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Aruba’s Beautiful Native Tongue: Papiamento

I wish I could speak Papiamento. I took Spanish in school for eight years without gaining any real fluency, so the odds of me picking up Aruba’s native tongue in my lifetime are pretty long. I love hearing people speak it. Even a linguistic loser like me can’t help hearing the similarity to Spanish, but it’s really a melange of Spanish,Arawak,English,Dutch,a few African languages, and maybe even Portuguese.

Papiamento is also spoken on the other two so-called ABC islands, Bonaire and Curacao, as well as on Sint Eustatius.

Although Papiamento has been spoken on the island for generations, it was only seven years ago that Aruba declared it an official language. A documentary commemorating this declaration was aired in May:”Papiamento,Nos Idioma.”

I watched the promo on youtube but,of course, I can’t understand a word:

This post on the Repeating Islands blog discusses a few of the conflicting theories about the language’s origin. The language has served as a social and political symbol, primarily in Curacao. It is the language most often heard on the street and in informal contexts, but Dutch had always been the only “official” language until 2003. Dutch was seen as the language of the rich and powerful, while Papiamento was the language of those from the “cunucu”, or countryside.

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