The Languages of Bonaire

The official language of Bonaire is Dutch, yet the native language is actually Papiamentu, spoken exclusively in the ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. Papiamentu is a mixture of many languages including Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French, English, Caribbean Indian, and various African languages. An official spelling for Papiamentu words was established several years ago, and dictionaries and language training materials are available on the island. See the Papiamentu page for more information.  Papiamentu is the primary language for 74.7% of the populace and is recognized by the government.

All Antillean children are required to be fluent in Dutch as part of their schooling, so if you can speak Dutch, you’ll be able to get around very well. There are a number of Dutch-language newspapers available on Bonaire (although none published directly on the island) in case you want to catch up on the latest news.  According to a recent census, Dutch is the main language of 8.8% of the population.

English is also widely spoken on Bonaire. Current American magazines and books are available in several bookstores. And, while there are local Dutch and Papiamentu language newspapers, there isn’t currently an English-language equivalent, other than the semi-monthly The Bonaire Reporter newspaper and the Bonaire Insider on-line news. Trans World Radio, an international Christian radio station located on Bonaire also offers hourly news at AM 800.  English is the primary language of 2.8% of the population.

Spanish speaking visitors and residents of Bonaire shouldn’t have much problem either, as the Papiamentu language has strong Spanish roots, and is close enough that one can make oneself understood when speaking Spanish.  Spanish is the main language of 11.8% of the people.