French Guiana pronunciation in English (+ the local languages)

Which is the correct French Guiana pronunciation in English? And how is it written and pronounced by the locals? Did you know that there are about 40 different languages that are spoken in French Guiana? In this blog post, you will find how to say French Guiana in the most spoken languages in the territory. As well as some facts about the name, such as its etymology.

How to pronounce French Guiana in English

French Guiana is the English version of the region’s name. Its pronunciation is:

french gi·aa·nuh

Although, it’s important to mention that locals don’t use the English translation at all. Instead, there are many different ways to say French Guiana locally, starting from the official language which is French.

How do French people pronounce French Guiana?

French Guiana has been a French colony since 1676. Even if the British government controlled it for 8 years, between 1778 and 1788, and Brazilians for 8 years between 1809 and 1817. Nowadays French Guiana is an overseas department of France. For this reason, the official language is French. The region’s name in French is Guyane (which is a female noun), and its pronunciation is:

ɡɥi.jan

An older version of the name was Guyanne, but that’s not used anymore.

Kourou river French Guiana pronunciation

Etymology: what does Guiana mean?

The word Guiana is an Awarak word that means “land of many waters”. Awarak is an indigenous Amerindian language spoken in South America and the Caribbean. For the Amerindian people, Guiana referred to a large territory on South America’s Northern coast. During the colonization of the Americas, many different powers controlled the area and divided the large territory as follows:

  • Spanish Guiana, (in Venezuela).
  • British Guiana, (Guiana).
  • Dutch Guiana, (Suriname).
  • French Guiana. The only territory that stayed under French influence and became a modern region of France.
  • Portuguese Guiana, (in Brazil).

Which other languages are spoken?

Since the colonization, starting by the end of the 15th century, French Guiana has been a multicultural land. To the original Amerindian languages, Arawak, Teko, Wayana (the artisans behind Maluwanas), you must add the European languages (French, Portuguese, English, Dutch, and Spanish) after the colonization.

Lately also the creole cultures and languages (West Indies creole, Haitian creole), and all the languages that are derived from neighbor countries (Saramaka, Sranan Tongo, Aluku, and Ndyuka). After the Asian immigration caused by the wars, the Hmong (in Cacao village) and Chinese communities also established themselves in French Guiana.

That’s many languages for a small country of 300.000 inhabitants!

Cayenne French Guiana pronunciation

Learn how to say French Guiana in Creole

About 80 different nationalities are present in French Guiana nowadays. Creole, which is more a community issue of centuries of miscegenation than ethnicity, is the most widespread, about 40% of the population. For this reason, creole guyanais is the second most spoken language, and almost all the locals speak it. In fact, they even teach it in schools.

Guyane in creole becomes Lagwiyann, which is a merge of the French words La + Guyane, where “la” stands for “the”. They pronounce it:

la.ɡɥi.jãn

What’s the name of French Guiana’s inhabitants?

The name of French Guiana’s inhabitants comes from French, guyanais. With guyanaise being the feminine variant.

Cayenne’s inhabitants are called Cayennais, while people living in Kourou are Kourouciens (I am a kouroucienne by the way).

Touloulou parading at Kourou Grand Parade French Guiana pronunciation

Should I learn French before visiting?

That would be helpful as the majority of people don’t speak fluent English. Although, the guyanais are often very willing to help and when you are traveling they will make many efforts to let you understand them.

Don’t worry too much if you only know a few words.

Even if you don’t speak the language, you can learn it once you are visiting. And most important, as a multicultural country most people speak between 2 and 3 languages. It’s safe to say that if you speak Portuguese or you are familiar with the Caribbean Creole, people will understand you.

A final consideration on French Guiana pronunciation

If you ever come to visit la Guyane, (and I really hope so!) don’t hesitate to surprise the locals with the creole name of their region. That’s always something that people appreciate when they meet foreigners. Everywhere you go.

Before going don’t forget to check out the French Guiana section to be inspired by visiting one of the wildest regions of the world. This page collects my +10 years experience in French Guiana, complete with insightful tips. It will be an awesome adventure I promise you! 😉

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