Languages of Belize
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According to the 2010 censos, 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%.
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.
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.
Approximately 50% of Belizeans self-identify as Mestizo, Latino or Hispanic. Spanish is spoken as a native tongue by about 30% of the population, 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.
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.
Belize is also home to three Mayan languages: Q’eqchi’, the endangered indigenous Belizean language of Mopan, and Yucatec Maya. Approximately 16,100 people speak the Arawakan-based Garifuna language, and 6,900 Mennonites in Belize speak mainly Plautdietsch while a minority of Mennonites speak Pennsylvania German.
- Statistical Institute of Belize: Belize Population and Housing Census 2010. Country Report. Belmopan 2013.
- "Northern Belize Caste War History; Location". Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- 2010 Census of Belize Overview. belize.com (2011).
- 2010 Census of Belize Detailed Demographics of 2000 and 2010. belize.com (2011).