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Papiamento is the most-widely spoken language on the islands of Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire, which lie near Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. There are several theories about how this language was formed but the truth is it has a strong Portuguese and Spanish presence.

  • Are Papiamento and Portuguese mutually intelligible?
    By mutually intelligible I mean that speakers of either language can readily understand each other without great effort or any previous study.

I'm also interested in learning whether there is any asymetric intelligibility.

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  • Why don't you add an excerpt in Papiamento and aks somebody to add a translation in Portuguese, maybe in English as well, and you can see how similar are the Portuguese text generated from a Portuguese reader, reading your excerpt. That would answer your question well enough. – Eduardo Fernandes Sep 7 '16 at 15:49
  • @EduardoFernandes I believe we have users here who can do much better than that. Also, IMHO I think a good answer here will probably enrich our data bank. – Centaurus Sep 7 '16 at 15:59
  • Well this is a bit of an uninformed guess, I've never read nor heard Papiamento, but from a quick read of the Wikipedia I'd guess they are not very mutually intelligible, at least not with some degree of effort. Judging from say Creole which probably share a similar etymology, there may be some similarities between certain words, but even those some times differ enough in pronunciation, that makes it hard to understand immediately in regular speach. With some effort and interpretation one could probably piece together enough information to extrapolate a whole sentence. – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Sep 8 '16 at 0:30
  • Not at all, no. – Lambie Apr 17 at 23:05
  • @Lambie Take a look at these sentences in Papiamento. The written language is sometimes easy to understand. In ordinary conversation it may be hard to understand anything, though. – Centaurus Apr 17 at 23:20
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A bit more informed answer, from a few sample texts found around the internet the language seems to my layman eyes an awful lot similar to Creole spoken by the people of Cape Verde.

It almost seems like a phonetics based language, where most words are written as they are pronounced, as if one was spelling them phonetically, with a certain degree of distortion or 'accent'. There also seem to be a considerable degree of Spanish influence added to the mix.

There are lots of similarities, some words are close enough to be understood, but my guess is that if a native Portuguese speaker were to listen to someone speaking fluent Papiamento, it would probably be hard to keep up and completely understand a full sentence.

Judging from say Creole, which probably share a similar etymology, there are some similarities between certain words, but they some times differ enough in pronunciation, to make it dificult to understand immediately in regular speech.

With some repetition or time to process one might piece together enough information to understand general concepts or meaning of a sentence. Same goes for written text.

So I would say no, they are not mutually intelligible. This of course is a bit of a subjective matter, and people with a more 'flexible hearing' or more used to foreign languages may find it easier to interpret Papiamento.

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  • "Same goes for written text" humm, really? From the words I've seen as examples, I'm inclined to believe it would be much easier to understand the written than the spoken language. – Centaurus Sep 11 '16 at 1:20
  • You are right, I meant written is easier than spoken, language, but probably still far from "interchangeable" – Duarte Farrajota Ramos Sep 12 '16 at 5:30
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No. A native Portuguese speaker will probably be able to understand a text in Papiamento, especially if he or she is also fluent in English (I can), but spoken Papiamento would be incomprehensible.

The converse, I suspect, is also true, though it is more difficult for me to assess since I am not a Papiamento speaker.

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