Communications

One thing Australia can be proud of is the excellent communications system it has bequeathed to Papua New Guinea. Indeed, so vast and sophisticated is the system that there is some justification in fearing for its decline when service and maintenance is taken over entirely by locals. Meanwhile, however, the system works well and suffers only from Telecom strikes in Australia.

Direct dialing between all main towns in the country is available as is direct dialing to any large centre in Australia. The latter, known as International Subscriber Dialing (ISD), requires only the number 3 placed in front of the Australian STD code. Thus, Sydney, which has an STD code of 02 becomes 302.

Operator connected calls can be made to any country in the world and the reception is mostly excellent. Telex is also available throughout Papua New Guinea.

THE LANGUAGE The common language in Papua New Guinea is English — spoken with an Australian accent. Most educated indigenes speak it well while others have only a knowledge of common words or just a vague understanding of a few words. Either way, the visitor will eventually make himself understood in all but the most remote village.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Papua New Guinea has always been the number of totally different languages spoken within such a small country. It is claimed that there are between 500 and 750 languages. If even the lower figure is correct it represents a staggering number.

During the years of colonisation, two dominant languages emerged. These were Motu in Papua and Pidgin English in New Guinea. Thus, if you look at an old map of Papua New Guinea which shows the border between what was once two countries, Motu was spoken south of that border and Pidgin English was spoken to its north. This difference is still very obvious.

Sometimes called 'Neo Melanesian', Pidgin English had its genesis in German New Guinea where the 'masters' encouraged the development of a language which did not involve the 'slave' in the language of the Fatherland and thus maintained a fence of privacy between the races. A childish form of English was chosen which developed into the country's lingua franca, much to the horror of many early administrators on the Papuan side and the more recent local politicians.

Pidgin English, in every sense a dreadful language, emerged in a haphazard fashion, using trade names, sounds, German, Portuguese and anything else which provided another building block to its ascendancy. Today it is accepted as the nation's only language but to date very few 'Papuans' have shown any interest in discarding Motu and English in its favour.

As stated, the visitor will find communication easy if he speaks English, but he could enhance his ability to communicate by buying an English-Pidgin English dictionary as well as an English-Motu dictionary. They are available in most large newsagents throughout the country.

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