Common Languages Spoken in Belize

Belize is completely different than all of its neighbors in Central America because English is the official language of Belize. All government communiques, road signs, and official documents in the country are written in English, but in practice, most residents of Belize speak Kriol as their first language. In addition, most Belizeans are fluent in two or more languages.

Sometimes spelled Creole, Kriol is much more than just a dialect of English. Although Kriol is relatively easy to parse when written, it can be difficult to understand for people who only speak standard English. However, most people in Belize can speak standard English and use it when communicating with visitors from other countries.

Another important language spoken in Belize is Spanish. Just over half the country speaks Spanish on some level, although some of it is “Kitchen Spanish,” a simplified version of the language that also includes some Kriol words. Spanish is widely spoken by Mestizos, many Maya people, and visitors and temporary residents from neighboring countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.

Approximately ten percent of the population of Belize speaks one of three different Mayan tongues. Based on the ancient Mayan language used by the architects of the pyramids and palaces that dot the Belizean landscape, there are three different Mayan languages spoken in Belize today. These are not dialects but different languages similar to how Spanish and Italian are similar but both derive from an original source language (Latin). The two biggest Mayan languages are Q’eqchi’ and Mopan, and many Maya people in Belize also speak Spanish.

An estimated three percent of people in Belize speak German. Primarily members of the Mennonite religious community, the German spoken in Belize is an archaic form of the language known as Plattdeutsch or Low German, which can be difficult for speakers of standard (High) German to understand. Most Mennonites in Belize are bilingual in English.

Another minority language spoken in Belize is Garifuna. The Garifuna people were originally enslaved Africans taken to the Caribbean, but after escaping a shipwreck, they intermarried with local islanders. In 2001, the United Nations recognized Garifuna for its unique contributions to the intangible heritage of humanity as it has successfully preserved much of its African and indigenous Caribbean vocabulary and grammar.

Other languages spoken by people in Belize include Mandarin Chinese, Arabic (particularly the Lebanese variant), and East Indian languages such as Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, and Hindi.

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