The Central American country of Belize is nestled between Mexico and Guatemala and is bordered on the east by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Sparsely populated and culturally diverse, this peaceful country is a mix of many cultures where many languages are spoken. That being said, the predominant language spoken in Belize is English. Upon arrival, you will notice that street signs, restaurant menu’s, and even the newspapers are in English. School children are taught in English and government documents and real estate contracts are in English, as well.
A Brief History of Belize
Around 1500 B.C.E. the Maya inhabited and developed many locations in and around what is know as Belize today. The evidence of their presence remains today in the beautiful ruins many come to visit. The Europeans led by the famous explorer Christopher Columbus arrived here around 1502 and England established its first settlement in Belize in 1638. Many more English settlements were established over the next 150 years. In 1840, Belize became a “Colony of British Honduras” and a few years later in 1862 became a “crown colony”. British Honduras was governed by England until 1964 when it was granted full self-government with ministerial system. In 1973, British Honduras changed its name to Belize and on September 21, 1981, Belize achieved full independence.
The Many Languages of Belize
One of the things that distinguishes Belize from other Central American countries is that English is the primary language. This makes it easy for expatriates to retire and live here as there is no need to learn a new language. As you spend time in Belize, you will hear many other languages spoken between the locals other than English, but none as common as Kriol or Belizean Creole. Interestingly, it is a language primarily derived from English, but is difficult to understand to the untrained ear. Other languages spoken in Belize are Spanish, Maya-Mopan, Maya-Kekchi, African-based Garifuna, Mandarin, and even German. Many Belizean citizens can communicate in 3 or more languages.
The Cultural Harmony that is Belize
If you haven’t heard yet, you will because it is something every visitor to Belize talks about. The people of Belize are very friendly. Belize’s approximately 322,000 residents consist of the Garifuna, which are African, Carib, and Arawak descendants and Mestizo, a mix of Spanish and Native Americans. Maya, Mennonite, Arab, and Chinese also contribute to the cultural diversity that is Belize. The final ingredient in the mix is an ever-growing contingent of expatriates from the United States, Europe, and Canada looking for a change of pace, tax benefits, and a lower cost of living. This melting-pot of the world’s people has created a unique “cultural harmony” and is why Belize is widely regarded as the world’s friendliest tourist and retirement destination.