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Suriname: A Collage of Languages

Located in the north of South America, above Brazil and between Guyana and French Guiana, is the Republic of Suriname. You might assume that if you speak Spanish or Portuguese you would be able to understand and be understood in all of Latin America. However, this small but multilingual country breaks that rule a bit.

For starters, it differs from any other nation on the continent as it is the only one in which Dutch is the official language. This language can be heard on some of the Caribbean islands, but these belong to Europe, while Suriname is an independent country. For this reason, it is also known as “Dutch Guyana”, since about half of the population speaks Dutch. When it comes to tourism and commercial matters, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish are also spoken.

Of course, this was not always the case: the indigenous people of the region already had their own languages before the arrival of the Europeans. Indigenous groups such as the Caribs and Arawaks resisted the installation and colonization of the Spanish, Dutch, French and British for many years. Nevertheless, the old and the new world were gradually merged, including their linguistic, cultural and religious aspects. Sranan Tongo, which is the second most spoken language, was born from this. Sranan Tongo is a kind of fusion of Dutch and English along with African voices; a result of the interaction of African slaves with Europeans.

As if this language mash-up wasn’t colorful enough already, Suriname has also received a considerable amount of Asian immigration; mainly from Japan, India and China, who have made their contribution to the linguistic spectrum of this nation.

Not bad for a small country with only half a million inhabitants, right? Walking through the streets of its capital, Paramaribo, its coasts on the Atlantic and the Amazon jungle, is like taking a journey through time with its ancestral pre-Columbian and African cultures, its European touch, Latin charm and Asian influence. A paradise for lovers of unknown languages ​​and dialects. And a challenge for any internationalization and localization project!

At Trusted Translations we are always ready to help with any need that may arise in this language safari!