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Colombia's Languages


Spanish is the official language of Colombia. Not all Colombians speak the same, however, as the spoken Spanish varies (sometimes dramatically) from region to region. In Bogotá, people speak what is called the Rolo dialect (also referred to as cachaco, meaning educated or refined) while those from northwest Colombia speak with the “hissing S” usually recognized as the Spanish of Spain. Other dialects include Cundiboyacense, which still uses an archaic variant of usted; and the coastal, similar to the Spanish spoken throughout the Caribbean.


Many of the more than 180 indigenous languages of the country’s ethnic groups are constitutionally recognized as official languages within their respective territories. Wuyuunaiki (of the Guajira) has the most speakers. On San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands, a creole English is traditionally spoken; only on the last two isles is it preserved, however. Some Afro-Colombian communities on the Caribbean coast speak Palenquero, a Spanish Creole based on Kongo and other African languages. While bilingual education is mandatory in these territories, it is more geared toward Spanish replacement, rather than native language literacy. Therefore, most Colombians speak Spanish as either their first or second language.


If traveling to Colombia, it is recommended that you brush up on your Spanish. English is taught in schools, but not exceptionally well. Most Colombians understand much more English than one might imagine, but relatively few are fluent.


Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Colombia: When to Go, Highlights, Pamplona Services, The Cocaine Industry in BahĂ­a Solano, Safety, Laundry, Hospitals and Pharmacies in Colombia, When to go to El Valle, Population of Colombia and Dealing with Colombian Officialdom and Business.

27 Sep 2011

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