Languages of Angola

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Languages of Angola
Official languages Portuguese
National languages All recognized languages of Angola are "national languages"
Main foreign languages English, French

The languages of Angola are predominantly Bantu and Portuguese, with a small minority of !Kung and Khoe speakers.

Portuguese is the sole official language. Due to cultural, social and political mechanisms which date back to the colonial history, the number of native Portuguese speakers is large and growing.[1] A 2012 study by the Angolan National Institute for Statistics found that Portuguese is the mother tongue of 39% of the population.[2][3] It is spoken as a second language by many more throughout the country, and younger urban generations are moving towards the dominant or exclusive use of Portuguese. However, in Cabinda, wedged between two French-speaking countries — the DRC and the Congo — many people speak French as well as, or better than, Portuguese.[4] Also, the Angolan Bakongo who were exiled in the Democratic Republic of the Congo usually speak better French and Lingala than Portuguese and Kikongo.

All native languages of Angola are considered to be national languages. After independence, the government said it would choose six to be developed as literary languages. The six languages vary between government pronouncements, but commonly included are Umbundu, Kimbundu, Kikongo (presumably the Fiote of Cabinda), Chokwe, Kwanyama, and Ganguela (never clearly defined; may be Nyemba, Luchazi, or indeterminate).[5][6] Angolan radio transmits in fourteen of the "main" national languages: Bangala, Cokwe, Fiote, Helelo, Kikongo, Kimbundu, Kwanyama, Lunda, Ngangela, Ngoya, Nyaneka, Oxiwambo, Songo, Umbundu.[7]

Umbundu is the most populous Bantu language, spoken natively by about a third of the population. Kimbundu is spoken in Luanda Province and adjacent provinces. Kikongo is spoken in the north-east, including the exclave of Cabinda.[8]

The San people speak languages from two families, the !Kung and Khoe, though only a few hundred speak the latter. The majority of San fled to South Africa after the end of the civil war. The extinct Kwadi language may have been distantly related to Khoe, and Kwisi is entirely unknown; their speakers were neither Khoisan nor Bantu.

Africans from Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal speak English or French and their native African languages and are usually learning at least some Portuguese. A (very small) number of Angolans of Lebanese descent speak Arabic and/or French. The foreign language mostly learned by Angolans is English, but among the Bakongo (in the Northwest and Cabinda) French is often more important. Due to increasing Angola-China relations, there is now a Chinese community of about 300,000 speaking Chinese. [9]

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  1. ^ During late colonialism, 1962-1975, when all Angolans were considered as Portuguese citizens with equal rights, many black middle class families in the cities refused to teach their children native languages, so that they could compete with the whites, speaking Portuguese the same way.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Global Security. Military. Cabinda
  5. ^ Resolution adopted by Council of Ministers - Official Gazette No. 3/87 of May 1987
  6. ^ Angola Harmonização das línguas bantu dificultada pela fonética e grafia
  7. ^ Rádio N’Gola Yetu
  8. ^ Angola: Language Situation (2005). Keith Brown, ed. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4. 
  9. ^ Picture shows a railway sign in Portuguese and Chinese