NYTimes’ A Language Thrives in Its Caribbean Home (July 4, 2010) is a great testament to Papiamentu’s objective of remaining a force to be reckoned with. Officially recognized as a language (as opposed to a dialect) in 2007, a rare distinction for a Creole, we think the secret to our language’s survival lies in both its ability to resist change and its creative adaptability…
- Papiamentu is a creole and was influenced over centuries by African slaves, Sephardic Jewish merchants (Portuguese), Dutch, Spanish, English colonists as well as American tourism and media in the 20th Century
- Papiamentu has two main flavors: Papiament’o’, spoken primarily on Aruba and Papiament’u’, spoken primarily on Bonaire and Curaçao. Arubans tend to prefer the ‘o’ in their words… (don’t ask)
- The language is currently spoken by about 250,000 people in Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba and another 250,000 Antilleans living in the Netherlands.
- Many Curaçaoans are remarkably polyglot, fluently speaking Papiamentu, Dutch, English and Spanish. Switching between them multiple times a day.
- Most of Curaçao’s newspapers publish in Papiamentu, most of Curaçao’s 30 or so radio stations broadcast in Papiamentu, legislators in Parliament debate in Papiamentu, bookstores sell novels and poetry collections in Papiamentu, local TV is in Papiamentu.
However, Papiamentu still has a way to go in usurping the Dutch language, in terms of #1 official. Curaçao’s laws are still written in Dutch, schools start out teaching children in Papiamentu, but then transition to Dutch, bowing to higher education and economic opportunities the Netherlands still provides for many.
Watch the NYTimes’ awesome documentary on Preserving Papiamentu (07/05/2010)
“It’s not Portuguese. It’s not Spanish… The sound is very very strange for other people. But they like it. They like it.”
– Oswin Chin Behilia, Vocalist (lyrics are all in Papiamentu)
“Papiamentu is a unifying force of this country, of all the Papiamentu people.”
– Lucille Berry-Haseth, Poet