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Cayman Islands - Speaking the Language


Since the Cayman Islands are a British overseas territory, their official language is British English. This means there are differences in spellings from those used by US expats, such as colour/color and grey/gray and so on.

Anyone coming in to the Cayman Islands to work has to pass an English test. This has several different elements, including English listening, speaking, reading and writing assessments. The aim of this is to help newcomers assimilate into the existing community easily, check they can cope with their needs and those of their family, and ensure workers are able to undertake job roles effectively. This means you will rarely meet any resident of the Cayman Islands who does not speak English at least to a basic conversational level.

However, the type of English spoken by the local population, especially on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, is Bay English Creole. This reflects the independent development of English in an isolated location as well as the influence of nearby Jamaica. Use of this creole means the speech has a lilt and the emphasis of words often falls on a different syllable to that spoken to UK expats. In addition, there are plenty of grammatical differences, giving the language an individual sense of expression.

It can take some time to understand everything said to you by someone who has lived on the Cayman Islands all their lives. However, if you pleasantly explain that you haven’t yet attuned to the local dialect and didn’t catch everything, local people will often be happy to repeat what they said at a slower rate. You will quickly become accustomed to the difference in pronunciation and so your understanding will not be a problem for long, if at all.

Spanish In The Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are also close to Cuba. As a result, there has been a long history of people arriving from Cuba who speak Spanish as their primary language.

Immigration law changed significantly in the Cayman Islands in 2004, with transitional arrangements ending in 2007. However, despite a tight immigration control framework, the territory continues to have large numbers of arrivals. Over half the workforce, as well as more than a third of the total population, were born outside the Cayman Islands.

The government has strict policies about the processing of all international arrivals, meaning that migrants who have not arrived by legal routes are detained whilst their cases are assessed. Many Cuban people arrive by boat, and if they are caught on arrival, they will often ask for protection under the asylum laws. These people will then be housed in detention centres.

The government are concerned that if they relax the detention rules, the territory will become a magnet for people smugglers and that illegal migrants will build in numbers, leading to a strain on social cohesion. Also, people often disappear in the Caribbean Sea as they undertake the journey under dangerous conditions, meaning this method of arriving in the country should not be encouraged. The government argues that processing people who are arriving illegally in the country means that those people can be fed, housed and clothed in an orderly manner to protect their welfare. However, detention is a controversial policy which has caused a lot of debate on the islands.

It is important to note that the majority of Spanish speaking expats have arrived in the Cayman Islands legally. In addition to Cuba, they arrive from Honduras, Colombia, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Just over one in 10 residents in the Cayman Islands speaks Spanish as their first language. As the work permit is dependent on passing the English Language test, Spanish speaking workers are bilingual, so you should have no problems communicating with them in English.

Workers From The Philippines

Citizens of the Philippines travel far and wide across the globe for work, often with long hours and low pay. With two million tourists a year and communities of super-wealthy residents, it is no surprise that Filipino workers are willing to work in the Cayman Islands, and indeed their services are in demand there.

Due to this, approximately five percent of the Cayman Island residents speak Tagalog, the language of the Philippines.

Cayman Island Newspapers

Since English is the official language of the Cayman Islands, that is the language used for locally produced newspapers. Press freedom without political control or censorship is practised on similar lines to those of the British press and media.

The first newspaper printed in the Cayman Islands was the Gospel of the Kingdom, a religious publication produced monthly. Twenty years later, Tradewinds and the Caymanian Weekly were launched. In 1972, the Cayman Compass was launched, and two years later it merged with the Caymanian Weekly to be rebranded as the Cayman Compass, which still exists today.

More recently, two online publications have been launched featuring news about the Cayman Islands. The Cayman News Service and Cayman iNews join the free online presence of local news and events also available from the Cayman Compass site.

The Cayman Islands government also produces the fortnightly Cayman Gazette, which can be downloaded online.

Television Channels In The Cayman Islands

If your home has a TV aerial or antenna, you will be able to access four local TV channels free of charge, aired in English.

Cayman27 offers a range of news, magazine style segments, and sports.

Trinity Broadcasting Network is an international channel with Christian faith content. Cayman Adventist TV also broadcasts regular programmes. The high profile of religious content on Cayman Island television reflects the importance of Christianity within the general Cayman population.

The Cayman Islands government channel, CIG, also streams live to their Youtube channel.

Many households in the Islands now subscribe to international on-demand services, including Amazon Prime and Netflix.

BBC programmes are only accessible to those who buy the BBC TV License annually or in monthly instalments. However, the licence cannot be purchased outside of the UK, so you will not be able to watch the iPlayer in the Cayman Islands. Don’t despair though; satellite TV services usually offer UK TV channels, including BBC, as part of the packages you can select. Amongst the hundreds of channels on offer are also a wide range from the United States.

TV services can also be purchased through the internet providers C3 Pure Fibre, Logic and Flow.


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