The majority of the Surinam population descents from immigrants originating
from three different continents: Africa, Asia and Europe. Therefor approximately
20 languages are spoken in Surinam. The official language is Dutch. This
language is also customary on schools and primarily used by the government.
In everyday life however, people tend to use the Surinam language, also
known as Sranan Tongo. The native Americans use several native languages.
During the 19th century many contractworkers arrived introducing Hindi,
Javanese and Chinese. These language are primarily used within the different
ethnic groups. Amongst eachother people in general use Sranan Tongo. Many
Surinam inhabitants also master the English, although only partially.
The Sranan Tongo, also known as Surinam is mastered by almost everyone
in the Surinam population. To most of the people, this is their primary
language. This Creole language is of rather recent date and originated
from the first slaves coming from Africa during the 17th century. The
Sranan Tongo is not to be mistaken with languages spoken by the Maroons
such as the Saramacan and the Aukan. The Sranan Tongo has many English,
Portuguese and African influences, but also quite a few Dutch words are
The Creole consists of different languages. Guyan, with about 50.000 users
in Surinam and 650.000 in Guyana. In the East and Northeast of Surinam
approximately 18.000 people speak Aukan. Along the Saramakka- and Surinamriver
people primarily use Saramakkan. This last language is related to the
English. The dialect, Matawari, has its origin in the Portuguese. There
is also Kwinti, spoken alongside the river Coppename. This language is
also strongly influenced by the English.
Carib is actually a collection of several Native American languages. Kalihna,
has a western as well as an eastern dialect. The latter is generally considered
the most prestigious and is primarily used in the area of Albina. Trio
can be found in the southern central villages of Tepoe and Alalapadu.
Arawak is spoken by elderly people in the North. It can also be found
in Venezuela, Guyana and French-Guyana. Furthermore there is Wayana, related
to the Trio and Akurio. Both becoming scarce in use.
Among this group we can find the European and Western-Asian languages.
The Caribbean Hindi is a variation of the West-Indian Hindi and is used
by many people in Surinam. They almost all use Dutch as their second language.
Dutch is hardly used as a primary language, but most of the population
is proficient of it as a secondary language. English is spoken along the
coast and along the border with Guyana. Especially in the business community
it is widely spread.
About sixty thousand people in Surinam use the Caribbean Javanese. This
language varies greatly from the Javanese spoken in Indonesia. The language
originates from the Javanese plantation workers that came to Surinam in
1890. A major part of the Chinese living in Surinam use a variation of
the Chinese language, Hakka. Finally, Warao is an isolated language spoken
only by few Native Indians in Surinam.