From Angola to China: 10 Countries That Speak Portuguese
When you think about the Portuguese language, chances are you immediately associate it with two places: Portugal and Brazil.
These are the two most popular variations of the language and most Portuguese resources focus on these two nations.
However, Portuguese is spoken in a lot of other countries, too.
Some of these countries are Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Principé. Plus, the Macau region of China also speaks Portuguese.
- East Timor
- Equatorial Guinea
- Cape Verde
- São Tomé and Príncipe
Population: 208 million
Number of Portuguese speakers: 194 million
Brazil is the largest country in South America in terms of both population and size. It is also home to the largest population of Portuguese speakers: Nearly 94% of the Brazilian population speaks Portuguese.
While over 200 other languages are spoken in Brazil, Portuguese is the dominant language by leaps and bounds.
The language was first introduced in Brazil during the 1500s and had plenty of time to root itself in the area and culture until Brazil’s independence from Portugal in the early 1800s.
Since European and Brazilian Portuguese have continued to evolve separately during the last 500 years, many differences exist, including variations in accent, spelling, vocabulary and formality.
Want to hear what Brazilian Portuguese sounds like? Check out Easy Languages’ on-the-street interview with real Brazilians.
If you’re interested in learning Portuguese, you can check out FluentU, which will help you pick up on differences in Portuguese accents as it teaches you the language through videos meant for Portuguese speakers everywhere.
These videos are blogs, movie clips, music videos and more and feature interactive subtitles that will demonstrate how the language is used in context.
FluentU is available as an app for iOS and Android as well!
Population: 10 million
Number of Portuguese speakers: 9.9 million
Portugal is located on the Iberian Peninsula, on the southwest corner of continental Europe.
Portuguese is by far the most commonly spoken language here. It is one of two official languages; the other official language is Mirandese, though this is only spoken regionally.
If you want to hear what European Portuguese sounds like, watch IMFC86’s video featuring people in Lisbon discussing their perfect day.
Population: 30 million
Number of Portuguese speakers: 18.4 million
Located on the coast of southwestern Africa, Angola was a longstanding colony of Portugal until it gained independence in 1975.
Indigenous groups began adopting the Portuguese language in the 1400s, though indigenous languages are also still widely spoken.
Despite being Angola’s official language, just over half of its residents actually speak Portuguese, though it is an increasingly common first language among the younger generation.
To hear a little Angolan Portuguese, check out Wikitongues’ video.
Population: 26 million
Number of Portuguese speakers: 10 million
Mozambique is located in southeast Africa, on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It gained independence from Portugal in 1975.
While Portuguese is Mozambique’s sole official language, only around 10 million people actually speak it.
This is because there are over 40 indigenous languages that are often the first language. You will find the majority of Portuguese speakers in urban areas.
Check out a video by AgDevCo to hear what Portuguese sounds like in Mozambique.
Population: 1.8 million
Number of Portuguese speakers: 193,300
Guinea-Bissau is located on the west coast of Africa and was colonized by the Portuguese starting in the 1400s. Tragically, what is now known as Guinea-Bissau was used as a source for people to enslave.
Portuguese is Guinea-Bissau’s only official language, though it is often not a first language: While only about 5,280 people speak Portuguese as a native tongue, 188,000 speak it as a second language.
Crioulo, a form of Portuguese creole, is the lingua franca which is most often used for interpersonal communication. It is spoken by around 839,000 people.
Want to hear what Portuguese sounds like in Guinea-Bissau? Check out a news report by Record TV Europa featuring interviews with locals (preceded by an awesome Portuguese Nutella ad!).
Population: 1.3 million
Number of Portuguese speakers: 5,600
East Timor is located on an island in the southeastern part of Asia, near Indonesia.
The language arrived in East Timor when the Portuguese invaded the area in the 1600s in order to acquire a source of sandalwood. Portugal officially withdrew from the region in 1975.
While it is uncommon as a first language, Portuguese is one of two official languages.
The other official language is Tetun, which around 63,000 people speak as a native language. In addition, there are over 30 indigenous languages spoken here!
You can hear what Portuguese sounds like in East Timor by watching an ONU News report of a government official discussing how he learned the language.
Number of Portuguese speakers: 6,000
Located on the west coast of Africa, Equatorial Guinea was colonized by Spain, gaining independence in 1968.
So why is Portuguese spoken in Equatorial Guinea? Well, simply put, Portugal was there before Spain.
A Portuguese navigator first spotted the area in 1471 but ceded rights to various areas to Spain in 1777, so some regions were under Portuguese influence for around 300 years.
The most widely spoken language with Portuguese links is Fa d’Ambu, a Portuguese creole spoken mostly by people who live on islands off the coast.
The most often-noted official languages of Equatorial Guinea are Spanish and French, which are mostly spoken as second languages.
However, some sources also list Portuguese as an official language, which is supported by the nation’s membership in the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (Community of Portuguese Language Countries).
Population: 1.4 billion
Number of Portuguese speakers: 18,000
While this may sound surprising, there is a part of China that speaks Portuguese.
Portuguese is spoken in Macau, which is a semi-autonomous region of southeastern China.
The Portuguese language arrived there in the 1500s with Portuguese traders. Portugal held a strong influence in the region until it ceded control to China in 1999.
While Cantonese (also called Yue Chinese) is the most widely spoken native language with virtually all residents speaking it, nearly 18,000 people still speak Portuguese.
Additionally, Chinese and Portuguese share official status in the region.
To hear how Portuguese sounds in Macau, check out a video by Catarina Brites Soares.
Number of Portuguese speakers: N/A
Cape Verde is an island chain in the Atlantic Ocean located near the western coast of Africa.
The Portuguese language arrived with settlers in the 1400s and remained there until Cape Verde finally gained official independence in 1975.
While Portuguese is the official language of Cape Verde, it is rarely a first language—in fact, Ethnologue does not even have a number estimate of speakers.
Crioulo (also called Kabuverdianu), a Portuguese creole, is more often a native language.
São Tomé and Príncipe
Number of Portuguese speakers: 197,000
São Tomé and Príncipe is an island nation off the west coast of Africa.
When the Portuguese discovered the islands in the 1400s, they were uninhabited, but Portugal soon sent settlers.
São Tomé and Príncipe became independent in 1975.
Portuguese is the official and most common language, with around 98% of residents speaking it. The islands are also home to three Portuguese creoles: Sãotomense, Angolar and Principense.
You can hear this regional variation by watching Dani Moura’s video on São Tomé and Príncipe.
Where Portuguese is spoken is no mystery. You can find it in more than 10 countries!