? Really… That’s it… Never again?)

Jus’so – out of the blue

Lime – to hang out in a social setting “I feelin to lime”.

Fete a party… a big one with drinks, loud music and “nuff” (enough or a lot) people.  

Fuh true – in truth, for real. “Fuh true? You lie!”

Boomsie – the backside, bum, toosh, etc.

Shif yuh carcass – move over, get going

Sweet too bad –really nice, pleasant, attractive “Dred, dat gyul (girl) eh play she sweet too bad!”

Screw up yuh face – to make a face in disgust 

Vex – real angry “she make yuh rel vex, now yuh screw up yuh face”

Bacchanal (back-en-aul) – Scandal, heavy quarreling or a big party

Go doh make sheep -direct translation: “goat don’t make sheep” 

Bess – hot, attractive, sexy, appealing “ooh, she uh bess ting”

Maco (mah-coh) – someone who minds other people’s business; nosey

Awah – generally used at the end of a sentence in place of “or what” – “yuh limin, awah?”

Wha yuh for? –  “what do you want to do?

Dan dans – fancy clothes or dress up outfit

Words or phrases that you won’t hear in Trinidad:

The – If they even include it in a sentence it’s pronounce “dee” or “de”.

Examples:  “Yuh bring the punchy punch?”  Or “We goin down de islands”

Friend – Instead they refer to people close to them as family or they’ll use slang words.

Examples: Breddda (brother) Tanti (auntie) Hoss (“horse”, which in America would be “dawg”) Dred (friend) Gyul (girl)

Any word starting with “Th” is replaced with “D” or “T”– Try it, seriously any word. “Three” is tree & “Them” is dem.

Quick story a local friend told me.  When he was fifteen he was preparing to leave the island to go study in Canada.  Knowing the English language, his family tried to help (or just make fun) by having him repeat the number 3,333. It went like this:

“Tree thousand, tree hundred n thirty tree… No, Three thousand, tree hundred n tirty three… Ugh, THree THousand, THree hundred n tirty THree..”  You get the idea of why his family encouraged this entertainment. (Side note, he’s now one of the most successful business men on the island.  They call him the serial entrepreneur).

Pretty much any other word fully pronouciated – Sentences just don’t make sense or sound anything close to English.  A personal example was when I met a new friend here.

Him: “Ah hyar yuh livin dong by dey so?”

Me: “Uhh, I think I heard living… Say it again please?”

Him: (really slowly): “Haha, I say ahh hyyyar  yuh (as he points to me) livin dunnn by de so (as he points away)”.

Me: “Yeh, I got nothin”.

Turns out he had heard I was staying in Barbaods and was asking if it’s true. I still giggle over our entire interaction. 

Something I’ve learned in years of traveling is that pretending to know what someone is saying only leads to mass confusion and you looking “dotish” (stupid or like a foolish person). One time, smiling and nodding bought me a dozen hard boiled eggs and heavy cooking creme.  I was going for a dozen raw eggs and cottage cheese. Lesson learned.

Categories: Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Do Trini’s speak English?

  1. Gerry Soogrim

    This is pretty much bullshit. We do speak English, but like any other culture, we do have slangs and depending on who you have a conversation with, you will get more slangs than with others.
    The – If they even include it in a sentence it’s pronounce “dee” or “de”……We do say “the”. I say the, them,that, three etc.. “Shift yuh carcass”??…..nobody has said that in like 30 years!! I have no idea where you were and who you spoke to, but this is a pack of bull my friend.

    • Gerry, thanks for reading! If you look at my comment above, I acknowledge that every country in the world has their slang and it’s not always used in daily conversation. Of course you speak English. This write up was relaxed and in good spirits (in fact, I had Trini’s helping me with the correct verbiage!) Nothing personal my friend. One love

  2. awah* not owah

  3. hahah i reading dis and i ca help but laugh na :V he get the real trini experience with dem ppl he was liming with

  4. Nicholas Voisin

    Welcome back anytime! We’ll get you a “Cote ci, Cote La ( next time or maybe even a Trinidad & Tobago dictionary(

  5. As a local of the beautiful island, we can speak “properly” if we wanted to but most of us (like myself) choose not to because it’s out part of who we are. It is what makes us Trinis. In professional settings such as the world of work such as corporate Trinidad, it is preferred that we speak “properly.” I mean the accent is still there but our words are constructed as how it should be. Hope you had fun in our little island!!!!

    • Miguel, I completely agree! I’ve watched the slang drop into perfect English when necessary and have had many in depth conversations without the heavy accent (they probably slowed it down for my sake). As we all know, each country has their own dialect… I can barely understand a New York cab driver in the country I was raised! I adore the Trini sound and believe it’s one of the elements that makes the island what it is. Thought I’d share the fun side of it all. Thanks for checking it out!

  6. Nessa Budraj

    Lol this captivated the country pretty well, good job!! But there are some of us who pronounce the “th” and whatnot xD but mostly at school. Or the in between where it’s mash of the Standard English and our slang 🙂

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