Languages of Belize

According to the 2010 census, the major languages spoken in Belize include English, Spanish and Kriol, all three spoken by more than 40% of the population. Mayan languages are also spoken in certain areas.

English is the official language and the primary language of public education, though spoken natively by a minority of people as a first language. Spanish is taught in primary and secondary schools as well. Bilingualism is very common. Literacy currently stands at nearly 80%.

Languages spoken in Belize (2010)[1] [2]

English 183,903 62.9%
Spanish 165,296 56.6%
Belizean Creole 130,467 44.6%
Q'eqchi' Maya 17,581 6.0%
Mopan Maya 10,649 3.6%
German 9,364 3.2%
Garifuna 8,442 2.9%
Other languages 7,847 2.7%
N.A. 1,537 0.5%
Total 292,263 100%

Major languages by district

English is the major language in the primary and most populated Belize District. Spanish is the most used language in the frontier districts of Cayo, Orange Walk and Corozal. Creole is the main language in the Stann Creek district, and Mayan languages dominate in the southernmost district of Toledo.

Languages spoken by District (2010)[3]
Belize District 95,292 72.5% 34.1% 63.6% 1.2%
Cayo 75,046 66.7% 71.5% 39.9% 6.2%
Orange Walk 45,946 62.2% 85.6% 16.8% 2.3%
Corozal 41,061 54.4% 84.7% 18.9% 2.5%
Stann Creek 34,324 52.0% 39.3% 67.4% 16.3%
Toledo 30,785 47.9% 28.2% 47.2% 68.4%
Total 324,528 62.9% 56.6% 44.6% 10.5%

Standard English and Belizean Creole

English is the official language of Belize, a former British colony. It is the primary language of public education, government and most media outlets. The majority of Belizeans, regardless of ethnicity, speak an English-based creole called Belizean Creole (also referred to as Kriol) during most informal, social and interethnic dialogue.

When a Creole language exists alongside its lexifier language, as in Belize, a continuum forms between the Creole and the lexifier language. This is known as code-switching. It is therefore difficult to substantiate or differentiate the number of Creole speakers compared to English speakers. Belizean Creole might best be described as the lingua franca of the nation.[4]


Approximately 50% of Belizeans self-identify as Mestizo, Latino or Hispanic. Spanish is spoken as a native tongue by about 30% of the population,[5] and taught in schools to children who do not have it as their first language. "Kitchen Spanish" is an intermediate form of Spanish mixed with Belizean Creole, and is spoken in northern towns such as Corozal and San Pedro.[6]

Over half the population is bilingual, and a large segment is multilingual. Being such a small and multiethnic state surrounded by Spanish-speaking nations, multilingualism is strongly encouraged in the society.[7][8]

Other languages

Belize is also home to three Mayan languages: Q’eqchi’, the endangered indigenous Belizean language of Mopan, and Yucatec Maya.[9][10][11] Approximately 16,100 people speak the Arawakan-based Garifuna language,[12] and 6,900 Mennonites in Belize speak mainly Plautdietsch while a minority of Mennonites speak Pennsylvania German.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Statistical Institute of Belize: Belize Population and Housing Census 2010. Country Report. Belmopan 2013.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Belize Kriol English". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Belize". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Northern Belize Caste War History; Location". Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  7. ^ 2010 Census of Belize Overview Archived 2012-05-29 at (2011).
  8. ^ 2010 Census of Belize Detailed Demographics of 2000 and 2010. (2011).
  9. ^ "Q'eqchi'". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Maya, Mopán". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Maya, Yucatec". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  12. ^ "Garifuna". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Plautdietsch". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
American Sign Language

American Sign Language (ASL) is a natural language that serves as the predominant sign language of Deaf communities in the United States and most of Anglophone Canada. Besides North America, dialects of ASL and ASL-based creoles are used in many countries around the world, including much of West Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. ASL is also widely learned as a second language, serving as a lingua franca. ASL is most closely related to French Sign Language (LSF). It has been proposed that ASL is a creole language of LSF, although ASL shows features atypical of creole languages, such as agglutinative morphology.

ASL originated in the early 19th century in the American School for the Deaf (ASD) in West Hartford, Connecticut, from a situation of language contact. Since then, ASL use has propagated widely via schools for the deaf and Deaf community organizations. Despite its wide use, no accurate count of ASL users has been taken, though reliable estimates for American ASL users range from 250,000 to 500,000 persons, including a number of children of deaf adults. ASL users face stigma due to beliefs in the superiority of oral language to sign language, compounded by the fact that ASL is often glossed in English due to the lack of a standard writing system.

ASL signs have a number of phonemic components, including movement of the face and torso as well as the hands. ASL is not a form of pantomime, but iconicity does play a larger role in ASL than in spoken languages. English loan words are often borrowed through fingerspelling, although ASL grammar is unrelated to that of English. ASL has verbal agreement and aspectual marking and has a productive system of forming agglutinative classifiers. Many linguists believe ASL to be a subject–verb–object (SVO) language, but there are several alternative proposals to account for ASL word order.

Belizean Creole

Belize Kriol (also Kriol or Belizean Creole) is an English-based creole language closely related to Miskito Coastal Creole, Jamaican Patois, San Andrés-Providencia Creole, Bocas del Toro Creole, Colón Creole, Rio Abajo Creole and Limón Coastal Creole.

Population estimates are difficult; virtually all of the more than 70,000 Creoles in Belize speak Kriol. In the 2010 Belize Census, 25.9% claimed Creole ethnicity and 44.6% claimed to speak Kriol. Possibly as many as 85,000 Creoles have migrated to the United States and may or may not still speak the language. This puts the number at over 150,000. Kriol is the lingua franca of Belize and is the first language of some Garifunas, Mestizos, Maya, and other ethnic groups. It is a second language for most others in the country.When the National Kriol Council began standardizing the orthography for Kriol, it decided to promote the spelling Kriol only for the language but to continue to use the spelling Creole to refer to the people in English.

English language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse (a North Germanic language), and to a greater extent by Latin and French.English has developed over the course of more than 1,400 years. The earliest forms of English, a group of West Germanic (Ingvaeonic) dialects brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the 5th century, are collectively called Old English. Middle English began in the late 11th century with the Norman conquest of England; this was a period in which the language was influenced by French. Early Modern English began in the late 15th century with the introduction of the printing press to London, the printing of the King James Bible and the start of the Great Vowel Shift.Through the worldwide influence of the British Empire, and later the United States, Modern English has been spreading around the world since the 17th century. Through all types of printed and electronic media, and spurred by the emergence of the United States as a global superpower, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and professional contexts such as science, navigation and law.English is the largest language by number of speakers, and the third most-spoken native language in the world, after Standard Chinese and Spanish. It is the most widely learned second language and is either the official language or one of the official languages in almost 60 sovereign states. There are more people who have learned it as a second language than there are native speakers. It is estimated that there are over 2 billion speakers of English. English is the most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and it is widely spoken in some areas of the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia. It is a co-official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other world and regional international organisations. It is the most widely spoken Germanic language, accounting for at least 70% of speakers of this Indo-European branch. English has a vast vocabulary, though counting how many words any language has is impossible. English speakers are called "Anglophones".

Modern English grammar is the result of a gradual change from a typical Indo-European dependent marking pattern, with a rich inflectional morphology and relatively free word order, to a mostly analytic pattern with little inflection, a fairly fixed SVO word order and a complex syntax. Modern English relies more on auxiliary verbs and word order for the expression of complex tenses, aspect and mood, as well as passive constructions, interrogatives and some negation. The variation among the accents and dialects of English used in different countries and regions—in terms of phonetics and phonology, and sometimes also vocabulary, grammar and spelling can often be accommodated by the speakers of different dialects but in extreme cases can lead to confusion or even mutual unintelligibility between English speakers.

Garifuna language

Garifuna (Karif) is a minority language widely spoken in villages of Garifuna people in the western part of the northern coast of Central America.

It is a member of the Arawakan language family but an atypical one since it is spoken outside the Arawakan language area, which is otherwise now confined to the northern parts of South America, and because it contains an unusually high number of loanwords, from both Carib languages and a number of European languages because of an extremely tumultuous past involving warfare, migration and colonization.

The language was once confined to the Antillean islands of St. Vincent and Dominica, but its speakers, the Garifuna people, were deported en masse by the British in 1797 to the north coast of Honduras from where the language and Garifuna people have since spread along the coast south to Nicaragua and north to Guatemala and Belize.

Parts of Garifuna vocabulary are split between men's speech and women's speech, and some concepts have two words to express them, one for women and one for men. Moreover, the terms used by men are generally loanwords from Carib while those used by women are Arawak.

The Garifuna language was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2008 along with Garifuna music and dance.

Index of Belize-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the nation of Belize.

Index of Central America-related articles

This is an Index of Central America-related articles. This index defines Central America as the seven nations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Languages of Honduras

There are a number of languages spoken in Honduras though the official language is Spanish.

List of Belize-related topics

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the nation of Belize.

Mopan language

Mopan (or Mopan Maya) is a language that belongs to the Yucatecan branch of the Mayan languages. It is spoken by the Mopan people who live in the Petén Department of Guatemala and in the Maya Mountains region of Belize. There are between three and four thousand Mopan speakers in Guatemala and six to eight thousand in Belize.The other Yucatecan languages are Yucatec, Lacandon, and Itzaʼ. Mopan began to diverge from the other Yucatecan languages at least one thousand years ago.

Outline of Belize

The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to Belize:

Belize – country located on the north eastern coast of Central America and the only country in the area where English is the official language, although Kriol and Spanish are more commonly spoken. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages and it is the only nation in the region with a British colonial heritage but as a part of the Western Caribbean Zone, it also shares a common heritage with the Caribbean portions of other Central American countries.

Plautdietsch language

Plautdietsch ([ˈplɑtditʃ]), or Mennonite Low German, is a Low Prussian dialect of East Low German with Dutch influence that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Vistula delta area of Royal Prussia. The word Plautdietsch translates to "flat (or low) German", from plat meaning "flat" (referring to the plains of northern Germany), and duits meaning German. In other Low German dialects, the word for Low German is usually realised as Plattdüütsch [ˈplatdyːtʃ] or Plattdüütsk [ˈplatdyːtsk], but the spelling Plautdietsch is used to refer specifically to the Vistula variant of the language.

Plautdietsch, an East Low German dialect, was a German dialect like others until it was taken by Mennonite settlers to the south west of the Russian Empire starting in 1789. From there it evolved and subsequent waves of migration brought it to North America, starting in 1873, and mostly from there to Latin America starting in 1922.

Plautdietsch is spoken by about 400,000 Russian Mennonites, most notably in the Latin American countries of Mexico, Bolivia, Paraguay, Belize, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, as well as in the United States and Canada (particularly Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario).

Today Plautdietsch is spoken in two major dialects that trace their division to Ukraine. These two dialects are split between Chortitza Colony and Molotschna. Many younger Russian Mennonites in Canada and the United States today speak only English. For example, Homer Groening, the father of Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons), spoke Plautdietsch as a child in a Mennonite community in Saskatchewan in the 1920s, but Matt never learned the language.

In 2007, Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas directed the film Stellet Licht (Silent Light), set in a Mennonite community in Chihuahua, Mexico. Most of the film's dialogue is in Plautdietsch, which some of the actors had to learn phonetically. Other parts were played by people of the local community.

Qʼeqchiʼ language

The Qʼeqchiʼ language, also spelled Kekchi, Kʼekchiʼ, or kekchí, is one of the Mayan languages, spoken within Qʼeqchiʼ communities in Guatemala and Belize.

Ta-Arawakan languages

The Ta-Arawakan languages, also known as Ta-Maipurean and Caribbean, are the indigenous Arawakan languages of the Caribbean Sea coasts of Central and South America. They are distinguished by the first person pronominal prefix ta-, as opposed to common Arawakan na-.

Yucatec Maya language

Yucatec Maya (endonym: Maya; Yukatek Maya in the revised orthography of the Academia de Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala), called mayaʼ tʼàan (Mayan pronunciation: [majaʔˈtʼàːn], lit. "Maya speech") by its speakers, is a Mayan language spoken in the Yucatán Peninsula and northern Belize. To native speakers, the proper name is Maya and it is known only as Maya. The qualifier "Yucatec" is a tag linguists use to distinguish it from other Mayan languages (such as Kʼicheʼ and Itzaʼ). Thus the use of the term Yucatec Maya to refer to the language is scientific jargon or nomenclature.In the Mexican states of Yucatán, some parts of Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas, and Quintana Roo, Maya remains many speakers' first language today, with 800,000 speakers. There are 6,000 speakers in Belize.

Languages of Belize
Official language
Non-official languages
Sovereign states
Dependencies and
other territories

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