The official languages of the Northern Marianas Islands are English, Chamorro, and Refaluwasch. Chamorro is an Austronesian language spoken by approximately 12,000 people as well as being spoken in neighbouring Guam. This language is heavily influenced by the Northern Marianas Islands colonial past under Spanish rule. Refaluwasch, also known as Carolinian, is a threatened Austronesian language that is spoken by a few people in the country.

Approximately 20% of the country speaks Chamorro although the numbers of speakers of this language are declining year-by-year. Just over 3,000 people speak the Realuwasch-Carolinian language and it is in danger of going extinct in the near future. The majority of the nation speaks English as a first or second language due to strict, often oppressive, language policies implemented by the United States after World War II. This practice led to the indigenous languages of the country becoming diminished in their use throughout the country as well as the fact that the majority of the media in the country is presented in English.

Phrases in the country are not limited to purely English and many phrases from indigenous languages are interwoven into daily communication. In Chamorro, hello is written as hafa dai and pronounced as hah-fuh-die and goodbye is adios, a borrowed word from Spanish. Good morning, afternoon, and evening are also Spanish loan-phrases in Chamorro. Refaluwasch, or Carolinian, phrases are not as common as those from the Chamorro language.

Minority languages in the country are plentiful with such a varied ethnic makeup in population. Asian dialects such as Filipino and Chinese are the most prevalent minority languages in the country. There are also small numbers of native Bangladeshi, Japanese, and Korean speakers in the Northern Marianas Islands. Some of these minority languages have greater numbers of speakers than the official Carolinian language.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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