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The charm of Papiamento, official language in Aruba

Whether you're planning a visit to Aruba or simply curious about its culture, Papiamento is one thing you just can’t skip to learn about.

This local language is rooted deeply in the history of the Caribbean Islands, and brings along the stories that make these places into what they are today. Join us on a journey of discovery through the vibrant world of Papiamento - and even learn a few words yourself!

What is papiamento?

As one of the official languages of the One Happy Island, Papiamento reflects the unique and diverse cultural heritage of Aruba's people. With influences from European and African languages, it has evolved into a fascinating blend of words and expressions that is both poetic and practical. 

Learning a few Papiamento phrases can be a great way to connect with the local culture and people. Fortunately, many Arubans speak English fluently, so you don't have to be fluent to get by. However, showing willingness and curiosity can go a long way in creating meaningful interactions and unforgettable experiences. Switch from English to Papiamento while doing your restaurant orders, at the cash register in the supermarket, or in the smallest chats with passers-by. 

What languages make up Papiamento?

Unique to the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), Papiamento evolved from a rudimentary pidgin language - utilised for the purpose of communication among people with different native tongues - into the more complex language it is today. At its base, the language is an Afro-Portuguese Creole, which, over the years, has grown in syntax and lexicon with increased borrowings from Dutch, English, and Spanish while still retaining its own unique rhythm and meanings.

Papiamento as the official language in Aruba

Evidence of its first widespread use can be observed in official documents from Curacao from the early 18th century. Throughout the middle of the 19th century, Papiamento was the language of choice for written materials, including Roman Catholic hymnals and schoolbooks. The first Papiamento-language newspaper soon followed with the apt moniker of Civilisado (The Civilizer) in 1871. Papiamento was used as the language of instruction in schools until Dutch subsidies came with the stipulation that lessons be taught solely in Dutch. However, Papiamento has recently been reintroduced in the local educational system.

Although in use as the native language for over 300 years, Papiamento was only declared Aruba's official language, alongside Dutch, on March 19, 2003. 

Is Papiamento easy to learn?

Of all languages, Papiamento mostly resembles Spanish. And if you already speak one, it becomes easier to learn the other, right? But even if you’re not familiar with a few words of Spanish, you can still manage to master Papiamento fairly quickly. The reason: almost every word is pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled.

As Papiamento is not that difficult to learn, the process can even bring you joy! Practice together with your travel partner to pass time on the plane, or use a mobile application to get started on your own - whenever you want to. 

English to Papiamento: useful phrases

Want to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, or ‘goodbye’ in Papiamento? Or are you curious to know what ‘bon bini’ and ‘bon dia’ mean in Papiamento? Time for some lessons!

Let’s get you started with some useful phrases from English to Papiamento. These are the first ones you come across when on the island:

  • Bon bini! = Welcome!

  • Bon dia. / Bon tardi. / Bon nochi. = Good morning. / Good afternoon. / Good evening.

  • Con ta bai? = How are you?

  • Mi ta bon! = I am well!

  • Hopi bon! = Very good!

  • Por fabor. = Please.

  • Danki. = Thank you.

  • Mashi danki. = Thank you so much.

  • Di nada. = You’re welcome.

  • See you later. = Te aworo

  • Have a good day. = Pasa un bon dia.

  • Aruba ta dushi! = Aruba is lovely!

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