The ABC’s of Papiamento

by Alex Coma


In preparing for our filmmaking trip to Curaçao, we were familiar with the Dutch history of the island, but not with the language — papiamento, or papiamentu. It is a true creole stew of influences, mainly Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and several African languages along with Arawak and a touch of French. It is frequently heard in all three “ABC” islands: Antigua, Bonaire and Curaçao.

I’m sure we’ll be using this collection of useful phrases. There’s also a Web-based translator here.

You can take a lesson here:

The roots of Curaçao’s rich cultural and linguistic mix go back centuries. Just a few years after Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean, an expedition led by a Spaniard, Alonso de Ojeda, and the Italian Amerigo Vespucci found the island. But the Spanish left within a few decades, finding no gold. The Dutch West India Company claimed the island in 1634 and not long afterward began to establish the “triangular” slave trade linking Africa, the Caribbean and America.

The languages of the island’s indigenous culture, known as the Caiquetios, eventually blended with the Dutch, Spanish and African languages. Papiamento was born.


2 thoughts on “The ABC’s of Papiamento

  1. Great post! I’m a tour guide on Curacao and am fascinated by it’s history, culture and diving. Drop me a line if I can help you out with your preparations. I also run a hostel on the island.
    I’m learing papiamentu (slowly) I’ve found this resource to be helpful: it’s a translation project. The best way to Learn Papiamentu is jut to “papia” it! You’ll have plenty of chance to do that here!
    I’m excited to see you are connected to Carmabi and involved in the new Bule Halo initiative. Just like the rest of the area Curacao needs more awareness on coral and it’s conservation.

    Liked by 1 person

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