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Speaking the Language

Trinidad and Tobago - Speaking the Language

English is the primary language in Trinidad and Tobago. English is used for business, for government and in schools and hospitals. There are English language newspapers, television and radio stations. While Trinidadians write and speak fluent standard English, many local words and phrases have made their way into everyday communication. Some of these words are appropriated English words that have taken on slightly different meanings.

The dialects used by locals on a daily basis are Trinidadian English or a Creole English spoken in Tobago. These dialects incorporate some of the languages which have been used over the centuries on the islands. These include Indian, Spanish and some African languages as well as French. Other dialects that have been in use include Patois, which is a blend of French and Spanish and another Creole based dialect known as 'Coco Payol', a term which is also used to describe those of Spanish heritage.

The government of the islands has been working to promote other languages, particularly Spanish. The country's location close to the coast of South America means that Spanish is also a frequently used language on the islands, and many South Americans go to Trinidad and Tobago in order to learn English at one of the many language schools there.

It may be a good idea to take Spanish lessons in Trinidad and Tobago when you arrive, as having a second language, particularly one that is already widely spoken, will offer more opportunities for work and socialising. And there will always be a local around who is happy to help you to practise.

An English speaking expat will have no real problems in Trinidad and Tobago, though the local dialects may take a little time to get used to. Non English speaking expats will need to ensure they learn the language though if going there for work, the company involved should assist with providing language tuition.

Many of the language schools on the island now offer more than one language. Most will offer classes in both English and Spanish. The International Language School in Trinidad offers courses at all levels in English, as well as preparing students for teaching English as a foreign language. There are courses where students meet once or twice a week over several months or intensive courses of 2-4 weeks duration. Classes are kept small to ensure that all students get the right amount of focus from the tutor.

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