Monday, April 6, 2015

Country Profile: The Languages of Venezuela

A few weeks ago we explored the languages of Peru, and today we're back in South America to learn more about the linguistic diversity of the nearby country of Venezuela. 

The Official Languages

It should come as no surprise that Spanish is an official language of Venezuela. It is the primary language used throughout the country in education, business, government, and daily life, and is spoken by the vast majority of its inhabitants. However, Venezuela technically also has many other official languages.

Venezuela's constitution recognizes Spanish as the country's official language, but also gives official status to the languages of the country's many indigenous groups. There are around 30 such languages in Venezuela, though most comprise less than 1% of the country's total population.

Indigenous Languages

Canaima National Park, Venezuela
The vast majority of Venezuela's indigenous languages belong to the Arawakan and Cariban language families, though some belong to smaller language families. Two of the most spoken indigenous languages in Venezuela are Wayuu and Warao. The Wayuu language is spoken by approximately 200,000 people in Venezuela, and is a member of the Arawakan language family.

Warao, the language of the indigenous group of the same name, is spoken by nearly 30,000 people in Venezuela. It is a language isolate, which means that it hasn't been connected to any existing linguistic families.

Immigrant and Foreign Languages

Venezuela is also home to several small, but significant immigrant populations who speak their native languages. These languages include Arabic, German, Chinese, Italian, Galician, and Portuguese, which is generally spoken due to the country's proximity to Brazil. 

English is the country's most popular foreign language, and is used throughout Venezuela, especially by those working in business or academic fields.