The 2019 Census findings reported that among the four languages (English, Pidgin, Local Language and Other Language) that had been tested for literacy, the English language came out to be the most predominant language used in communication.
English language is the official language widely taught in school syllabus and is a key language requirement for formal communication in government and in private sector organizations.
The 2019 Census reported that 72.9% of the population 5 years and over was able to communicate (literate) in the English language.
Amongst sexes, a relatively larger percentage of males (75%) than females (70.7%) were literate in the English language.
Table 9.5.2: Percentage of Population 5 years and over and language ability by sex and province, Solomon Islands: 2019
Figure 9.5.4: Percent of persons with English literacy by province, Solomon Islands: 2019
The second important language was Pidgin with 68.4% of people 5 years and over who claimed that were able to read and write a simple sentence in the Pidgin language.
This was followed by local language (64.4%) and only 6.6% of the population communicated in ‘other’ languages. In most cases, this ‘other’ category referred mostly to other foreign languages.
Language abilities varied across provinces. Communications in the English (87.4%) and Pidgin (81.0%) languages was predominant in Honiara compared with other provinces.
This was followed by Western in both languages, respectively (80.7% and 77.6%). Malaita was the least province that communicated in the English and Pidgin languages.
The provinces where other languages were widely utilized were Rennell Bellona (80.4%) and Choiseul (79.5%) provinces.
Solomon Island has numerous diverse languages and many local dialects. The official language is English, and the lingua franca for majority of people is Pidgin. The 2019 Census obtained data on first language by asking the question “What is the first language this person learnt as a child? This question was asked to persons who 5 years were and over 41.
Data about first-learned languages can provide reliable information on how many people speak a particular language.
First learnt language is different from language of habitual use. For example, many people residing in Honiara would have Pidgin language as their language of habitual use, while their first language would refer to at least one of the many local language in the Solomon Islands.
According to Table 9.6.1, the first-leant language spoken by the majority (101,588 or 16.1%) of the population 5 years and older in the Solomon Islands was Pidgin.
Table 9.6.1: Larger local languages by province, Solomon Islands: 1976, 1999, 2019
Table 9.6.1 (Cont…): Larger local language by province, Solomon Islands: 1976, 1999, 2019
The table revealed a large increase in the number of people who spoke Pidgin as their first-learnt language with 1,527 people in 1976 to 101,588 people in 2019 Census. Since 1999, this represented a massive increase of 407%.
Pidgin could effectively be considered a lingua franca in urban areas, especially in Honiara, where the majority (47.2%) of people spoke Pidgin as their first-learnt language (Figure 9.6.1).
Figure 9.6.1: Pidgin as first-learnt language by province, Solomon Islands: 2019
See link below for the full report.