Multiple waves of colonizers, each speaking a distinct language,
migrated to the New Hebrides in the millennia preceding European
exploration in the 18th century. This settlement pattern accounts for
the complex linguistic diversity found on the archipelago to this day.
The British and French, who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th
century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which
administered the islands until independence in 1980, when the new name
of Vanuatu was adopted. Local languages (more than 100) are spoken by
72.6% of the population; pidgin (known as Bislama or Bichelama) is
spoken by 23.1%, English
is spoken by 1.9%, and French is spoken by 1.4%.