Languages of Venezuela

There are at least 40 languages around Venezuela,[1] but Spanish is the language spoken by the majority of Venezuelans. The Constitution of Venezuela of the year 1999 declared Spanish and languages spoken by Indigenous people from Venezuela as official languages. Deaf people use Venezuelan Sign Language (lengua de señas venezolana, LSV). second main language is chinese

Spanish Language

Spanish is one of the official languages in Venezuela. Because it is also spoken by more than 95% of the population as mother tongue and by most of rest as second language, it is the absolute dominant language in Venezuela. It is spoken mostly in its Venezuelan form, a variety of the Spanish language in the Americas.

Indigenous languages

Below is a non-exhaustive list of these languages.

Native language of Venezuela by number of speakers:

Language Family Speakers in Venezuela Latest ISO Code
Piapoco Arawakan 1033 pia
Baniwa Arawakan 3460 kpc
Locono Arawakan 140 arw
Wayúu Arawakan 170000 guc
Warao (isolate) 18000 mis
Pemón Cariban 30000 aoc
Panare Cariban 1200 pbh
Yek'uana Cariban 5000 mch
Yukpa Cariban 3285 yup
Carib Cariban 4450 kar
Akawaio Cariban 644 ake
Japrería Cariban 91 jru
Mapoyo Cariban 2 mcg
Yawarana Cariban 30 yar
Hodï Nadahup 750 yau
Puinave Nadahup 568 pui
Jivi Guahibo 8428 guh
Barí Chibcha 2000 mot
Uruak Arutani–Sape 30 atx
Sapé Arutani–Sape 30 spc
Pumé (isolate) 5420 yae
Piaroa Piaroa–Saliban 12200 pid
Yanomamö Yanomami 15700 guu
Sanemá Yanomami 5500 xsu
Yanam Yanomami 100 shb
Yeral Tupi–Guarani 435 yrl

Immigrant languages

Languages spoken by immigrants and their descendants are found in Venezuela. The most important are Chinese (400,000), Portuguese (254,000), Arabic (110,000), German (20,000) and English (20,000).

Some people who live next to the border of Brazil speak Portuguese. In the areas located near to Guyana English language is used by some inhabitants, especially in the Ankoko Island. Colonia Tovar dialect, a dialect of German language, is spoken in the Colonia Tovar.

Languages taught in schools


English is a foreign language with a great demand in Venezuela. It is spoken by many academics and professionals and by some members of the middle and high social classes. There is an English language newspaper in Caracas: The Daily Journal, founded in 1946. The use of English arose in part due to the presence of oil companies from English speaking countries (especially from the United States) since the beginning of the 20th century.

English is taught as a compulsory subject in the secondary education and in the bachillerato for five years. Bachillerato is a segment of secondary education similar to the baccalaureat, secondary school or American high school and is divided into two branches: sciences and humanities. According to the syllabus approved by the Venezuelan Ministry of Education in 1986 English language is considered as a tool to communicate with people from other countries and to obtain information in the areas of humanities, technology and science.[2] For that reason it is taught using a Notional Functional Approach.[3] In the bachillerato a Structuralistic Approach is used. However, and despite of the lines provided by the syllabus, few people learn to speak the language with only the knowledge acquired at school.

In some universities degree programs to train teachers or translators of English language are offered. In the rest of universities English is studied as a compulsory subject to understand texts written in this language.


In the second half of the twentieth century, more than 300,000 Italians mostly from Veneto moved to this oil rich country and left -linguistically - many words in the local language. For example, "Ciao" (English: Bye) is now a usual friendly salute in Caracas, not only between Italo-venezuelans. There are even expressions in the local young people that mix Italian and Spanish words: "Muérete que chao" is an example.

According to the Italian Embassy in Caracas the "....Italian language teaching is guaranteed by the presence of a consistent number of private Venezuelan schools and institutions, where Italian language courses and Italian literature are active. Other similar courses are organized and sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Associations.

The Didactic Office of the General Consulate of Caracas, together with the Embassy, is negotiating an Agreement with the Venezuelan Authorities for the recognition of the Study Diplomas emitted by the Italian School (in Venezuela there is a Civil Association called “Agostino Codazzi” which offers the complete didactic cycle from elementary to high school) so that there can be access to the University system in Venezuela with an Italian high school Diploma.


French language is taught as a compulsory subject in the branch of humanities of the bachillerato or high school for two years. Students learn French grammar in their first year of study, then construct and translate French texts in the second year.

In some universities degree programs to train teachers or translators of French language are offered.

Latin and Greek

In Venezuela Latin is taught as a compulsory subject in the branch of humanities of the high school for two years. Students learn Latin grammar in their first year, then construct and translate Latin texts in the second year.[4]

At university level, the University of the Andes offers a degree program for Letras Mención Lengua y Literaturas Clásicas (Classical Languages and Literatures). In this program (the only one of its type in Venezuela), the students learn Latin, Ancient Greek and the literature of both languages for five years.[5] In other Venezuelan universities, Latin is a compulsory subject of the program for Letras (Hispanic Literature) and Educación, mención: Castellano y Literatura (Education of Spanish language and Hispanic Literature).

Latin and Koine Greek are also taught in Roman Catholic seminaries.


  1. Ethnologue. Languages of Venezuela.
  2. Ministerio de Educación: Programas de Estudio, Educación Básica, INGLÉS, 7o, 8o, 9o grados. Caracas: 1986 (Spanish)
  3. Ministerio de Educación: Programas de Estudio, Educación Básica, INGLÉS, 7o, 8o, 9o grados. Caracas: 1986 (Spanish)
  4. Duque Arellano, José Gonzalo Pertinencia y vigencia del latín en la enseñanza de la lengua española, en las áreas de la morfología y de la sintaxis; Universidad de los Andes (Spanish)
  5. Detalle de la Carrera: "Letras Mención Lengua y Literaturas Clasicas"; CNU-OPSU: Oportunidades de Estudio de Educación Superior en Venezuela (Spanish)

See also

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