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Growing Up Speaking Papiamento

Something very unique about Aruba surely is the spoken language. In the whole world there are just over 300.000 people speaking this language, Papiamento, from which roughly one third is in Aruba. Experts categorize Papiamento as being a variation of Portuguese creole.

There are two different theories as to where exactly this language was born, one from Aruba and one from Curacao. A theory I really find interesting is the one that claims the language traveled from Curacao to Venezuela and eventually arrived in Aruba. This suggests that in the present there might be a native population living in the peninsula of Paraguana in Venezuela that speak this language. In the 19th century Dutch colonists fiercely opposed the rise of Papiamento within the native population that they considered inappropriate and rotten.

I grew up with Papiamento being my first and only language. That’s what I spoke with my brothers and cousins or anybody actually. The second language I’ve learned was Dutch, in school, later Spanish and lastly English. Due to the mix of Papiamento it seems to make learning other languages easier.

Aruba culture has been very susceptible for cultural pressures from abroad, which is logical. As a small and friendly society, people here are curious of whatever new comes from other countries. This is less relevant in present times due to the fact that many islanders travel abroad or surf online, unlike decades ago.

One very susceptible part of our culture has been our language. Purist might frown upon the fact that some people in Aruba don’t speak Papiamento accordingly, fact is that people use to many foreign words in daily life. This has to do in part with the upbringing and background of the parents. If you’re parents have a Dutch background for example, you’re going to speak Papiamento with an overdose of unnecessary and incorrect Dutch mixed with Papiamento. It doesn’t matter whether your background (or your parents’ background) is Spanish or English the same incorrect mix occurs as well. The most amazing thing about all of this is, regardless the incorrect usage of Papiamento, we will understand everything and even reply.

I must admit that even though Papiamento has been recognized as an official language with spelling, grammar and orthography, there is still discussions amongst ourselves to this day as to how to utilize Papiamento correctly. One thing is sure, Papiamento keeps on evolving.

Thanks to this talent, communicating with visitors from all over the world is much easier.

By Gabriel

Informing travelers about Aruba since 2007, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.

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