What language do they speak in Suriname? English, Dutch, or something else? Find out the answer to this question and more with this guide to the languages of Suriname!
Official Language of Suriname
The official language of Suriname is Dutch. The Netherlands has had a long history in the area, and the Netherlands was one of the first European countries to colonize the region. As such, many people speak Dutch as their native tongue.
Location and Geography
Suriname is in South America but is considered a Caribbean country. The reason for such diversity is that the Europeans brought African slaves, Indian, and Javanese workers to work as farmers. Suriname, country located on the northern coast of South America. Suriname is one of the smallest countries in South America, yet its population is one of the most ethnically diverse in the region. Its economy is dependent on its extensive supply of natural resources, most notably bauxite, of which it is one of the top producers in the world. The southern four-fifths of the country is almost entirely covered with pristine tropical rainforest.
South of the Old Coastal Plain is the Zanderij formation, a 40-mile- (64-km-) wide landscape of rolling hills. This formation rests on bleached sand sediments, which are rich in quartz. Most of the region is covered by tropical rainforest, but swamps and areas of savanna grassland are also found.
Farther to the south, bordering Brazil, is an area consisting largely of a central mountain range, its various branches, and scattered hilly areas; a vast tropical rainforest covers these highlands.
The creole language are all based on Dutch, but have developed unique characteristics over time. For example, the Javanese-based creole spoken in Suriname is called Surinaamse Kriool (SURKRIOL). Surinamese Creoles, mixed people descending from African slaves and Europeans (mostly Dutch), form 15.7% of the population.
The Javanese creole is also known as Indonesian, which is an official language in Indonesia. It’s similar to Surinamese Creole, but it uses different words and phrases.
Although not widely used by most people, there are some who use English as their primary language. This includes government officials, business owners, teachers, etc.
Sarnami Hindustani is the other recognized regional language in Suriname, and is also the third most popular language in the country, behind Surinamese Dutch and Sranan Tongo, with an estimated 150,000 native speakers. Sarnami Hindustani is a variant of the Bhojpuri language, an Indian language which originated from immigrant workers from India who settled in the country during the early 20th century.
Vernacular Languages of Suriname – Sranan Tongo
Sranan Tongo (; ) is a creole language spoken in the Sranan Islands and Suriname. It is one of several languages that are part of the wider Caribbean Creole family, which also includes Haitian Creole, Jamaican Patois, Trinidadian Tobagonian Pichingue, Guyanese Arawak creole, and others.
Sranan Tongo is often used interchangeably with Dutch depending on the formality of the setting; Dutch is seen as a prestige dialect and Sranan Tongo the common vernacular.Caribbean Hindustani or Sarnami, a fusion of the Bhojpuri and Awadhi languages, is the third-most used language. Surinamese Hindi, a dialect of Bhojpuri, is the third-most used language, spoken by the descendants of British Asian contract workers.
Vernacular Languages of Suriname
The vernacular languages of Suriname are a group of closely related indigenous languages spoken in the country. The total number of speakers is estimated at around 500,000 people. They include Arawakan and Tupi-Guarani languages.
Arawak is a language family of about 30 languages spoken throughout Central America, the Amazon Basin, coastal Peru, northern Argentina, Paraguay, southern Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, French Guiana, Suriname, and parts of Brazil.
Guaraní is a language of South American indigenous peoples of the Gran Chaco region, Paraguay, and northeastern Argentina. It has been influenced by Spanish and Portuguese.
There are other languages that are spoken in Suriname, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Italian, German, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Thai, Vietnamese, and others. Some of these languages are spoken by only a small number of people, while others are very common.
The earliest inhabitants of Suriname were indigenous peoples of Arawakan origin. In the 16th century with the Dutch establishing control over much of the country’s current territory by the late 17th century, the first Europeans arrived from Europe. These included the Dutch, French, and British. By 1770, five thousand to six thousand Maroons or runaway slaves were living in the jungle.
In 1598, the Dutch established Fort Zeelandia at the mouth of the Suriname River. Over the next several years, the Dutch built forts along the coast of Suriname. By 1795, the Dutch controlled the entire island. In 1815, the United Kingdom took control of the colony. Britain ruled until 1975 when Suriname became independent again.
After gaining independence, the new government began making changes to improve the lives of its citizens. One of these changes was to make Dutch the official language.
Many government officials speak Dutch because it is the main language of instruction in schools. However, some people still speak other languages, especially if they come from another country.
Suriname is a relatively poor country, its contributions to global climate change have been limited. Many businesses in Suriname are run by Dutch people. However, there are also many businesses owned by people who came from other countries.
Most students in Suriname attend school in Dutch. There are also some schools where children can learn in English.
Most people in Suriname belong to Christian churches, although there are also Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. Judaism, present in Suriname since the early 16th century, is still practiced, while many of the Chinese are Confucians.
How many languages are spoken in Suriname?
According to a 2015 census, 1.9 million people speak Dutch, 850,000 speak Sranan-Tongo (Surinamese) and 390,000 speak English as their mother tongue. Pidgin (or Creole) is spoken by about 230,000 people. There are also small communities of speakers of Hindi and Urdu. Most of these languages are spoken by many more non-native speakers as well.
The vast majority of Surinamese have at least some understanding of Dutch. The official language is Dutch but there are five other main indigenous languages: Sranan Tongo, Saramaccan, Paramakaso, Ndyuka and Javanese. English is widely used as a second language for business purposes.
What are the Causes of Poverty in Suriname?
Poverty is a serious problem in Suriname. The country has one of the highest rates of poverty and extreme poverty in South America, with more than half its population living below the poverty line. In 2017, the World Bank estimated that the average income per person was $1,100 per year. This means that the poorest 20% of the population had an annual income of less than $2,200 per year.
It is difficult to find accurate figures on how many people live in poverty in Suriname. Some estimates put the number at over 60%, while others say it is closer to 50%. Rampant government expenditures, poor tax collection, a bloated civil service, and reduced foreign aid in 1999 contributed to the fiscal deficit, estimated at 11% of GDP. Economic growth slowed in 1998, with decline in the mining, construction, and utility sectors.
There are two main reasons why poverty exists in Suriname. First, the economy is based largely on agriculture. Second, the government does not provide enough support to help people out of poverty. Mining, construction and service sectors declined and, combined with increased government spending, a bloated civil service and reduced foreign aid, the country faced a massive fiscal deficit, estimated at around 11% of the GDP.
Agriculture makes up 45% of the GDP of Suriname. This is mainly due to the production of rice, bananas, sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, cotton, tobacco and timber. These crops require large amounts of water, so much that the country has lost some of its land to dams and reservoirs. They exported rice is exported, as are bananas, citrus fruits, coconuts, and palm oil.
Many people in Suriname do not have any insurance or health care coverage. As a result, they often cannot afford medical treatment when they need it.
The government spends around 10% of its budget on social security programs. This includes pensions, unemployment benefits, disability payments, old-age allowances, family allowances, maternity leave, and child benefits. However, this percentage is expected to increase because of the high rate of poverty.
Only 40% of the adult population has completed secondary education. Many people who want to go to the university must pay tuition fees.
Only 5% of the population can access basic healthcare services.
Although crime is rare in Suriname, it is still present in the country. The murder rate is very low compared to other countries in South America. Crime rates continue to rise in Paramaribo and armed robberies are not uncommon. Principal concerns include burglary, armed robbery, and home invasions.
Many people feared “that there would be virtually no further possibility for Surinamese citizens to enter the Netherlands” (The Dutch Experience 137), Thus, there was a mass migration of Surinam nationals during the periods 1974-1975 and 1979 -1980.
Its average temperature ranges from 29 to 34 degrees Celsius (84 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit). However, the range in average temperatures between the warmest month, September, and the coldest, January, is only about 3 degrees.
The History of Surinam
Suriname was once a Dutch colony, but it has been independent since 1975. It is located in South America and shares borders with Guyana to the north, French Guiana to the east, Brazil to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its capital city is Paramaribo. The country covers an area of 6,831 square miles (17,934 sq km) and has a total population of about 500,000.
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Since independence in 1975, Surinam has gained greater status (although Dutch is still the prestigious language). Many linguists are fascinated by this unique language. Soon after 1975, thousands of Surinamese moved to the Netherlands, where there is now a considerably large Surinam-speaking population.
Creole expert Norval Smith writes that Sranan is “spoken by the population of the coastal area in Surinam, as well as the considerable emigré population in the Netherlands. The total number 1st and 2nd language speakers is around 500,000” (341). The Netherlands Antilles has some Surinam speakers, and the Netherlands is home to about 225,000 speakers (Grimes). Sranan has survived hundreds of years of prejudice and racism and, like all languages, continues to change.
The economy of Suriname is heavily dependent on agriculture. Most of the agricultural products come from tropical rainforest areas, such as coconut palms, rubber trees, and banana plants. Other important industries include mining, manufacturing, tourism, and fishing.
Suriname has a per capita income of $2,000 (US) in 2005. The country’s total exports were US$1.5 billion in 2004, while imports totaled US$1.3 billion. Suriname’s main trading partners are the United States, France, Germany, Japan, and China.
Influence of Dutch and Sranantongo on the Tupi-Guarani Languages
The influence of Dutch and Srananto on the Tupian languages is a matter of historical linguistics. The main evidence for this comes from comparative studies of vocabulary, but also grammar and phonology. In general, the two languages have had a strong impact on the development of the Tupian languages.
Dutch and Sranantongo are closely related to each other, but they are quite different from most other languages spoken in South America. This makes it possible to trace the history of these languages back to their origin.
Dutch and Sranantongo share many words with the Tupian languages. Some examples:
Sranantongo: kwak – water; nyama – monkey; tjepu – river; yabatse – fish; kapot – pot; nganga – house; sokol – canoe; kopi – coffee; pombe – bread; mbenga – rice; bikoko – sugarcane; kuku – cassava; kafo – cow; kukum – dog; kuku – chicken; kukum – pig; kukum – sheep; kukum – goat; kukum – horse; kukum – elephant; kukum – buffalo; kuguru – cat; kugu – rat; kugur – lizard; kuguri – snake; kuguri – worm; kuguri – spider; kuguri – grasshopper; kuguri – ant; kuguri – bee; kuguri – fly; kuguri – mosquito; kuguri – butterfly; kuguri – moth; kuguri – beetle; kuguri – snail; kuguri – centipede; kuguri – scorpion; kuguri – crab; kuguri – lobster; kuguri – frog; kuguri – turtle; kuguri – crocodile; kuguri – iguana; kuguri – bird; kuguri – parrot; kuguri – dove; kuguri – pigeon; kuguri – turkey; kuguri – duck.
Climate of Suriname
The climate of Suriname is tropical, with a hot and humid equatorial climate. The average temperature in the country ranges from summer to winter. The highest recorded temperature was on May 23, 2005, at Paramaribo Airport. The lowest recorded temperature was on December 22, 1995, at Bakhuis Schottegat. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, although there is more rainfall between April and October than in any other period.
Plant and Animal Life of Suriname
The flora and fauna of Suriname are a mixture of the Caribbean, South American, and African biomes. The country has more than 5,000 species of vascular plants, including many endemic to it. There are also about 2,500 species of animals, including several endangered or vulnerable species.
The most common mammals found in Suriname are squirrels, bats, monkeys, deer, wild boars, porcupines, anteaters, armadillos, sloths, raccoons, opossums, rats, cats, dogs, horses, donkeys, cows, goats, pigs, chickens, guinea hens, geese, ducks, turkeys, pigeons, sparrows, crows, eagles, vultures, owls, snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, butterflies, bees, ants, termites, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, spiders, snails, worms, ants, caterpillars, and millipedes.
People of Suriname
South Asians, descendants of contract labourers from India, are the largest ethnic group in Suriname, making up more than one-fourth of the population. The second major ethnic group, accounting for about one-fifth of the population, is the Maroons (descendants of escaped slaves of African origin). Creoles, who in Suriname are people of mainly African descent, constitute between one-tenth and one-fifth of the population. The descendants of Javanese (people from the island of Java in Indonesia) contract labourers and people of mixed ethnicity each make up almost one-seventh of the population.
Sports and Recreation
The country’s most popular sports are football (soccer), basketball, and volleyball. Although Suriname has no professional sports teams, several Surinamese players have become members of well-known European soccer clubs. Suriname made its Olympic debut at the 1968 Mexico City Games. Suriname’s Anthony Nesty won the gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly competition at the 1988 Seoul Games and later earned a bronze in the same event at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Fishing is a common recreational sport, particularly from August to October, when many people fish with bamboo poles in freshwater swamps and creeks. Hunting is also popular. A traditional Surinamese activity is a birdkeeping. The most commonly caught birds are the large-billed seed finches (Oryzoborus crassirostris) known in the country as twa-twas. Competition among these whistling birds takes place Sunday mornings at Independence Square in Paramaribo and in other cities throughout Suriname.
After World War II the issue of universal suffrage served as a catalyst for political mobilization. Political parties were set up, most of them organized along ethnic lines. The light-skinned Creole elite, who opposed universal suffrage, set up the Suriname National Party (Nationale Partij Suriname; NPS).
The Progressive Suriname People’s Party (Progressive Suriname Volkspartij; PSV) organized the working-class Creoles. Eventually, the South Asians and Indonesians were grouped respectively within the United Reform Party (later called the Progressive Reform Party [Vooruitstrvende Hervormde Partij; VHP]) and the Indonesian Peasants’ Party (now the Party of National Unity and Solidarity [Kerukunan Tulodo Pranatan Inggil; KTPI]). Universal suffrage was instituted in 1948.
After Suriname was granted autonomy in its internal affairs in 1954, development aid from the Netherlands increased steadily. From 1964 onward, Suriname, as an associate member of the European Economic Community (EEC; later succeeded by the European Union), also received aid from the EEC’s development fund. In spite of this aid, Suriname’s rate of economic growth was strong only during the mid-1960s, when there were dramatic increases in the production of alumina and aluminum.
The 1958 elections produced a coalition government of the NPS and the VHP. In 1961 the left-wing Nationalist Republican Party (Partij Nationalistische Republiek; PNR) was established. Among the South Asian population, the Action Group (Aktie Groep) became active. A split occurred in the NPS-VHP coalition after the 1967 elections, which led to a coalition of the Action Group and the NPS, but in 1969 that government fell. A coalition was then formed by the VHP and the Progressive National Party (Progressieve Nationale Partij; PNP), which was set up by a group of intellectuals who had left the NPS.
There are a few theories on how these languages were formed. One is that Afro-Asiatic languages originally came from Egypt and spread into West Africa and East Africa. As people migrated, they carried their language with them; over time, it became a new, distinct language. Another theory suggests that Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan languages came from Southern Africa and later spread to surrounding areas. The total area of Suriname 63,250 square miles. At just under 165,000 square kilometers (64,000 square miles), it is the smallest sovereign state in South America. Suriname was the first to get its name from American Indians, which was Surinen.
Several of these languages are indigenous to Suriname, so most have been spoken for centuries. Some are relatively new additions; Javanese, for example, is a 20th-century language that was brought over by Indonesian immigrants. Although it’s one of Suriname’s largest languages, it hasn’t yet caught on as an official national language—but it remains one of its most popular.
Like any language, languages spoken in Suriname will take a lot of time and practice to learn. However, some languages can be learned faster than others. If you have any previous knowledge of Dutch or French, for example, you’ll have an easier time learning Sranan Tongo because it’s written using similar characters and conjugation.
in Suriname, Dutch is the official language taught in schools but Sranan is the language used in day to day life. What’s amazing is that it only has 340 words, and yet they can say anything they want in day to day life.
Suriname is a multi-ethnic country with over 300 different ethnic groups. The official language of the country is Dutch, but there are also many other native languages such as Sranan Tongo and Papiamento. Other languages include Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Zulu.
What are the top 3 languages spoken in Suriname?
The official language of Suriname is Dutch. The majority of people speak English as a second language, but it’s not uncommon to hear some words and phrases in other languages. There are also many Creole dialects that are spoken throughout the country.
Top three languages spoken in Surinamese households
2. Sranan Tongo
Spanish is the official language in all South American countries except Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, and is spoken even in countries that are not historically Spanish. Official languages in Guyana, Suriname, and French Guinea are respectively English, Dutch, and French.
The reply is Mi de (I’m fine) or A’y go (It goes). In Dutch, one could start the day with Goedemorgen (Good morning) or Hoe gaat het? (How’s it going?).
What is spoken in Suriname is not Hindi. It is called Sarnami and it descends from the Bhojpuri language of India.
Interjection. A popular greeting which means: How are you!