Echoes of Berbice Dutch Creole – By Dmitri Allicock

Albertha Bell



103 years old Albertha Bell, the Last Speaker of Berbice Dutch Creole, interviewed by Jamiekan Langwij Yuunit in 2004.

Echoes of Berbice Dutch Creole

By Dmitri Allicock

“Language reflects our thoughts and knowledge is lost when it becomes extinct”

Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America, but English has been the official language for much less than the 232 years when Dutch was the main medium of communication. The actual words spoken by most Guyanese is an English base creole that is very elastic to various regions and has slight historical influences from Dutch, West African, Arawakan, and to a lesser extent Indian Languages. Berbice Dutch Creole was a language developed by the slaves on the plantation of Berbice that survived the passage of time and only recently was considered officially extinct by international language database Ethnologue.  

Read more: Echoes of Berbice Dutch Creole..

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  • de castro  On March 17, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Before language writing reading and speaking am sure “sounds”
    “expressions” “smells” “sight” were used in communicating with
    some amazing/amusing results.
    Fortunate in having identical twin sons it was an eye opener for me.
    At 2 they had developed a language of their own which was unrecognisable
    to us as parents or by their two older sisters.
    Before school age of 4 it was necessary for them to be
    given speech therapy lessons….
    Today scientists are still learning how our brain works.
    Albertha Bell may take Dutch creole to her grave but am sure
    new languages will be invented/created in future….
    Forever the optimist

  • Jabnaki  On April 5, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I read about a new French creole that developed somewhere in southern Asia. Many people do develop languages deliberately, but most of them don’t get many speakers and are more art projects.

    Did you write some of your sons language down?

  • de castro  On April 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Wish I did…but it would be like trying to write the sounds down in words..
    Try listening to animals and putting the sounds down in writing…ughh ahhh
    Guyanese English ….ah weh u ah gu…where are you going….its a dialect
    we used in college if we did not wish “town folks” to understand us.
    Country folks had their own dialect of English and on my arrival in UK
    I could not understand the Irish or Scottish English at first….it took
    some time getting used to…..with some embarrassing moments.
    After many decades the Guyanese accent can still be identified.
    Bajans Jamaicans et all also have identifiable accents…
    A persons accent in English can usually be identified as to their original
    language ….French English German English Asian or African English
    a little more difficult to identify….
    American English depends which state one is from….
    Prejudices associated with pronunciation a cultural handicap sometimes.
    Posh English or common English an example…..of how language is cultural.

    Reading writing and rithmatic the basic of the English language as taught in
    schools sometimes referred to as the three R s is an essential part of primary
    education today….without these “illiteracy prevails”…..get it right and the next
    generations of Guyanese will benefit.

    My spin

  • Jabnaki  On April 6, 2014 at 10:36 am

    My dialect is also not well understood by foreigners. It is German, but not from Germany. I can speak standard German, but I feel very uncomfortable with it and therefor hardly do that at all.

  • de castro  On April 6, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Again it depends where you live in Germany what accent you have…
    I learnt my Spanish speaking in the mountains of south Spain
    ANDALUCIA (Catalonian) Spain and the city Spanish in Madrid
    sounds like another language….
    Northerners in UK also have a distinctly different accent to southerners…
    West country folks roll their R s…Wales another language all together.
    Linguistically we have a North South device…even a East West one
    in a little island called UK….now politicians wish to divide it….
    ENGLAND WALES SCOTLAND IRELAND….the fools wish to continue
    old Roman principle of “divide and conquer” then “unite and rule”….
    Romans after conquest asked…
    Do you have a GOD ….can we adopt your GOD ?

    WOW from language to culture to politricks….in one comment…

    We are all born with a brain of which .1% is used usefully….I try to
    make the most use of mine in this short lifespan with some amusing/amazing
    results/reaction….ha ha
    Never stop learning.


  • Jabnaki  On April 6, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    I find Irish English much easier than American English. Maybe it is because the Irish pronounce more carefully because a strong Irish accent would be hard to understand. There are also people who want Cornwall to be a separate part of the United Kingdom too, but not as a state on its own. For me it is more important to know about the people and there culture. That is much more complicated and more interesting than what could be depicted on a map.

  • Jabnaki  On October 17, 2014 at 11:18 am

    On ‘Oh Beautiful Guyana’ Hubert wrote that his father and his uncles were able to speak Dutch creole. I wonder if there are still people who remember some words, and maybe even undocumented ones.

  • Jabnaki  On June 27, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Now there is a chat for Berbice Dutch. You can get there if you type the following address and type in ##berbice-dutch where it says ‘Channels’.

  • Trevor  On July 8, 2019 at 10:26 pm

    Guyana must copyright the Berbice Dutch Creole before the Americans steal the words and become rich like what Drake did to Jamaican Patois that every white girl living in a suburban mansion of North America is speaking Patois.

    A mixed race Trini young man tell me that when he was in Canada, the white girls would accuse him of mocking Jamaican accent because he is a “Paki” or a India man. But when he would say that Nicki Minaj is mixed race, they would say that he is racist because she is black.

    The illiterate of white people.

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