We all want to be understood when we’re traveling, but that can be difficult if you’re visiting countries with a primary language you don’t speak. So you’ll be pleased to hear that the official language in Belize is English, making it a fantastic destination for English-speaking visitors.
English: Belize’s official language
English is the primary language in Belize as a by-product of its English colonial heritage. It’s spoken by over 62% of Belizeans, according to the last census in 2010, although that number is slightly lower in Stann Creek District, where Hopkins is located, at around 52%. English is also the primary language in Belize’s education system.
However, many people from Belize are bilingual – or even multilingual – so although English is the official language, it’s not the first language for many Belizeans. Multilingualism is encouraged by the Belizean government, as it makes communication with nearby, as well as international, countries easier.
Other languages spoken in Belize
There are a vast array of other languages spoken in Belize, including many dialectal variants. Some of the other commonly spoken languages are listed below.
Many people assume Spanish is the official language in Belize, because of its location amongst many other Spanish-speaking nations in Central America. However, only 56% of Belizeans speak Spanish, and only 45% speak Spanish as their native language.
Belizean Creole is a dialect found only in Belize. It’s a combination of English and Creole, and is spoken by the majority of people in the country whatever their native language. Belizean Creole is also the most spoken language in Stann Creek overall.
With a sizeable proportion of the population in Belize identifying as mestizo, or of mixed indigenous descent, it’s little wonder multiple Mayan dialects have also remained in use by some Belizeans.
Originating from the Mayan populations of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Belize, there are three main Mayan languages spoken here, and around 10% of Belizeans speak at least one of the three:
Originating in Guatemala and Belize, this language is spoken by the majority of the Mayan population in southern Belize’s Toledo District.
This Mayan language originated in Guatemala, as well as in the Maya Mountains area of central Belize, where it’s believed there are around 6-8,000 speakers
– Yucatec Maya
Spoken in the Yucatan region of Mexico and in northern Belize, this Mayan language is spoken by around 2,500 Belizeans, according to the 2010 census.
Garifuna is the language spoken by around 16,000 Belizean residents, and the majority of Hopkins residents, due to the large Garifuna population in the village. It’s made up of words from a combination of languages, including Arawak, Carib, French, English, and Spanish.
This minority language was proclaimed as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ by UNESCO in 2008, in an effort to highlight its importance, and to encourage its continued use for future generations.
Surprisingly, there are also Mennonite colonies in Belize where German is spoken, generally either Low German or Pennsylvania German. It’s believed there are currently around 12,000 German-speaking Mennonites in Belize.