Papiamento Language: 15 Facts You Never Knew

Written by andy

The Papiamento Language: everything you need to know before heading to Aruba.

If you visit the ABC islands in the Caribbean, you will encounter a hybrid¬†language called Papiamento. Papiamento is a language spoken only in the Caribbean, and it’s the official language of the ABC Islands. It comes from a smattering of other more prevalent tongues, and yet only around 270,000 people speak Papiamento properly.

Here are a few fascinating facts about the language:

  1. Papiamento is derived from both Portuguese and African languages, but it has influences from Dutch, English, Spanish, and even Native American languages.
  2. There are actually two versions of the language: Papiamento, which is spoken on Aruba, and Papiamentu, which is spoken on Bonaire and Curacao.
  3. It’s not known which language it is derived from. While its roots are Iberian, historians don’t know if it comes from Spanish or Portuguese.
  4. Its origins are not known, though some people believe that the language was created as a means of communication between Portuguese slave-traders and African slaves.
  5. The Dutch influence was added to the language in the 17th century when Peter Stuyvesant was appointed to service in New Netherlands and the islands of the Caribbean.
  6. The language is very similar to Cape Verdan creole, and is believed to have been brought by Portuguese Sephardic Jews from Africa.
  7. Most Papiamento speakers not only speak their native tongue, but also Dutch, Spanish, and English.

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  1. It was only made an official language of the world in 2007.
  2. The language may be native to the Caribbean Islands, but it’s also spoken in the Netherlands. It’s also spoken on other Dutch Caribbean Islands, such as Saba and St. Maarten.
  3. The Aruban version of the language sounds more like Spanish, while the dialect spoke on Bonaire and Curacao has more of a Portuguese sound.
  4. Both Spanish from Venezuela and English from the United States heavily affect the language today.
  5. The language has nine vowels–those from the Ibero-Romance languages and those derived from the Dutch language.
  6. Just like with Chinese, altering the tone or accentuation of the way a word is spoken affects its meaning. The stress on syllables can also be altered to change the meaning of a word.
  7. It is in the same language family as the Portuguese spoken in Upper Guinea.
  8. The spelling of the two dialects of Papiamento is different. Aruban Papiamento uses an etymology-bases spelling, while the Papiamentu spoken in Bonaire and Curacao is based on the phonology.

A fascinating language, Papiamento, and one that comes from all over the world! These are¬† a few little-known facts about the language, one that you will no doubt encounter if you visit the ABC islands on holiday. It’s worth learning a bit about it, as you will be surprised to find that you can understand a bit of what is being said. Thanks to its Iberian origins and the influence English has had on the language, you may be able to speak at least a bit of Papiamento without ever having learned it!

About the author


Some people get lucky and are born with fit, toned bodies. Andy Peloquin is not one of those people... Fitness has come hard for him, and he's had to work for it. His trials have led him to becoming a martial artist, an NFPT-certified fitness trainer, and a man passionate about exercise, diet and healthy living. He loves to exercise--he does so six days a week--and loves to share his passion for fitness and health with others.

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