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Belize: A Country Where Most People are Trilingual

Parade in Belize
Belize: A Country Where Most People are Trilingual
on September, 30 2013

Multi-cultural and tropical Belize is the home of many different cultures. The most diverse population of the Americas can be found in this country that is located in Central America. The country’s wealth in natural resources is equally matched by the richness of its cultural heritage. A first-time visitor to the country might hear more than one or two unfamiliar languages being spoken, and then a few very familiar ones. In Belize, most people are trilingual. Some of the languages spoken in the country today are English, Maya, Spanish, Mandarin, Garifuna, and the national language, Kriol.

Perhaps the secret behind the peace and harmony that permeate life in Belize is the way that people from such wide range of cultural backgrounds embrace their differences and make the most of their individual strengths to unite the whole country.

A myriad of cultural practices

What has made Belize such a spectacular melting pot of world culture? Multi-ethnic Belizeans are descended from a mix of Europeans, Africans, and Mayans. The Europeans and Mayans were colonizers and conquerors. But some of the ancestors of modern Belize citizens were from various small tribes from the surrounding Caribbean isles that came to the territory now occupied by Belize for refuge in the past.

The country was formerly a colony of Britain and British common law served as the basis for the country’s laws. Belize is now enjoying the benefits of a peaceful and stable democracy. Its intriguing official motto is “Under the shade we flourish.”

A trilingual nation

The immigration of people from around the world has further complicated the family trees of the people of Belize. Chinese, British, Lebanese, and Indian blood now flow in the veins of people who call Belize their home. Why is Belize a mostly trilingual nation? The first language the Belizeans learn is what they have heard spoken from the cradle on, and this is not necessarily the national language. Belizeans generally prefer to speak Kriol, the national language when communicating with people outside their cultural circle.

English is the language of globalization, and most Belizeans have made it a point to learn to speak it. As a matter of fact, English is the official language in Belize, though Spanish and Mayan have official capacities as well. Official documents as well as dailies and street and shop signs are in English. This is often a surprise to many first-time English-speaking visitors to the country, but it is also quite a relief to them that they can interact with the locals and go about being tourists without having to carry around a dictionary or an electronic translator.

Embracing cultural differences

Belizeans are known for their warmth and hospitality, and their open acceptance of other nationalities. Perhaps the composition of their society has influenced this perspective. Today, every cultural contribution is being manifested in the melting pot that is the country of Belize. The multiple influences are manifested in huge variety of influences including Belizean cooking. Having been raised in such a background, Belizeans have learned to express the richness of their heritage in day to day life.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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