Society

What Languages are Spoken in Cuba?

Spanish is the official language of Cuba.

Despite years of being isolated from many countries, Cuba has maintained a multi-cultural population which has shaped the languages spoken in the country. The primary languages used in Cuba spread to the country during the 17th and 18th centuries, while the country was under Spanish colonial rule. Cuban Spanish and Haitian Creole are the dominant languages in the country.

The Most Popular Language of Cuba: Cuban Spanish

Cuban Spanish is the most popular language in Cuba, and has an estimated 11 million native speakers. Cuban Spanish belongs to the Indo-European language family and the West Iberian language group. The language is a variant of Spanish language and shares numerous characteristics with other Spanish varieties spoken in the region. One common feature in these Spanish varieties is the use of diminutive ending -ica and -ico, which is different from the Spanish standard of -ita and -ito, respectively. Linguists claim Cuban Spanish originated from Spain, and particularly in the Canary Islands. Cuba experienced an influx of Spanish immigrants from the Canary Islands in the 19th and 20th centuries, who largely influenced the growth of the Cuban Spanish language. Immigrants from other regions in Spain also arrived during that period, but their effect on the language was not as profound.

Haitian Creole

Haitian Creole is a major language in Cuba and is used predominantly by the Haitian Cuban people, who are estimated to number about 300,000 individuals. Haitian Creole has its origins in Haiti, where the native speakers originated. These original Haitian Creole speakers were black slaves who immigrated to Cuba during the Haitian Revolution of the early 18th century, along with their French masters. More Haitian immigrants settled in the country in the 19th and 20th century, where they worked as casual laborers in the expansive sugar cane farms. The native Haitian Creole speakers were discriminated against by the Cuban government in the 19th and early 20th century until 1959, when Fidel Castro assumed power and formed a government. In recent years, the use of the Haitian Creole language has spread to non-Haitian Cubans, many of whom speak the language fluently. The dominance of this language in Cuba is evident in the recent establishment of a Haitian Creole radio program in Cuba’s capital, Havana.

Liturgical Language of Cuba: Lucumi

Lucumi is a minor language in Cuba. The language is heavily influenced by the West African Yoruba language. The language has no native speakers, as it is defined as a liturgical language and is used as a second language to practitioners of Santeria. Lucumi originated from Yoruba slaves brought to Cuban during the trans-Atlantic slave trade of the 18th century. These Yoruba slaves molded the language, incorporating other Bantu languages spoken by other African slaves along with the Spanish language used by the slave masters.

Foreign Languages Spoken in Cuba: Galician and Corsican

The Galician language is natively spoken in Spain by inhabitants of Galicia, who are estimated to number about 4.8 million people. Galician is closely related to Portuguese, with the two languages being derived from the West-Iberian language group. In Cuba, the Galician language is used by Galician expatriates who are usually found in the major cities of the country. Corsican is another major foreign language spoken by a significant population of Italian expatriates. The language has its origins from the Corsica and Sardinia regions in France and Italy, respectively. Corsican is closely related to the Italian language, with the two sharing the Tuscan language group.

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