Portuguese in Asia and Oceania

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Compared to Africa, the Americas and Europe, the presence of the Portuguese language in Asia and Oceania is quite small. The commercial empire of the Portuguese extended throughout Southeast Asia.

Geographic distribution[edit]

  • Goa, India: The state of Goa was a part of the Portuguese Empire until the mid-twentieth century. India participated in the Jogos da Lusofonia in 2006. Goa is awaiting the permission of the Indian Government to join the CPLP as an observer.[1] In Goa, most of the relatively few speakers of Portuguese are older people. The Union Territory of Daman and Diu was also a Portuguese colony. As in Goa, the dwindling number of Portuguese speakers are also older people. Daman and Diu are also home to Indo-Portuguese Creoles. However, the Portuguese language and culture is undergoing a kind of renaissance in the former Portuguese Indian colonies. There is even talk of making Portuguese co-official alongside Konkani. It is estimated that there are 3% - 5% of fluent speakers of Portuguese in Goa, Daman and Diu.
  • Malaysia and Singapore: The state of Malacca and city-state of Singapore are homes to the Gente Kristang a community of Eurasians who claim Portuguese descent and speak Papia Kristang, a Portuguese-lexified Creole. The Portuguese settlement at Malacca is a source of tourism for the state and the Lusophone heritage is visible in cuisine, architecture and folklore of the Gente Kristang. Pending approval from the Malaysian Government, Malacca may join the CPLP as an associate observer.
  • Macau, The People's Republic of China: Portuguese is a co-official language alongside Chinese in the Special Administrative Region of Macau. It has become the centre for Portuguese learning in Asia and has become the focus through which China relates diplomatically to the member states of CPLP. Macau was the host city for the first Lusophone games in 2006. While the Macanese Language is by now critically endangered with less than a hundred speakers, the number of speakers of Portuguese has also decreased since the handover in 1999. But enrollments for private Portuguese classes have tripled, to 1,000, since 2002; that prompted public schools here to offer Portuguese, drawing more than 5,000 students.[2] It is now estimated that about 3% of the population speak Portuguese as their first language, while 7% professes fluency.[3]
  • East Timor: The Southeast Asian country added Portuguese as an official language as it gained independence from Indonesia in 2002. According to a 2004 census, 36 percent of respondents said they had "a capability in Portuguese".[4] The inter-ethnic lingua franca, Tetum has a large number of loanwords derived from Portuguese making the latter relatively easy to learn for speakers of the former.
  • Japan: There are approximately 500,000 Brazilians of Japanese descent living and working in Japan. This is the largest immigrant community after the Chinese and Korean communities. This 'return migration' to Japan has resulted in the largest Portuguese-speaking community in Asia.
  • Australia: The Portuguese-speaking community in Australia is estimated to be approximately 65,000 [5] people as a result from immigration from Portugal and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the Lusophone world to the Oceanian country.


Various regions in Asia have expressed interest in participating in the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (the CPLP). The state of Malacca, the SAR of Macau and the State of Goa have all applied for observer or associate member status and are awaiting the permission of their governments (Malaysia, China and India respectively). East Timor joined the CPLP shortly after its independence at the turn of the 21st century. Indonesia has also expressed interest in joining the CPLP.

Instituto Camões[edit]

Instituto Camões maintains language centres in Macau, Goa, Busan and Dili.

Local norms and phonology[edit]

In Asia, Standard European Portuguese (Português-padrão) forms the basis for the written and spoken norm, exclusively to East Timor and Macau.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]