Some time ago, I found a copy of perhaps the only five-language phrasebook for the Andaman Islands. The Andaman Islands are a remote island group south of Burma belonging to India. Up to the 19th century, they were inhabited by a number of tribes with Stone Age technology, no significant contact with the outside world, and languages extremely different from any spoken anywhere else. Some of their descendants remain there today, but are a tiny minority except in a couple of areas in the south, and most of their languages are extinct. This phrasebook was written by one A. J. Portman in 1887, when the islands had been turned into a British penal colony, for the use of government officials. Some of the entries paint an interesting picture of life in the colony; for economy's sake, I have given only the Aka-Bea equivalents.
"That woman is wearing his skull." Kát apáil lá ót chetta ngāūrók-ké.
"Some convicts have escaped, you must search for them." Jó chāōga lá kájré, áb átaká."
"This village is very dirty." Ká báraij lót láda-da.
"You will be bitten by sandflies and mosquitoes." Nyípá, ól bédig téil ngáb chá-pinga.
"Don't sing, or there will be a storm." Ngódá rámitóyo-ngayábada, élér-wulké.
"He is a boy, and may not eat turtle." Kát áká kádekada, óda yádi mék-nga yábada.
"Do you eat grubs alive?" Án wai ngó butu ligátí mék?"
"You must bring them in by force." Ngó ítár pórawa.
"Is there anyone here who understands his language?" Tén kárin míjólá áká teggí gádí-áté?"
They just don't make phrasebooks like this any more...
Too close for comfort
2 hours ago