Suriname: The South American Country That Speaks Dutch


After English and German, Dutch is the third most spoken Germanic language. Beyond the low countries, Dutch is also the official language of Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, as well as in Suriname, a country in South America where it holds its status as the sole official language.


Located on the northern coast of South America, Suriname is the smallest independent country on the continent, although it has one of the most ethnically diverse populations. Much of its population are descendants of African slaves as well as Indian and Javanese labourers who were brought to Suriname by the Dutch to work in the agricultural sector.


After being seized by the Dutch in 1667, Suriname was granted independence from the Netherlands in 1975. This independence led to more than a third of its population emigrating back to the Netherlands and the country has been plagued by various coups and a civil war ever since.


Dutch was first introduced to what is now known as Suriname when Paramaribo, the capital, became a Dutch colony. However, the rest of Suriname was still under British control until the Dutch lost New Netherland (now known as New York) to the British. In exchange, the British gave the rest of Suriname to the Dutch.


As the whole of Suriname came under the control of the Dutch, the Dutch language soon became the common language of communication between those who were native to Suriname, the African slaves, and the ruling Dutch administration.


Although the two countries share the same language, there are distinct differences between the two thanks to the influx of new immigrants from British India and the Dutch East Indies. After moving to the country, they too picked up the language but added features to spoken Dutch that cannot be found in the original European dialects.


To continue reading this article go to our November issue...