Humans of Willemstad & Kralendijk

You’ve probably heard of the Humans of New York project. On Facebook you will find a similar Humans of Willemstad page and a Humans of Kralendijk page. People out in public are photographed and asked to say something about themselves. Often their transcribed comments are in Papiamentu, but sometimes in Dutch or English. Interesting!


map of the ABC islands

Courtesy of Wikimedia here’s a simple map of the islands. The distance from Oranjestad to Kralendijk is about 120 miles (roughly 200 kilometers).


listening practice: flush your faucets

There is a one-minute public service announcement in Papiamentu urging people to rinse out their water taps whenever their homes have been vacant for several days. Apparently legionela is a problem. If you need to check your understanding of the Papiamentu, the same ad in English is available.
The door hanger says: Un siman afó? Bon bini! Prevení legionela: spula tur kranchi! (Flush/rinse every tap/faucet). 7 dia óf mas for di kas? Laga awa basha pa 1 minüt (let water pour for one minute) for di e kranchinan!


reading exercise: avoid getting robbed

Over on LoopABC there is an article of crime prevention tips from the police. It’s a good place to do some sentence mining as most of the article is relatively easy to read with occasional visits to the dictionary. Here are a couple of sentences from the ‘how to act if you are getting robbed’ section, with free translations:

- Duna loke ku nan pidi. Bo bida ta bal mas ku material;
Do what they ask. Your life is more valuable than material things.

- No resistí. Bo por sali heridá;
Do not resist. You could end up getting hurt.

a book of language learning tips

For many decades people have been writing books about how to learn a new language. A book in this genre which I’m currently reading is Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner. (It was published in 2014.) There is an interesting summary and discussion of the book’s main points on Kris Wingo’s ESL Teaching Blog. You can learn more about the book and Wyner’s other products at fluent-forever.com


video: a Pierre Lauffer poem

Via YouTube and in honor of the Solstice, below is a nature-loving poem by Pierre Lauffer (with English subtitles in the video). Lauffer was one of the most influential poets of Papiamentu.

Some words you will hear in the poem include: mondi (woods, wild land), mundu (world), gosa (enjoy), bestia (animal(s)), desgrasia (tragedy, accident, calamity), suela su rosea (the soil’s breath).


music: Klòknan di Pasku

Here is the Christmas song ‘Klòknan di Pasku’ (Christmas Bells) nicely performed and clearly pronounced.


vocabulary: fin di aña

E temporada di fin di aña, or just fin di aña, refers to the festive final weeks of the year when people are taking vacations, having family gatherings, decorating for Christmas and then celebrating it and New Year’s.

The word Pasku alone generally refers to Christmas. Say Pasku di Nasementu to distinguish Christmas from Pasku di Resurekshon (Easter). Palu di Pasku is a Christmas tree.

Last year there was a brief news article on loopabc.com about an Australian breaking the world’s record for the largest number of lights on a Christmas tree. The headline is: Oustraliano ta kibra rekòrt di mas tantu lus den palu di Pasku. You can read the article here.


lessons: Henky's Papiamento

Over on YouTube there’s a series of lessons, or you might say a phrasebook with audio, called Henky’s Papiamento. It’s low-energy and not very fun but still useful. Embedded below you can see lesson 14 which covers asking for directions. You can find the other lessons by going to the Playlist.


video: fun words *plus* ò vs. o

The ‘NotSoSubtle’ guys on YouTube made another cool video. This one explains some words that they consider to be especially enjoyable.

Notice the way they pronounce the real word ròkòtòkò and the hypothetical word rokotoko. It’s a great example of the difference between ò and o. I took the liberty of extracting an audio clip of these two words; it is at picosong.com/UdQi

The ò is a little bit like the vowel in “cot” in some (but not all) regional varieties of English. The unmarked o is like the vowel in “note” but purer (the o in English glides toward a u sound). The spelling system in Aruba writes both of these vowels with the letter o while the Curaçao system uses ò and o to distinguish them.

The specially marked vowels in Papiamentu (è ò ù ü) seem to be vowel-sounds that don’t exist in Spanish.


Papiamentu listening exercise: Surface Pro unboxing

This 100-second video from the Better Deals store shows the host unboxing a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. The vocabulary used here is roughly a 50/50 mix of Papiamentu function-words and English loanwords. This is an extreme example of brand names and English terms for modern products invading another language.


Links to Papiamentu News Sites

We now have a page of links to news sites and newspapers that are written in Curaçao-style Papiamentu. These are a great source of brief to medium-length texts for reading practice and vocabulary expansion.


radio show *in* & *about* Papiamentu

Once a week radio station Bon FM in Bonaire transmits Arthur Sealy’s 4-minute radio show discussing his opinions of correct Papiamentu usage and explaining details of the language that are not universally understood. In April he won a literary prize — e premio di Tapushi Literario — for his program “Bon uso di papiamentu.”

The show is a valuable resource for students of Papiamentu. In addition to the information about syntax and vocabulary, the show gives you a chance to hear conjunctions, pronouns, verbs and example sentences being pronounced carefully by someone sitting in front of a good microphone.

Keep in mind that Mr. Sealy has some very strong opinions and he is talking about a prescriptivist view of how the language should be used, rather than an objective view of how it is used.

Some of the past episodes are posted on Soundcloud. Here are links to the episodes from August and September of 2015. There are a few re-runs in the series; sometimes an episode is repeated 4 or 5 months after its first appearance, so if you collect all of them you will experience a little bit of repetition. I will try to write a proper table of contents for all the episodes someday in the future.


music: Laman by Izaline Calister

A dreamy song with lyrics displayed in Papiamentu and English.


vocabulary: days of the week

Monday: djaluna (Aruba spelling: dia luna)
Tuesday: djamars (dia mars)
Wednesday: djárason (dia rason)
Thursday: djaweps (diaweps)
Friday: djabièrnè (dia bièrne)
Saturday: djasabra (dia sabra)
Sunday: djadumingu (dia domingu)

week: siman
weekly: semanal*
weekend: fin di siman / wikènt

*that’s not a typo, the first vowel in siman is i but in semanal it’s e

How to say “Monday through Friday”: (di) djaluna pa djabièrnè … An example found online: muchanan i hobennan por partisipá di djaluna pa djabièrnè di 4'or di atardi pa 7'or di anochi


learn Papiamentu online & free

Kathy Taylor, Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies at Earlham College, has created a free self-paced online course for English-speakers interested in Papiamentu. This “Papiamentu Basiko” course includes some downloadable PDF files explaining various elements of grammar and vocabulary. It also contains elementary reading material, audio and video files, and self-test quizzes. Here is the link at coursesites.com

Ms. Taylor has also released a CD of songs written mostly in Papiamentu and in 2006 she published a small book of poetry in Papiamentu with English translations.


why Wednesday is diarason/djarason

“Interestingly, Papiamentu uses the Dutch system for naming the months, but the Iberian system for days. One exception is the day for Wednesday, dia rason, which apparently is derived from the Portuguese word for ration (racao) since Wednesday was the normal day that slaves were given their weekly rations. Others attribute the word to the Dutch word rantsoen, which has the same meaning.” —from Slavery and the Development of Papiamentu (excerpt seen online)


learn Papiamento audio: Radio Hoyer 1

Several radio stations in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao can be heard online. Check out Radio Hoyer 1 in Willemstad.  The audio quality of the internet stream is good and there are several talk shows. There are also programs of music which is mostly sung in Papiamentu.

At the moment my favorite program on Radio Hoyer is Armando Huerta’s morning show, weekdays beginning around 8:30 am Eastern Standard Time (or 9:30 Eastern Daylight). His program includes a weather forecast, horoscopes, an “on this date in history” feature, chatting about everything under the sun, and upbeat music. Even the commercials provide good listening practice: try to catch those rapidly spoken phone numbers and website addresses!


Papiamentu consonants

Here are some notes on Papiamentu’s consonants as they are written in the Curaçao spelling system.

b, d, f, h, k, l, m, p, s, t, v and z are pronounced more or less the same in Papiamentu and in English. There may be some small differences in the “place of articulation” and voiced consonants at the end of words may become devoiced, but these are things you will learn automatically by listening to and imitating good speakers of the language. Note that s is always voiceless as in English sissy, it never has the ‘z’ sound that occurs in English rose.

ch as in the English word chip, sh as in ship.

dj has the ‘j’ sound heard in English jump, jam, jive, and zj has the ‘zh’ sound heard in English azure, vision, pleasure.

n as in English now. However, at the end of a word, Papiamentu’s n is usually pronounced like the ng in the English word sing. Papiamentu tin rhymes with English thing. In words of Germanic origin, n at the end of a word is plain old n, as in pèn (which means ‘pen’).

Spanish influences: r is pronounced as an alveolar trill or tap. ñ is like the ‘ny’ in the English word canyon and the ‘ni’ in onion.

• the complicated life of G

g has more variations than the other letters.

When it appears before a, l, o, ò, r and ug is pronounced as in English go grow goobers.

When g is followed by e, è, or i, the letter g has a “guttural” sound like the ‘ch’ in German achtung and in Scottish loch.

In the letter combinations gue and gui, the u is silent and the g is pronounced as in English guest and guide. If you think of the English words guest and guide or Spanish guerra and guitarra, then you will pronounce gue and gui correctly.

• “other”

Technically these are not really consonants: w as in we want water, y as in your yellow yoyo.

Q and x are not used in the Curaçao spelling system, and c is only used in the letter-pair ch.

• note to self: I need to re-write this article and incorporate the things I‘ve learned in the past couple of years.


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.

Learn Papiamentu / Papiamento

Monthly note to newcomers: This blog is for those who want to learn a little Papiamentu or anyone who simply admires the language. Posts are divided into categories such as Vocabulary, Easy Reading and Music. There are pointers to Lessons and Textbooks. Interesting Books and Videos are mentioned.

We focus on the Curaçao-Bonaire variety rather than the Aruba variety of the language. The two spelling systems are so different that it seems advisable to select one or the other. There are some other differences also.

Thanks for visiting! Feel free to return whenever you feel the need for a little Papiamentu.


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!