Languages of Colombia

More than 99.2% of Colombians speak the Spanish language; also 65 Amerindian languages, 2 Creole languages and the Romani language are spoken in the country. English has official status in the San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands.[1][2][3]

The overwhelming majority of Colombians speak Spanish (see also Colombian Spanish), but in total 101 languages are listed for Colombia in the Ethnologue database. The specific number of spoken languages varies slightly since some authors consider as different languages what others consider to be varieties or dialects of the same language. Best estimates recorded 71 languages that are spoken in-country today—most of which belong to the Chibchan, Tucanoan, Bora–Witoto, Guajiboan, Arawakan, Cariban, Barbacoan, and Saliban language families. There are currently about 850,000 speakers of native languages.[4][5]

Sixty-five indigenous languages that exist today can be regrouped into 12 language families and 10 language isolates, not yet classified. [1]

The languages are: the great linguistic family Chibchan, of probable Central American origin; the great South American families Arawakan, Cariban, Quechuan and Tupian; seven families only present at the regional level (Chocó, Guahibo, Saliba, Macu, Witoto, Bora, Tucano). The ten isolated languages are: Andoque, Awa-cuaiquer, Cofán, Guambiano, Kamentsá, Páez, Ticuna, Tinigua, Yagua, Yaruro. [1]

There are also two Creole languages spoken in the country. The first is San Andrés Creole, which is spoken alongside English in the San Andrés, Providencia, and Catalina insular regions of Colombia. It is related to and mutually intelligible with many other English-based Creole languages (also known as Patois/Patwa) spoken in West Indian and Caribbean islands, although San Andres Creole (which is also sometimes called Saint Andrewan or Bende) has had more Spanish influence. San Andrés Creole is also very similar to the creole languages spoken on the caribbean coasts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, leading some linguists to conclude that they are dialects of the same language.[citation needed]

The second Creole language is called Palenquero. During the days of Spanish colonization, hundreds of thousands of African slaves were brought to Colombia via the Atlantic Coast. Some of these slaves were able to escape, and many of them fled inland and created walled cities known as palenques. Some of these palenques grew very large, holding hundreds of people, and they all developed their own creole languages, developing similarly to Haitian Creole. In the early 1600s, the King of Spain began sending his armies to crush the palenques and send their inhabitants to slavery. Most of the palenques fell, and their languages went extinct, but with one exception: San Basilio de Palenque. San Basilio successfully repelled Spanish attacks for almost 100 years, until 1721, when it was declared a Free City. Any slave who ran away and successfully made it to San Basilio was considered a free man. The creole language spoken in San Basilio de Palenque is called Palenquero and it has survived to this day. It is still spoken in the city of San Basilio as well as in a few neighborhoods of the nearby major city of Cartagena.[citation needed]


Some 80 languages of Colombia, grouped into 11 families are classified. Also appear isolated or unclassified languages. Extinct languages are indicated by the sign (†).

Classification of the indigenous languages of Colombia
Language family Group Language Territory
Arawakan languages
Northern Arawak Wayuunaiki La Guajira
Achagua Meta
Kurripako Içana River
Cabiyari Mirití-Paraná River
Maipure (†) Vichada
Piapoco Guainía, Vichada, Meta
Barbacoan languages
Awan Awa Pit Nariño
Barbacoa (†) Nariño
Pasto (†) Nariño
Sindagua (†) Nariño
Coconucan Coconucan (†) Cauca
Guambiano Cauca
Totoró Cauca
Bora–Witoto languages
Bora Bora Amazonas
Miraña Amazonas
Muinane Amazonas
Witoto Meneca-Murui Amazonas
Nonuya Amazonas
Ocaina Amazonas
Cariban languages
Northern Coastal Yukpa Cesar
Opón-carare (†) Santander
Southern Southeast Colombia Carijona Amazonas, Guaviare
Chibchan languages. Magdalénico Arhuaco Ika (arhuaco) Cesar, Magdalena
Kankuí Cesar
Kogui Magdalena
Tayrona Magdalena, La Guajira, Cesar
Wiwa Cesar
Cundicocúyico Duit (†) Boyacá
Muisca (†) Cundinamarca, Boyacá
Guane (†) Santander
Barí Barí Cesar, Norte de Santander
Chimila Chimila Magdalena
Ístmico Kuna Kuna Gulf of Urabá, Atrato River
Choco languages
Embera Embera Pacific/Chocó natural region
Waunana Wounaan Chocó, Cauca, Valle del Cauca
Guajiboan languages
Northern Hitnü Arauca
Hitanü Arauca
Central Sikuani (Guahibo) Meta, Vichada, Arauca, Guainía, Guaviare
Cuiba Casanare, Vichada, Arauca
Southern Guayabero Meta, Guaviare
Indo-European languages Italic Spanish Nationwide
Italic Portuguese Guainía, Vaupés, Amazonas
Germanic English San Andrés and Providence Island
Indo-Iranian Romani Main cities
Nadahup languages
Northern Kakwa-Nukak Kakwa Papuri and lower Vaupés rivers
Nukak Guaviare
Puninave Puinave Guainía
Nadajup Jup Yujup Japurá and Tiquié rivers
Jupda Papuri and Tiquié rivers
Quechuan languages
Peripheral Quechua Chinchay (Q II-B) Quichua norteño Cauca, Nariño, Putumayo
Piaroa–Saliban languages
Saliban Saliban Arauca, Casanare
Piaroa Piaroa Vichada
Tucanoan languages
Western Northwest Koreguaje Orteguaza River
Siona Putumayo River
Central North Cubeo Vaupés, Cuduyarí
Querarí, Pirabotón
South Tanimuca Guacayá, Mirití
Oikayá, Aporis
Eastern North Piratapuya Papurí
Tucano Papurí, Caño Paca
Wanano Vaupés
Central Bará Colorado, Fríjol
Lobo, Tiquié
Desano Vaupés
Siriano Vaupés
Tatuyo Vaupés
Tuyuca Tiquié
Yurutí Vaupés
South Barasana Vaupés
Carapana Vaupés
Macuna Vaupés
Language isolate
Andoque Japurá River
Ticuna Leticia, Puerto Nariño
Betoi (†) Casanare
Camsá Putumayo
Cofán Nariño, Putumayo
Tinigua-pamigua (†) Meta, Caquetá
Unclassified language
Paez Cauca, Huila, Valle del Cauca
Andaquí (†) Caquetá
Colima (†) Cundinamarca
Malibú (†) Tamalameque, Tenerife
Mocana (†) Cartagena de Indias
Muzo (†) Cundinamarca
Panche (†) Cundinamarca
Pijao (†) Tolima
Yarí Caquetá
Yurí Amazonas

Sign languagesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Languages of Colombia" (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  2. ^ "Jon Landaburu, Especialista de las lenguas de Colombia" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Map of the languages of Colombia" (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  4. ^ "The Languages of Colombia". Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  5. ^ "Native languages of Colombia" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 26 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014.