The struggles of learning Papiamento

The struggles of learning Papiamento
noun: Papiamento
  1. a Spanish Creole language with admixtures of Portuguese and Dutch, spoken on the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.


If you are from Curaçao than there has surely been a moment of annoyance when you hear a Dutch person, that’s been living on the island for quite some time, still doesn’t speak Papiamento. I’m with you. I think that if you decide to live in a certain place where they speak a certain language, you have to learn that language. Doesn’t matter if the locals speak your tongue or English, out of respect you go and integrate.

So what is this learning a new language thing like for us foreigners? I’ve been in Curaçao for 2 years now. Yes, I understand Papiamento, and yes, I (sort of, kind of) speak it. I’ve been trying very hard to study in my Papiamento book, not speaking Dutch in stores/restaurants and listen very carefully when I hear other people talk. I also never hesitate to ask random people what a certain word means or how to pronounce it. On a scale of 1-10 I’d say I’m probably a 7. But I’ve come to the point where the learning just stopped.


“No worry, papia Hulandes numa.”

I feel as if I’ve reached this level of understanding and speaking it just enough that it isn’t necessary anymore to continue. Lol, I know that sounds weird, but it’s not that I don’t want to! I always start conversations in Papiamento but somehow it always falls back to Dutch. Maybe because when I can’t find the right words and say it in Dutch, I automatically continue in Dutch.. Or when people hear my horrible accent and see me struggling, so they say “No worry, papia Hulandes numa”.

As much as I like to identify myself as a Yu Di Korsou ’cause I’m biracial, most Curaçaoans will still consider me a Makamba. “You look Dutch” is the most common phrase I always hear… Now I don’t really get that since in Holland I’m obviously a foreigner, but oh well. Not being a fluent Papiamento speaker surely adds up to my Makamba status…


I love Curaçao with all my heart, it is much more my home than Holland has ever been. I love the culture, I love the people, I love the tranquility and yes, I even love the horrible driving skills, long waiting time at social services and the fact that almost everything is so fcking expensive. But this language barrier causes me to still feel as if I’m not 100% accepted here. I feel offended when being called Makamba. Not because it’s “supposedly” a swearword to insult the Dutch, because it’s not. But because there’s literally nothing I love about Holland. Even thinking about this country makes me depressed (lol, no offense if you’re #TeamHolland, just my personal opinion here 😉 )

Though I’m still not sure if I should view this language learning thing as an actual struggle or I’m just wasting time ranting about it when I could actually invest more time in improving my Papiamento. Anyway, here’s to all the Curaçaoans appreciating my flawed accent but sincere effort into speaking  Nos Idioma. I love y’all <3


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With love,


1 Comment

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