Belizean Kriol is one of the most fascinating aspects of Belize for foreign tourists and expats alike. In this short piece, Cathi Bray pays homage to this language (yes, it’s a language, not slang) and shows you a few basic words.
Or maybe it was the rum punch doing strange things to my vision.
But it wasn’t the rum punch and it certainly was something as simplistic as slang. I was getting my first dose of Belizean Kriol.
“Kriol“, which is Kriol for Creole, is an official language. It has its own spelling, grammar, and dictionary (dikshineri). In fact, it’s got the whole nine yaads.
Although English is the official language of Belize, most Belizeans speak Kriol as the “lingua franca” or common language.
They often speak Spanish too and you if you spend any time in Belize you’ll hear a seamless flow between the three languages on a daily basis.
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There are 6,906 documented languages in the world and the Creole languages make up 77 of them, including Belizean Kriol.
Like other Caribbean Creole tongues, Belizean Kriol originated with African slaves. They blended their own languages with the English of their overseers and slave-owners.
The people of Belize are a grand mix of many cultures (Mestizo, Maya, African, Garifuna, Spanish, English, Memmomite…). Kriol exemplifies yet another example of that melting pot.
Consider these fun Kriol terms:
“Gud maanin” – Good morning
“Weh yu nayhn?” – What is your name?
“Da how yu di du?” – How are you?
“Ah mi gat wahn gud gud taim!” – I had a great time!
“Ai da di teecha” – I am the teacher.
Some might be easy to understand, others not so much. Here are a few examples of Kriol vowel sounds and spellings:
Layta – Later
Teef – Steal
Taim – Time
Hoam – Home
Myool – Mule
Bwai – Boy
Chroo – True
My favorite Kriol saying is “Wahnti wahnti kyah geti an geti geti nuh wahnti”.
That means “You always want what you can’t have”. I guess it’s my favorite one because I like the words. And because I would never have figured out what it meant on my own.
Even the Holy Bible is translated into Kriol (Kriol Baibl version):
“Faada…kohn set op yu kingdom.” Machyu 6:9,10.
“Yu si, Gaad lov di peepl dehn eena dis werl soh moch dat ih giv op ih wan ahn oanli Son…” Jan 3:16
Leela Vernon was a Belizean musician.
She was also a founding member of the National Kriol Council (Nashanal Kriol Kongsl) and was famous for saying, “Ah wah no who seh Kriol no gat no kolcha?” In English that means “I want to know who said the Kriol have no culture.”
Anyone who has spent time in Belize would have to agree with her. There is a deep, rich culture here in this small country, and the Kriol language is evidence enough of that.