Language in Belize: Speaking Belizean Kriol

A sign reading 'Betta No Litta' is tacked to a tree near the beach.

Kriol no littering sign in Caye Caulker. Photo © Patrick Hui, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

I was once told that you’re only a true Belizean if you speak Kriol. It’s the first thing you’ll hear when you arrive in Belize—the accent, the intonation, and the sentences that chop away at articles and verbs. Creole or Kriol is the lingua franca here. Like most patois tongues in the Caribbean, it has its roots in the days of slavery, when the workers in mahogany camps were exposed to English and mixed it with their own West African dialects, hence the choppy grammar and the borrowed English words.

Over time, efforts were made to ensure that Kriol was properly studied, written, and recorded as a language, thanks to the National Kriol Council, created in 1995 to promote all aspects of the Creole culture. Keeping this language going has been their goal, as a way of instilling a sense of identity and cultural pride in its people. It’s now spoken and understood by almost all Belizeans, even non-Creoles, and knowing a couple of phrases is a great way to immerse and break the ice.


Basic Phrases in Kriol

  • Gud maanin! — Good morning!
  • Weh di gaan an? — What’s up?
  • Aarite. — All right.
  • Cho! — What on earth!
  • Weh yuh naym? — What’s your name?
  • Yuh da Belize? — Are you from Belize?
  • Weh gaan ahn gyal? — What’s up, girl?
  • Da weh time? — What time is it?
  • Mi naym da… — My name is…
  • Si yoo lata. — See you later.
  • Ah tayad/mi tayad — I’m tired.
  • Weh/weh-paat… — Where is…?
  • Evryting gud/aarite. — Everything’s fine.
  • Haul your rass! — Get the hell out of here!
  • Fu Chroo? — Really? (Is that right?)
  • Gud night. — Good evening.
  • Mi love Bileez! — I love Belize!

Sayings in Kriol

  • Wahnti wahnti kyah geti an geti geti nuh wahnti. — You always want what you can’t have.
  • Dah no so, dah naily so. — Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
  • Wait bruk down bridge. — Don’t make me wait too long.
  • Sleep wit’ yo’ own eye. — Only rely on what you know, not what others tell you.
  • One one craboo fill barrel. — Every little bit counts (craboo is a Belizean fruit).
  • Ah wah know who seh Kriol noh gat no kulcha? — Who said the Creole don’t have any culture? (A phrase coined by renown Belizean Creole artist and performer, Leela Vernon).

Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Belize.

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