The official language of Colombia is Spanish, although a number of other languages are spoken throughout this country. The Spanish language belongs to the Indo-European language family and the Ibero-Romance subgroup. This language uses the Latin alphabet (the same as English) with the addition of the letter “ñ”. Vowels in certain words are also noted with an accent mark in order to denote the need to enunciate. At a provincial level, English has also been given official status on the San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina islands.

The Spanish language is spoken by around 99.2% of the population of Colombia, representing the vast majority of its residents. This does not, however, mean that other languages are not utilized here as well. In fact, linguists have identified at least 101 living languages in Colombia. One of these is Palenquero, a creole language that is spoken by around 3,000 individuals and is concentrated to the southeast of the city of Cartagena. Less than 10% of the population here speaks English.

The Spanish spoken in Colombia varies by region, with at least 11 regional dialects identified. In addition to these dialects, Colombians also use several phrases that are unique to the country and might not be understood by Spanish-speakers elsewhere. For example, money is referred to as plata, the Spanish word for silver. Somebody who reports a crime to the police is known as a sapo, which actually means frog. In other Spanish-speaking countries, tengo hambre means I’m hungry, but in Colombia, filo takes the place of hambre.

All of the languages spoken in Colombia, with the exception of Spanish, are considered minority languages. Palanquero, for example, is a Spanish-based creole language that was formed by the first freed African slaves in Latin America. These individuals founded the city San Basilio de Palenque, where they began communicating in a mix of Spanish and other African languages. Another minority language spoken in Colombia is Vlax Romani, informally known as the language of gypsies. Approximately 4,850 individuals speak this language here, many of whom are immigrants from Southeastern Europe. Other minority languages spoken in Colombia include the many indigenous languages and language families, such as: Tupian, Cariban, Quechuan, Cofán, Yagua, Barbacoan, and Witoto. Researchers estimate that around 850,000 individuals speak indigenous languages in Colombia.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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