Languages of Belize
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English is the primary language of public education, with Spanish taught in primary and secondary school as well. Bilingualism is very common. Literacy currently stands at nearly 80%.
Standard English and Belizean Creole
English is the official language of Belize, a former British colony. English is the primary language of public education, government and most media outlets. However, the majority of Belizeans, regardless of ethnicity, speak an English-based creole called Belizean Creole (also referred to as Kriol) for 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. However, Spanish is spoken as a native tongue by only about 30% of the population and is taught in schools as a second language for those who do not speak the language. "Kitchen Spanish" is an intermediate form of Spanish mixed with Belizean Creole, spoken in the northern towns such as Corozal and San Pedro.
Over half the population is bilingual, and a large segment is actually multilingual. Being such a small, 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).