Papiamentu / Ingles Dikshonario Bilingual

Book Review

title: Papiamentu / Ingles Dikshonario Bilingual
author: Betty Ratzlaff-Henriquez
publisher: Stichting Jeugdwerk Jong Bonaire, 2008
ISBN: 9789990408362
468 pages, 23 cm. tall

This book is a very valuable tool for anyone who wants to study Papiamentu. It's more useful than the wordlists and wiktionaries that are floating around the internet. For one thing, it labels words that are only used on one or two of the islands. When you look up dakue, this dictionary tells you that the word is mainly used by Curaçao residents.

There are also examples of usage for about 5% of the words. Under lechi you will find listed lechi di bleki canned milk and lechi di pòlbu powdered milk. Many words have synonyms and near-synonyms listed with them to help you find the word with the right connotation.

This second edition has a small list of addenda, a summary of the differences between the Aruba and Curaçao orthographies, and a bilingual biography of the author. Compared to the first edition this new version is printed on thinner paper and is much lighter in weight.

If you are studying Papiamentu or you think you might someday do so, you should grab a copy or two of this dictionary while it's available. You can order it from papiamentudictionary.com … Used copies of the first and second editions are sometimes available on eBay, Amazon, and ABEbooks.


spell-check for Papiamentu on Firefox

I haven’t tried this but it looks useful: Spèlchèk di Papiamentu pa Firefox.

And here’s a video showing how to get it started, with nice clear audio.


Papiamentu vowels (a basic summary)

• the five “main” vowels

The vowels without accent marks have the sounds that you would probably expect to hear in a “Romance” language like Spanish or Italian. a as in Spanish padre, e as in Spanish mesa, i as in English ski or police, o as in note, u as in truth.  

When it appears right before another vowel, u often sounds like the English letter w, for example kuadra and kuenta.

And when the letter i appears right before another vowel, it is sometimes like the y in English yes and yoyo, for example: piesa and sabio are both two-syllable words, not three syllables.

the five vowels with acute accent marks

Sometimes the five main vowels are marked with acute (rising) accent marks: á é í ó ú. This indicates that the word in question is stressed in a particular way. Examples include pagá “paid” which is stressed on the final syllable, and iróniko “ironic” stressed on the second syllable.

the three vowels with grave accent marks

The grave (downward) accent marks in the Curaçao spelling system (è, ò, ù) do not represent tone or stress. Instead, they represent completely different vowel sounds compared to the unmarked letter.

è is sometimes described as being like the e in the English words ten and stem. Native speaker Geraldine Dammers says English speakers pronounce it better if they aim for the “short i as in fit” sound.

ò (the letter o with a grave accent) represents the vowel that occurs in the Dutch word kok. This is not a distinctly different vowel in all regional varieties of English, but if you think of the way dog is pronounced in New England (northeastern US), you may get the idea.

ù sounds vaguely similar to the u in the English word gut.

In the phrasebook Getting Around the Islands in Papiamentu (2007), the English words get, got, gut are offered as comparisons for the values of è, ò, ù.

Try saying these examples: bèk back, mènedjer manager, pèn pen, kòfi coffee, dòler dollar, hòtdòg hotdog, bùs bus, trùk truck.

the u with two dots above it

ü is pronounced like the ü in German. This vowel only occurs in a few words of Dutch origin such as hür “to rent (something from somebody)” and minüt “a minute.”

that’s not everything

You really have to listen to native speakers to get a handle on the vowels. Also, there are diphthongs in Papiamentu— vowel blends like the i in “kite” and the ow in “how.” Fortunately online videos and streaming radio stations are available so you can hear and imitate normal pronunciation.

video: Five Awesome Words in Papiamentu

Check out this very fun video about dushi, zjietu, bula, choka mata, and chanbon.


Papiamentu vowels (as described by linguists)

re-posted from 2010-10-12

Here are clippings from three ‘reliable sources’ describing the vowels of Papiamento / Papiamentu. Use these sources for your own studies or as ammunition in Wikipedia edit wars. (Click on the thumbnail images to see larger versions.)

First, from Ortografija di papiamento (1984) by Mario Dijkhoff, a native speaker of the language:

Second, from Die Verschriftung des Papiamentu by Philippe Maurer (appeared in Zum Stand der Kodifizierung Romanischer Kleinsprachen, 1991)

Third, from Observaciones sobre el sistema vocálico del papiamentu by Maxim Kerkhof:

All three of these sources use the symbols of the Alfabèt Fonétiko Internashonal.


tone in Papiamentu

Papiamentu has distinctive patterns of intonation, especially in certain two-syllable words.

For a moment let’s use boldface letters to indicate the stressed syllables and underlining to indicate syllables that have a falling tone as opposed to a rising tone. For two-syllable words such as mata, three combinations can occur in Papiamentu:

mata: “a plant” (noun): rising tone and stress on the first syllable
mata: “killed” (participle): rising tone and stress on the second syllable
mata: “to kill” (verb): stress on the first, rising tone on the second

These tones are not randomly assigned. There are patterns. Most of the common two-syllable verbs have falling tone on the first syllable. The past participles have stress and rising tone on the final syllable.

The tone contours of a word can change when used in a question or when negation of the verb is being emphasized. The whole issue of tone would seem very complex if anyone tried to write down all the details but that’s not an effective way to learn a spoken language. What’s needed is lots of practice listening to and imitating good examples of speech.


I removed the accent mark from matá=killed in the examples above to avoid confusion. Past participles are normally written with an acute accent mark on the final vowel: matá “killed,” no pagá “unpaid,” brasa kibrá “broken arm,” etc.

You might want to review our article about stress in Papiamentu.

Most textbooks of Papiamentu say very little about tone. Basiscursus Papiaments by Florimon van Putte and Igma van Putte de Windt is an exception; it uses underscores to mark the tones of words in which they are especially important.


one student's success in learning Papiamento with self-study

Back in 2013, while this blog was dormant, “Expugnator” wrote extensively about his experiences learning Papiamento prior to a trip to Aruba and Curaçao. You can read his story over on the How To Learn Any Language dot com website. On pages 18 and 19 of the thread he describes his visit to the islands. Nice!


easy reading: grow your own salad

I stumbled across a gardening blog entry that seems easy to read and is mildly interesting: “planta salada den baki di plèstik”


website: Cushina Arubiano

Cushina Arubiano is a blog of recipes written in the Aruba style of Papiamento. It was dormant for a few years but it’s getting occasional updates again. It’s a source of brief and potentially useful texts to study.


tidying up 2008 and 2010

I've gone through all the posts from the years 2008-2010, re-categorized them with a new set of labels/tags, updated dead links when possible, and deleted a couple of posts that seemed to have no long-term value.


Learn Papiamentu / Papiamento

This is an annual message explaining the purpose of this blog.

You are reading ‘Papiamentu tur dia,’ a resource for English-speakers who want to study, learn or just admire the language Papiamentu a.k.a. Papiamento. (This blog mainly focuses on the Curaçao variety of the language.)

You can use the categories visible on the right-hand side of the page to find posts about a particular topic. Thanks for visiting!


baranka, buraku, buriku

I'm having trouble keeping these three words correct in my memory: baranka, buraku, buriku.

Sometimes I can remember buriku (donkey) by thinking of the Spanish word burro and then thinking of Riku, which is one of my nicknames.

Need to find a memory-hook for baranka (rock) and buraku (hole), something for the memory to hang its hat on.

Buraku probably comes from Portuguese buraco, but what’s the source of baranka?