Curaçao was originally settled by the Arawaks, an Amerindian people coming from the South American Mainland. However, it is now an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, thus Dutch is the official language even though it is not the native tongue or the most commonly spoken.
Most of the locals are able to speak at least three different languages. However, a majority can fluently speak the English language together with their native tongue. The four languages spoken in Curacao include Papiamentu, Dutch, English, and Spanish.
Most of the inhabitants of Curacao speak Papiamentu as one of their official languages. It is the Creole language that was influenced by the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English. Papiamentu is a word from the Spanish origins which means ‘talking’. Unlike other languages used in Curacao, Papiamentu is most often spoken than written. Papiamentu has been used in the ABC islands for more than 300 years, making it the original language of Curacao. Since it was primarily meant for spoken communication, you will come across different spellings used for the same words. For instance, Curacao renders will spell it as “Papiamentu”, while Aruba will spell it as “Papiamento”.
The relationship of Papiamentu with Portuguese and Spanish has been widely contested. There has been a rising debate as to whether Papiamentu grew as a result of the influence from Portuguese or the Spanish. Nevertheless, Papiamentu is considered to be the first language for a larger percentage of the population and also the widely spoken language in Curacao beaches. It has also been used in schools since 1993 as a medium of education in primary institutions. Papiamentu is also an official language in the Caribbean and Aruba besides being an official language among the locals of Curacao.
Curacao used to be an island territory inhabited by the Dutch Antilles before it gained its independence in 2010. The Dutch brought with them their language and culture when they first arrived in Curacao during the 17th century. Having established themselves as the major colonial power, the Dutch were in control of the slave trade on the island. They used their language for colonial administration before it became a commonly spoken language in the island later in the 19th and 20th centuries. There were significant attempts to incorporate the Dutch language as a means of education in schools. Dutch is currently the first language for at least 8% of the total population in Curacao because it is used in the legal and administrative functions on the island.
English is another language used by people in Curacao beaches. It is a co-official language that was introduced in the 19th century by the British. The use of English in the island became widespread because of growth of the petroleum industry in the 20th century. However, English is the least spoken language in Curacao beaches because it is mainly used in tourism and economic activities for easier communication with people who visit the island. It is also taught as a language in different schools in Curacao.
Spanish is another language spoken in Curacao beaches but also taught as a subject in schools. It was introduced back in the 18th century due to economic interactions between the Spanish colonies of Colombia and Venezuela. Spanish was the language used for teaching in schools during the 19th century. This is because Spanish was preferred by the religious-based institutions compared to other languages such as the Dutch. The reason for the rising debate between the use of Spanish or Dutch language in Curacao was based on the argument that Spanish was widely used in the neighboring colonies and thus more useful than Dutch. 4% of the total population in Curacao can fluently speak Spanish as their first language. However, Spanish is usually considered as a foreign language in Curacao rather than an official language.
Most locals in Curacao beaches speak English because many tourists visiting the island are from English-speaking countries. However, if you are good at speaking other languages used by people in Curacao, you can interact easily with the locals. If you are visiting Curacao for the first time, you can learn a few Papiamentu phrases that can help you get along since it is the language that is widely spoken by the locals. People of Curacao will surely appreciate your effort to speak a bit of their native language when you learn a few basic phrases.