If you go to any country in Central America, and you'll find yourself speaking Spanish. And then there's Belize, where the official language is English. But, is it really?
Just for some context, I'm neither a Historian, an Anthropologist nor a Linguist, but I'll share my opinion, as a local, as to why I think there's no official language in this country.
From a local's perspective, I think Belize's official language is actually a dialect called Belizean Creole. It's not a language but most people in the country speak it, and it connects the people regardless of their origin.
Have you ever gone to a popular place to snap a picture only to find out it's nothing like the pictures in real life? Saying English is the official language of the country is kinda like that! Let's find out why...
The local Creole or "Kriol" is a broken English. It's better described as a Lingua Franca, which connects people that don't speak the same language.
If you ask me, Creole is more of a dialect because there are no official rules nor an official dictionary as far as I know. But who am I to say what's real or what's not? But for now, we'll call it a dialect to avoid confusion.
Almost everyone speaks it! Seriously... you'll find a Mayan kids down south, the Chinese shopkeepers, and even the East Indians talking to you in the local dialect. It's strange but interesting at the same time. It kinda sounds like a Caribbean accent or Jamaican accent.
Here's an example: What's going on? = Weh di goan?
Here's another: I want some water = Me wa waata.
Because the locals spend most of their time speaking Creole, their English gets compromised. I'm guilty of this myself actually. You write the way you speak after all right? So it's not surprising to hear locals struggle to speak proper English. Even though English is thought in the classroom, almost no one uses it with their friends or family members.
This depends on the region they are from of course. Everyone that lives along the border likely speaks more Spanish since they likely have family members from the neighboring countries. Think of it like two rivers joining together to form one stream of water.
Now it might sound like I'm bashing on my own people at this point lol. But I'm just being as honest as I can possibly be. The locals that claim to speak Spanish actually speak Spanglish (English and Spanish) for the most part, especially up north. And sometimes the Spanglish, even gets mixed with some Creole.
Ask a local to say a complete sentence to you Spanish. I promise you they won't be able to. Well maybe they will if they are originally from Honduras or Guatemala. As with most things in Belize, it all depends!
This is subject to debate and depends on your definition of a language and your definition of bilingual. In my opinion, we're definitely not. Why? Because, most of us speak broken English and broken Spanish. I personally used to think I spoke Spanish well, and then I ended up traveling two years around Latin America that proved otherwise.
Don't get me wrong, I think the broken languages sound unique and interesting. Foreigners love the Caribbean accent for the most part. But... it sucks not being able to speak a single language fluently at the end of the day.
At the end of the day, it's all about getting your message across I think. And we understand each other even if it's a little broken. Most of the locals are very curious and respectful towards tourist as well.
So if you end up in this little country that speaks broken languages, don't be afraid to ask for help.
We wa help you. No worry!
Until next time :)