Languages of Belize


Languages of Belize

English is the only official language of Belize due to being a former British colony. It is the main language used in government and education. [cite web |url=http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761562789_2/Belize.html#s3 |title=Belize: Language and Religion |accessdate=2008-09-09 |work=MSN Encarta Encyclopedia |publisher=Microsoft Corporation ] Although only 5.6% of the population speaks it as the main language at home, 54% can speak it very well, and another 26% can speak some English. 37% of Belizeans consider their primary language to be Kriol, an English-based creole of words and syntax from various African languages (namely Akan, Igbo, and Twi) [http://www.kriol.org.bz/] , and other languages (Miskito, Caliche). It is also a second or third language for another 40% of the multilingual country. To speak Kriol is synonymous with being Belizean. Kriol shares similarities with many Caribbean English Creoles as far as phonology and pronunciations are concerned. Also, many of its words and structures are both lexically and phonologically similar to English, its superstrate language. Due to the fact that it is English-based, all Kriol speakers can understand English. A number of linguists classify Belizean Kriol as a separate language, while others consider it to be a dialect of English.

Spanish is the mother tongue of Mestizo and Central American refugees and is commonly spoken at home by 43% of the population. Maya dialects such as Kekchi, Mopan and Yucatec are spoken. Garifuna (which is Arawakan/Maipurean based, with elements of the Carib language, French, and Spanish) and the Plautdietsch dialect of the Mennonites are spoke as well. Literacy currently stands at nearly 80%. In 2001, UNESCO declared the Garifuna language, dance, and music a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity". English is the primary language of public education, with Spanish taught in primary and secondary school as well. Bilingualism is highly encouraged, and therefore, very common.

References

* Ethnologue report for Belize [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=Belize]

See also

* Kriols
* Demographics of Belize
* Garifuna
* Maya peoples


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