Languages of Angola

Languages of Angola
NationalAll recognized languages of Angola are "national languages"
ForeignEnglish, French

Portuguese is the only official language of Angola, but 46 other languages are spoken in the country, mostly Bantu languages.[1] Ethnologue considers six languages to benefit of an institutional status in Angola: Portuguese, Chokwe, Kikongo, Kimbundu, Oshiwambo and Umbundu.

European languages[]

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.[note 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. The 2014 population census found that about 71% of the nearly 25.8 million inhabitants of Angola speak Portuguese at home.[4][5][6][7]

In urban areas, 85% of the population declared to speak Portuguese at home in the 2014 census, against 49% in rural areas.[6] Portuguese was quickly adopted by Angolans in the mid-twentieth century as a lingua franca among the various ethnic groups. After the Angolan Civil War, many people moved to the cities where they learned Portuguese. When they returned to the countryside, more people were speaking Portuguese as a first language. The variant of the Portuguese language used in Angola is known as Angolan Portuguese. Phonetically, this variant is very similar to the Mozambican variant with some exceptions.[8][9] Some believe that Angolan Portuguese resembles in some aspects to a pidgin.[10]

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. In fact, of the literate population, 90 percent speak French while 10 percent speak Portuguese.[11] Also, the Angolan Bakongo who were exiled in the Democratic Republic of the Congo usually speak better French and Lingala than Portuguese and Kikongo.[2]

Most West Africans speak English or French and their native African languages and are usually learning at least some Portuguese. The foreign language most commonly learned by Angolans is English, but among the Bakongo (in the Northwest and Cabinda) French is often more important. English will soon be a required subject in Angolan schools. French was previously widely offered as an elective.[12]

African languages[]

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 (Ovambo), and Mbunda (never clearly defined; may be Nyemba, Luchazi, or indeterminate).[13][14] Angolan radio transmits in fourteen of the "main" national languages: Bangala ('Mbangala'), Chokwe, Fiote, Herero ('Helelo'), Kikongo, Kimbundu, Kwanyama, Lunda, Ngangela, Ngoya, Nyaneka, Ovambo ('Oxiwambo'), Songo, Umbundu.[15] Some of the national languages are used in Angolan schools, including the provision of teaching materials such as books, but there is a shortage of teachers.[6]

Umbundu is the most widely spoken Bantu language, spoken natively by about 23 percent of the population, about 5.9 million. It is mainly spoken in the center and south of the country.[6] Kimbundu is spoken in Luanda Province and adjacent provinces. Kikongo is spoken in the northwest, including the exclave of Cabinda.[16] About 8.24% of Angolans use Kikongo. Fiote is spoken by about 2.9%, mainly in Cabinda.[6] Lingala is also spoken in Angola.[17][better source needed]

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.[18]

Asian languages[]

A (very small) number of Angolans of Lebanese descent speak Arabic and/or French. Due to increasing Angola-China relations, there is now a sinophone community of about 300,000.[19]

List of Languages of Angola[]

Listed below are the languages of Angola.[2]

Rank Languages Number of speakers in Angola
7 Cokwe/Chokwe 456,000
33 Dhimba/Zemba 18,000
25 Gciriku 24,000
31 Himba/Herero 20,000
27 Holu 23,100
32 Khongo 20,000
45 Khwedam 200
42 Kibala 2,630
3 Kikongo 2,000,000
- Kilari Unknown number in Angola
4 Kimbundu 1,700,000
39 Kung-Ekoka 5,500
18 Kuvale 70,000
- Kwadi No known native speakers in Angola
37 Kwandu 6,000
30 Kwangali 22,000
19 Luba-Kasai 60,000
8 Lucazi 400,000
21 Luimbi 43,900
14 Lunda 178,000
5 Luvale 464,000
41 Makoma 3,000
43 Mashi 2,630
9 Mbangala 400,000
40 Mbukushu 4,000
16 Mbunda 135,000
11 Mbwela 222,000
23 Mpinda 30,000
28 Ndombe 22,300
35 Ngandyera 13,100
44 Ngendelengo 900
29 Nkangala 22,300
15 Nkumbi 150,000
38 Northwestern !Kung 5,630
10 Nyaneka 300,000
12 Nyemba 222,000
36 Nyengo 9,380
6 Oshiwambo (Kwanyama/Ndonga) 461,000
1 Portuguese 15,470,000
17 Ruund 98,500
26 Sama 24,000
20 Songo 50,000
24 Suku 30,000
2 Umbundu 6,000,000
13 Yaka 200,000
34 Yauma 17,100
22 Yombe 39,400

See also[]


  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.


  1. ^ "Angola". Ethnologue.
  2. ^ a b c "Angola". Ethnologue.
  3. ^ Angola (PDF), 7th World Urban Forum, 2014, archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-01-07
  4. ^ "População de Angola sobe para mais de 25,7 milhões de pessoas" [Angola's population rises to over 25.7 million people]. RTP (in Portuguese). Lusa. 23 March 2016. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  5. ^ "Entre os de 1ª e os de 2ª já somos mais de 25,7 milhões" [Between the 1st and the 2nd we are already over 25.7 million]. Folha 8 (in Portuguese). 23 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Angola: português é falado por 71,15% de angolanos" [Angola: Portuguese is spoken by 71.15% of Angolans]. Observatório da Língua Portuguesa (in Portuguese). Lusa. 7 April 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  7. ^ "Quantos falantes de português existem?" [How many Portuguese speakers are there?]. (in Portuguese). 21 February 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  8. ^ Lança, Marta (11 April 2012). "Angola e Moçambique querem gerir o seu tempo na ratificação do Acordo Ortográfico" [Angola and Mozambique want to manage their time in ratifying the Orthographic Agreement]. (in Portuguese) (published 20 May 2017).
  9. ^ Prophetarum, Clavis (12 September 2008). "Da situação da língua portuguesa em Angola" [The situation of the Portuguese language in Angola]. (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 5 November 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  10. ^ Lipski, John M. (1995). "Portuguese language in Angola: luso-creoles' missing link?" (PDF).
  11. ^ Pike, John. "Cabinda". Retrieved 2017-07-21.
  12. ^ "In Angola, Education Ministry Aims to Expand Teaching of English". Voice of America. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  13. ^ "Serviços Culturais da Embaixada de Angola em Portugal". Retrieved 2017-07-21.
  14. ^ "Harmonização das línguas bantu dificultada pela fonética e grafia" [Harmonization of Bantu languages hampered by phonetics and spelling]. Notícias ao Minuto (in Portuguese). Lusa. 9 November 2014.
  15. ^ "Rádio N'Gola Yetu". Archived from the original on 2015-11-12.
  16. ^ Angola: Language Situation (2005). Keith Brown (ed.). Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4.
  17. ^ "Lingala". Retrieved 2019-07-18.
  18. ^ Brenzinger, Matthias (1992). Language Death: Factual and Theoretical Explorations with Special Reference to East Africa. Walter de Gruyter. p. 367.
  19. ^ Dickinson, Rob. "The Benguela Railway 2012, Part 1". The International Steam Pages. Retrieved 2017-07-21.

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