Aruba is an island with a small, diverse population of people of European, Amerindian, and African descent. Aruba has several ethnic groups, including Dutch, Columbian, Venezuelan, Haitian, and Dominican, among others. As an avid traveler, it is safe to assume that Arubans speak several languages but like other countries, the island does have an official language. So, what languages do they speak in Aruba?
Aruba has two official languages, Dutch and Papiamento. The island is a constituent country of the Kingdom of Netherlands, whose native language is Dutch. Papiamento is an Afro-Portuguese Creole Language that evolved out of necessity during the 16th century among slaves and their Portuguese masters.
While there are two official languages, the local Aruban speaks a minimum of four languages. Besides Dutch and Papiamento, Arubans also speak English and Spanish. English and Spanish are taught in school, but the use of these languages, especially English, has increased due to tourism on the island.
Besides having ties with the Spanish in the 16th century, Aruba also has close relations with South America, where most people speak Spanish. Other languages spoken in Aruba include French, Portuguese, German, and Chinese.
What Languages are Spoken in Aruba?
Dutch, Papiamento, English, and Spanish are the most common languages spoken in Aruba. Some locals and small immigrant groups also speak French, Portuguese, Chinese, and German. Because Arubans speak several languages, tourists will always find someone they can communicate with, making it the perfect destination.
The Official Languages
Aruba has officially been part of the Netherlands Antilles since 1845, but the two countries have had political and economic ties since the 16th century. The Dutch settled in Aruba in 1636 after taking the island from the Spanish.
The British took the island from the Netherlands during the Napoleonic wars, but the country won it back in 1815. Although the island is still part of the Netherlands, it operates as an autonomous country.
Because of its historical and current political ties to the Netherlands, the Dutch language has been used in Aruba’s governmental, legal, and educational systems. Dutch has been the main language of instruction in all major institutions in the country for 350 years.
This changed in 2012 when schools were allowed to instruct students in Papiamento as they gradually transitioned to Dutch and other languages. Although Dutch is Aruba’s official language it is not the local’s first language.
Papiamento is the Aruban native language. It is spoken by 70% of Aruba’s population and is the most widely spoken language among the ABC islands. For this reason, Papiamento was declared an official language on the island in 2003.
Before achieving its official status, Papiamento had been used in written government documents and other institutions since the 18th century. Schools began teaching the language in 1995. Today, Arubans use Papiamento alongside Dutch in their everyday dealings.
Papiamento has been Aruba’s official language for over a decade, but the locals have used it for over 300 years. It is an Afro-Portuguese Creole language borrowing words from various native languages among native Indians, African slaves, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Venezuelan, and English.
According to history, the language developed as a result of interactions between African slaves with different native languages and their Portuguese and Spanish masters. The word Papiamento stems from the Spanish and Portuguese languages, which means to chat.
The language continued to evolve due to influences from other foreign languages like Spanish, Dutch, and English.
During the Napoleonic wars, Aruba was occupied by the British for a short while. After the Netherlands took the island back, the officials noticed the widespread use of English among the locals. Today, Aruba recognizes English as an international language and requires schools to teach it from the fourth grade.
Over the years, Aruba has become a popular destination for tourists, which has also influenced the growth of English as a common language spoken among Arubans.
Spain was the first colonizer of Aruba. They occupied the island in 1499 and enslaved the native Caquetio Indians. Instead of making the slaves work on plantations on the island, they took them to Hispaniola to work in mines and plantations in the country.
Some Indians managed to come back to Aruba in 1515, but they still worked under the Spanish as cattle and horse breeders. Before the Dutch occupation, Aruba had been a Spanish colony for 137 years. As a result, the Spanish language and culture are deeply rooted in Aruban culture to this day.
Because of its economic ties with Venezuela and Columbia during the 18th century, Aruba has Venezuelan and Columbian residents. The island also receives several Venezuelan TV stations. Like English, Spanish is also taught in schools from the fifth grade.
Aruba is located off the coast of South America which has a Latin-speaking population. This has enhanced the use of Spanish among Arubans, making it one of the four main languages spoken on the island.
Papiamento is an Aruban Creole language that stems from the Portuguese language. In 1659, Portuguese-speaking Dutch colonialists migrated from Brazil to Curacao, one of the ABC islands. These settlers brought their slaves and the Portuguese language to the island.
In the 18th century, these Portuguese-speaking settlers spread out to the neighboring Dutch Islands, including Aruba. Today, Portuguese is only spoken by small communities in Aruba. The popularity of Portuguese in Aruba depends on the size of the community that speaks the language.
Since it is a critical part of Papiamento, it is safe to assume that most Arubans can at least understand the language.
Like English and Spanish, French is an international language taught in Aruban schools. Students in high school and college can learn French in Aruba. This is because many students who want to pursue further studies go to Europe.
5. Chinese and German
Chinese and German are the minor languages in Aruba. These languages are spoken by small groups of immigrants from Germany and China living on the island. Like Portuguese, the popularity of these languages on the island depends on the size of the communities in various cities in Aruba.
Do I Need to Learn Dutch to Travel to Aruba?
A major reason why Aruba is a popular tourist destination is that Arubans are multilingual. The average Aruban speaks four languages, including English which is spoken at the global level. To answer the question, you do not have to learn or speak Dutch to travel to Aruba.
You can come to Aruba from anywhere in the world even though you do not speak their local language. Most Arubans can speak English, Dutch, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, so rest assured you will make a friend when you arrive on the sunny island.
Is Aruba a Spanish Speaking Country?
Aruba is not a Spanish-speaking country. The island has two official languages, Papiamento and Dutch. Many Arubans are fluent in both languages, but Papiamento is the island’s native language. Although Spanish is not an official language it is widely spoken among Arubans. According to a census done in 2020, Spanish is the second most spoken language in Aruban homes.
The island’s proximity to South America and the availability of local Spanish TV networks have influenced the growth of the language on the island. As a tourist, you might wonder whether the Spanish language in Aruba is similar to your country’s. The best way to find out is to travel to the island and see for yourself.
Aruba’s population consists of Venezuelans and Columbians. There are also small groups of people who speak Portuguese. Spanish is also taught in schools, so you will likely find Arubans who speak Spanish from different countries fluently.
Is English Widely Spoken in Aruba?
English is widely spoken in Aruba because it is recognized as an international language. It is a compulsory subject in Aruban schools, and most tourists who visit the island speak the language encouraging its use among locals.
Common Papiamento Words to Learn Before Visiting Aruba
Learning common local phrases is always a good gesture when visiting a foreign country for business or pleasure. Locals will always appreciate the effort and treat you like their own. So, if you are getting ready for your Aruba trip, here are some common phrases to learn during your trip.
|Bon dia||Good morning|
|Bon tardi||Good afternoon|
|Bon nochi||Good evening|
|Con ta bai?||How are you?|
|Mi ta bon!||I am well|
|Aruba ta dushi||Aruba is lovely|
|Marsha danki||Thank you very much|
|Pasa un bon dia||Have a nice day|
|Te aworo||See you later|
|Na bo ordo||You’re welcome|
|Aruba ta bunita||Aruba is beautiful|