JOPOL 6(2022)

Language Use, Language Attitudes and Identity on Bonaire
Ellen-Petra Kester & Samantha Buijink 

In this article we report on a survey that was conducted on Bonaire, one of the six Caribbean islands that were formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles. The majority of the Bonairean population speaks Papiamentu, a Spanish/Portuguese lexifier creole, as their mother tongue. Dutch used to be the only officially recognized language on the island up until 2007, when the Netherlands Antilles recognized Papiamentu and English as co-official languages besides Dutch.  

Since the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on October 10 of 2010, Bonaire has adopted a new political status as an exceptional municipality of the European Netherlands. This political reform has a strong impact on the small island community due to demographic growth, the influence of European Dutch legislation and the increasing cost of living (Bak-Piard 2010). The status of Papiamentu has changed dramatically as it is no longer recognized as an official language, its use as a home language is in decline and its role in the education system is under attack (Bak-Piard 2016).  

This article presents the results of 262 questionnaires that were distributed on Bonaire to investigate patterns of language use, language attitudes and identity among the Bonairean population.  The results pointed out that the speech community of Bonaire is rather homogeneous. Papiamentu is widely used and attitudes toward Papiamentu and Bonairean identity are overall (very) positive. These findings provide insights that are important for the development of a sustainable language policy in the education system, serving Bonairean students to achieve their full potential.  

Keywords: Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean, Papiamentu, language attitudes, multilingualism