About Papiamentu: Curacao’s native language  

Papiamentu’s origins fascinate linguists; it emerged in a Dutch colony but its core vocabulary is a mix of Portuguese and Spanish. It also has some Dutch, English, French, and some Arawak Indian and African influences. Some scholars say Papiamentu evolved from a Portuguese-based lingua, franca, once used in West Africa. It is said to have developed further in the 17th century when Curaçao was an entrepôt for South America’s slave trade and a cosmopolitan Dutch outpost settled in part by Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking Jews. But whatever its origins, Papiamentu today evokes a bit of the rhythm of Brazilian Portuguese, sprinkled with words from Dutch and English but also largely from the Spanish of Venezuela.

Most of Curaçao’s newspapers are published in Papiamentu. This language is predominately a spoken language among the local people of Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba, also some of the other former Islands of the Netherlands Antilles. Most of the close to thirty radio stations in Curacao, broadcast in Papiamentu. Legislators in Parliament debate in Papiamentu. Bookstores sell books and poetry collections in Papiamentu. The local television station also broadcasts in Papiamentu. In 1987, Curaçao started the first school in the former Netherlands Antilles using Papiamentu as the language of instruction.  Dutch is the official language in schools, but Papiamentu is now a mandatory language subject in schools. Papiamentu, a Creole language influenced over the centuries by African slaves, Sephardic merchants and Dutch colonists, is now spoken by only about 250,000 people on the islands ofCuraçao, Bonaire and Aruba. Papiamentu was recognized as an official language in Curacao in 2007.

Once you have made the decision to learn Papiamentu - your eyes will be opened to a whole new culture and people - you will see that this fascinating language is not difficult to learn and there is a difference between a tourist who does not speak Papiamentu at all, and a tourist who tries to speak at least some words!

For the Tourist

Are you planning on visiting Curacao? Knowing a little Papiamentu will certainly help you when shopping or ordering a meal. A crash course in Papiamentu will require one, sixty minutes lesson. However, it will be worth in the end. Not only will it allow you to know something about Curaçao’s culture, but it will ultimately make your stay more enjoyable as well. At the beginning of your course, we will provide you with a booklet highlighting many phrases and words you will need to know while you are in Curacao. The locals appreciate it when you speak their language. They might even give you a big discount during your shopping spree. So, don’t just come for the sun, sea and sand, come and understand our culture, our diversity, and learn our unique language, Papiamentu! Then meet the people, explore the colorful city of Willemstad, capital of Curaçao. See also why in December 1997, this historic city and the island's natural harbor, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

For the Expatriate

If you plan to move to Curacao, why not take an eight weeks course in Papiamentu? Learn the language and interact with the locals while you learn the language. This will definitely help to make your transition a lot easier.

If you would like more information on our Papiamentu courses, please contact us at: email: cultural.activities@hotmail.com



Phone: +599-9-697-7667 (Curacao)

Phone:+31 06-46579398 (The Nederlands)

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