Papiamento is a very interesting creole language spoken on Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire, the "ABC"-islands belonging to the Netherlands Antilles.

About the language

The language began in Curaçao in the 16th century, but has a rather confusing history. Curaçao was invaded by the Spanish in the 1520s. The natives learnt Spanish from the missionaries untill 1634, when Holland took over the islands. Primarily, the language is built on Spanish and Portuguese. The language further developed when African slaves had to communicate with their owners (who themselves were fugitives from the Spanish Inquisition). This resulted in a language that is a mixture of Dutch, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Indian.

Papoamento has a perticular rhythm and a rather small vocabulary - this means that in the language (like in Chinese), the right syllable has to be stressed, to not change the meaning of a word. It uses high (´) and low (`) tones to differentiate between some words;

  • biàhá (to travel)
  • biáhà (voyage)
  • sálà (living room)
  • sàlá (to salt something)

It is believed that about 300,000 people can speak papiamento

About the name

"Papia" is a Papiamento word for "to speak". -mentu is the suffix that forms a noun, meaning approximately "the way of doing something". Papiamentu translated would then be something like 'the way of speaking'. (source:

Source: A friend of mine from Curaçao who speaks the language


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