Papiamento: Aruba’s language

Aruba is truly a fascinating place. It is a polyglots paradise. Learning four languages is required for every resident who goes to school: Dutch, Papiamento, Spanish and English. However when you speak Papiamento and they know you’re a tourist, then they may think you’re attempting to speak Spanish and the way to clear up the language you intend to use if it’s Papiamento is to just straight up ask “Bo ta papia Papiamento?”. This works every time. It is a mixture of 5-7 different languages, mainly Portuguese and Spanish but also a lot of Dutch and English, with elements of French, and a sprinkle of African languages.

My wife has been speaking Spanish to everyone in the language she’s more comfortable with, and they respond comfortably in Spanish. I try whenever possible to use Papiamento. They use English with me by default unless they’re a native Spanish speaker and have been speaking with my wife in Spanish in which I’ll just join the conversation in that language. They’ll often switch back to English with me and continue with her in Spanish. It is truly amazing how Arubans can switch between the four languages.

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