What Languages Are Spoken in Suriname?

The flag of Suriname.
The flag of Suriname.

Suriname is the smallest country in South America, with a total population of about 585,824 people. Despite being located in South America, Suriname’s population has similar characteristics to those in Caribbean countries, and is therefore considered as a "culturally Caribbean country." The country is home to several ethnic groups who have been instrumental in the diversity of the languages spoken in the country. The official language in Suriname is Surinamese Dutch.

Official Language of Suriname: Surinamese Dutch

Surinamese Dutch is a form of the Dutch language spoken in Suriname. Surinamese Dutch is recognized by law as the country's official language. Surinamese Dutch is also the most popular language in the country, given that up to 60% of the population identifies as native speakers of Surinamese Dutch. The language was introduced in the country after the Paramaribo region became a Dutch colony, and is closely related to the Dutch language. The use and standardization of the language in Suriname is regulated by the Dutch Language Union, an institution jointly established by the Dutch, Belgians, and the Surinamese, as the language is intelligible with other forms of the Dutch language.

Vernacular Languages of Suriname: Sranan Tongo

Sranan Tongo is a form of creole language, which is English-based, spoken in Suriname. Sranan Tongo is one of the most popular vernacular languages in the country, and up to 130,000 Surinamese identify as native Sranan Tongo speakers. The creole language is also used as the lingua franca by the Surinamese Dutch, Javanese Surinamese, and Hindustani speakers in the country, who total nearly 500,000 residents. The Sranan Tongo Creole language is considered by linguists as a fusion of the languages spoken between the 16th and 20th centuries in Suriname, which included Dutch, Portuguese, English, and African languages. In July 1981, the Surinamese government established an official spelling for the language to aid in its written format. While the use of Sranan Tongo is discouraged and suppressed by the Suriname education system, many artists in the country have created compositions in the language, including Henri Frans de Ziel, who is credited for composing the Surinamese national anthem and who wrote the second verse of the national anthem in Sranan Tongo.

Regional Languages of Suriname

Javanese Surinamese

One of the two recognized regional languages in Suriname is Javanese Surinamese. The language is used by Surinamese residents of Javanese descent, who have an estimated population of 74,000 people throughout the country. The native Javanese Surinamese speakers are predominantly found in the Wanica, Paramaribo, and Commewijne regions. Javanese Surinamese is closely related to the Javanese language spoken in Java, as the language originated from Javanese immigrants from British East Indies who migrated to the country between the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sarnami Hindustani

Sarnami Hindustani is the other recognized regional language in Suriname, and is also the third most popular language in the country, behind Surinamese Dutch and Sranan Tongo, with an estimated 150,000 native speakers. Sarnami Hindustani is a variant of the Bhojpuri language, an Indian language which originated from immigrant workers from India who settled in the country during the early 20th century.

Other Languages: Saramaccan

Saramaccan is a creole language spoken in Suriname, predominantly among the Surinamese of African descent. The Saramaccan language has an estimated 58,000 speakers in Suriname, most of whom inhabit the upper Suriname River, as well as Paramaribo.


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