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Learn Papiamentu

If you want to live on Curaçao, there’s no getting away from it: you have to learn Papiamentu. Of course you can get by with Dutch on Curaçao, but out of respect for the country and its culture, learning Papiamentu is really a must. And it can also really help you further understand some Papiamentu!

Do you have to learn Papiamentu?

Is it really necessary to learn Papiamento if you are going to live in Curaçao? Part of the beauty of Curaçao culture is that it is a mix of all kinds of cultures. Those cultures plus the economic need for contacts with other countries mean that many people on Curaçao speak multiple languages. In addition to Papiamentu, very many of Curaçao’s 150,000 residents also speak at least one of the foreign languages English or Spanish. And Dutch is still an official language in Curaçao. In many cases, people even speak two of these foreign languages, and you also come across plenty of people who speak all three. So purely for informal communication, learning Papiamentu will not be necessary. But ….

Learning Papiamentu for work

… If you are going to work in Curaçao, learning Papiamentu is actually a must. In business dealings with another company, that one phrase of Papiamentu can really mean the difference between closing a deal or going home without a result. And of course, your Papiamentu will also come in handy if you have a position where you have a lot of contact with locals. Examples include healthcare, teaching or if you will be working in a store.
Note: In some professions (e.g., education), it may even be mandatory that you learn Papiamentu to get the job.

Papiamentu or Papiamento?

Since 2007, Papiamentu has been an official language in Curaçao. However, there are some minor differences between Papiamentu on Curaçao or Papiamentu on Aruba. Hence, in Curaçao Papiamentu and on Aruba the Papiament is Papiamento.

Curaçao pride

The people of Curaçao are proud of their island, and rightfully so! After all, it is only a relatively small island, but has developed well (especially compared to many other Caribbean countries). The people like to get appreciation for that from foreigners. And one way to show that appreciation is to speak Papiamentu with them. And that in turn pays for itself because the locals will help you just that little bit better or are more likely to accept you into the community. And no, you really don’t have to be able to speak Papiamentu at a high level from your first day on Curaçao. But you’ll see that it will really help you if you can speak just a little more Papiamentu than “bon dia” and “masha danki. If you don’t speak a word of Papiamentu, you are more likely to be seen as that “Makamba” (Curaçao swear word for the foreigners who don’t want to adapt). In short, learning Papiamentu is not an absolute must for daily life on Curaçao, but it can certainly make life on Curaçao a lot easier in your contact with the locals.

Learning Papiamentu through Facebook

For your very first words or if you want to quickly learn some Papiamentu for your vacation to Curaçao, you can also join the Facebook group “Papiamentu for Dummies.” Here you will find helpful overviews of words and phrases in a common situation and you can also ask questions of the other group members about a particular translation. Useful, but certainly not sufficient if you are going to Curaçao for an extended period of time.

Papiamentu course – at home or in the classroom?

If you want to learn Papiamentu, you have a choice of (online) home study or taking physical lessons. However, the latter is difficult for many. Classes are offered mainly in the Randstad area (in/around The Hague) and to take classes every week at a fixed time can be difficult. Especially when you are shortly before your emigration and you “suddenly” have to start arranging all kinds of things and farewell parties. With a home study, you can then decide a little more when and where you want to take classes. We can recommend two home studies: an abbreviated basic course or a full course:

Quick & easy to learn the basics

A very fun and accessible starter course in Papiamentu is the E-course set up by Hellen Noort. You take this online basic Papiamentu course at your own pace. Through 11 videos, the basic rules of Papiamentu are covered and through pdf files you are provided with the glossary. By the end of the 11 modules, you will be able to hold a simple conversation in Papiamentu. If you master these basics, you can also take a follow-up course, through Hellen or otherwise, to become truly fluent in Papiamentu.

You can now do a language course very well at home. In your own environment, at the time that fits into your already busy schedule and at the speed that suits it. The Papiamentu E-course will help you master the first basics of the language perfectly and quickly. In 11 modules available to you online, you will learn what is needed to engage in the first simple conversations in Papiamentu.

Full course in Papiamentu

If you want to learn more than just the basics, there are also very good home studies for that. The advantage of a home study is that you can pick up the class at your convenience. Learn Papiamentu at your own pace and get online guidance from experienced teachers. Audio materials are sent digitally and online you can submit your homework.
To do so, check out the website of Talendomein, for a nice list of various Papiamentu courses.