Language Education Policy Studies
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Language Education Policy in Belize

Located on the east coast of Central America, Belize’s diverse ecosystem mirrors the diversity of its residents. The only official English speaking country in Central America, Belizeans identify with Central America as well as the Caribbean. (See Belize Colonial). According to the 2010 census, the country’s 330,000 residents speak more than ten languages. 62.9% of residents speak English, 56.6% speak Spanish, 44.6% speak Creole (Kriol), 10.5% speak Mayan languages, 3.2 speak German, and 2.9% speak Garifuna (Statistical Institute of Belize, 2010, p. 21). Silvana suggests that in Belize, ethnicity is not necessarily a determining factor in language as the 2000 census showed that 24.9% claimed to be Creole and also showed that 33% claimed Creole (Kriol) as their mother tongue (as cited in Batty, S., Garcia, A., & Cucul, V., 2001, p.8). Belize is an ethnically diverse “culturally pluralistic” country (Bolland, 2003, p. 203).



Today, there are between 30,000 to 100,000 Garifuna speakers. Although there are approximately 75,000 Garifuna (also known as Garinagu) living in Belize who learned Garifuna as a first language, (Ravindranath, 2009, p. 12), the Garifuna language is used less and less as younger generations often choose to speak Spanish or Kriol. In 1981, the National Garifuna Council was created to promote and preserve Garifuna culture and language. In 1997, the Council created the Language Policy Statement of the Garifuna Nation creating policies meant to ensure the survival of the language including lexical expansion, corpus planning, language acquisition and use, resources and funding, and linguistic documentation. With this plan, the council announced their intention to take greater control of educational rights through language and curriculum.



While Creole has historically been linked to anyone who has both African and European ancestors, Belizean Kriol is tied to linguistic and cultural traits rather than genetics (Decker, 2005, p.2). Many residents who do not have African-European ancestors speak Kriol as their first language. Many Spanish speakers learn Kriol in order to “better identify as Belizeans” (Decker, p.2).


The National Kriol Council was created in 1955 as a means to promote the use of the Kriol language. The Council has worked to dispel the myth that Kriol is “broken English” and to demonstrate the unique characteristics of the language. Since its inception, the council has worked to promote Kriol culture and language schools. They have created and published a Kriol dictionary and translated the Bible into Kriol.




Batty, S., Garcia, A., & Cucul, V. (2011).  The Creole language and its contribution to the social cohesion of Belizeans in San Ignacio and Santa Elena since independence. Galen University.

Balam, O. (2013). Overt language attitudes and linguistic identities among multilingual speakers in northern Belize. Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics. 6(2), 247-277.

Bolland, N. O. (2003). Colonialism and Resistance in Belize: Essays in Historical Sociology. Barbados: University of the West Indies Press.

Bonner, D. (2001). Garifuna children’s language shame: Ethnic stereotypes, national affiliation, and transnational immigration as factors in language choice in southern Belize. Language in Society, (30), 81-96.  


Decker, K. (2005). The Song of Kriol: A Grammar of the Kriol Language in Belize. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education of Belize. (2008). National standards and curriculum web for language arts: Middle division. Retrieved from

National Garifuna Council of Belize. (n.d.). Language policy. Retreived from

Ravindranath, M. (2009). Language shift and the speech community: Sociolinguistic change in a Garifuna community in Belize. Retrieved from Penn Dissertations.

Statistical Institute of Belize. (2010). Belize population and housing census country report. Retrieved from


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Nixon, Jessie. (2015). Belize Language Education Policy. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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