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Languages in Belize: English or Creole?

12.13.07 | admin | In Spanish, Creole, German, Mandarin, Chinese, English

What language do they speak in Belize?  Well, the simple answer is that they speak English and are the only English-speaking country in Central America.  And if that’s the language you speak and I assume it is since you’re reading this then you can get by just fine in Belize.  But of course in Jamaica they speak “English” (Jamaican English) and Jamaican Patois and in Haiti you could say that they speak “French” although in both cases it’s a Creole.  Belize is like Jamaica or Barbados in that it’s an English-speaking country that used to be an English colony that’s full of former black slaves and the language they speak has its peculiarities.

So on top of Belizean English they also speak Belizean Creole also spelled Kriol.  This is the language almost three quarters of the population speaks, basically all of the black population.

A bit about Belizean Creole from Wikipedia:
Belizean Creole is a creole language deriving mainly from English with little influence from Spanish. Its substrate languages are the Native American language Miskito, and West African languages which were brought into the country by slaves. The pidgin that emerged due to the contact of English landowners and their West African slaves to ensure basic communication was extended over the years. Jamaicans were also brought to the colony, further adding to the vocabulary, and eventually it became the mother tongue of the slaves’ children born in Belize.

Indeed, this language is very similar to the Jamaican patois.

Some examples:
What time is it? How much yu clock?
I don’t know: I noh know or Me noh know
What is it?: (Dah) Weh dis? or “Weh dat?”
Where am I?: Weh I deh?
I don’t understand : I (or me) noh andastan
I don’t speak …: I noh speak
Where’s the bathroom?: Weh di batroom deh?

Now don’t worry if it looks like a foreign language to use.  It is.  And you don’t need to speak it or understand it because they will be able to speak “standard” English as well.

But there is also a large and increasing segment of the population that speaks Spanish or a Mayan language because they were either there from the beginning or they came from neighboring countries like Mexico and Guatemala.  And then there is the small Mennonite community who mostly keep to themselves and speak German and then the surprising Chinese community.  Many of the stores and restaurants throughout the country are owned by ethnic Chinese.  And many of them still speak Chinese.  I do not know if they are mainly Mandarin or Cantonese speakers.

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