English is the official language of Belize. Other than recent immigrants to Belize from other Latin American countries like Guatemala and El Salvador, everybody speaks English.
The Lingua Franca in Belize is Creole so native Belizeans all speak Creole. It is like English pidgin language. It is kind of hard to adapt to, but once you’ve heard it enough and you dissect it, you start to understand it. I can hear it and for the most part understand it, too, but it’s very difficult for me to get my lips to form the words.
The second language of Belize is Spanish, especially around the border of Mexico and Guatemala. In these areas, you’re going to find a lot of Spanish speakers. In the islands, there is not so much Spanish, but you’ll find English and Creole. The native Belizeans, the ones that do not speak English or just a very little English, are going to be first or second-generation immigrants who came from Guatemala or El Salvador.
Belize Creole is like Jamaican Creole; it’s similar to that but it is unique to Belize. Belize Creole is different than any other Creole. Most Americans would think of Creole as the Creole spoken in New Orleans, but that’s French Creole. Here in Belize, the Creole is like an English dialect. They use a lot in idioms. If you don’t understand the culture, you won’t understand what they are saying. It’s not because you can’t understand the different syllables; it’s just that you don’t know what the words mean.
For example, if you and I are sitting at a dinner and I called to you and said, “Hey, Blue…” “blue means that you are sad and blue. “Blue” comes from a type of fly that will go and defecate in somebody’s meal and ruins it. So when someone calls you “blue”, he or she is “dissing” on you. If you don’t know the history of the words, you wouldn’t know what they are talking about. That’s one of the reasons why Creole is hard to understand; it is composed of proverbs and idioms.
Native Belizeans can switch on and off. They can speak English and people understand them fine, but then if there are three of you standing there with you as a foreigner and two Belizeans, they will talk to you in very clear English and they will turn to each other and speak Creole.
(Sign written in Creole about "da wata" fountain found in Belize, pictured.)