Being a former Portuguese colony, Portuguese is the official and one of the most widely spoken languages in Guinea-Bissau. Portuguese is a West Romance language and part of the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from Vulgar Latin. The language has approximately 220 million native speakers worldwide. It has 21 consonants, nine oral vowels, and two semivowels. The language is written with 26 letters of the Latin script. Portuguese has been a source of loanwords for several other languages including Indonesian, Sri Lankan Tamil, and English among other languages.


Although Portuguese is the official language of Guinea-Bissau, it is not the most widely spoken language in the country. Only 11% of the country’s population speaks Portuguese as their first language. The majority of the population, especially the natives, has an understanding of the language and can sustain a conversation in it. The capital city, Bissau accounts for the largest number of Portuguese speakers in the country. The rural population mostly speaks local languages.


Portuguese has received an influx of loanwords from other languages such as French and English. Examples of vocabularies borrowed from other languages include “futebol” for football, “piloto” for the pilot, and “barraca” for barrack. Some of the basic Portuguese phrases include “ola” for hello, “adeus” for goodbye, and “Obrigado” for thank you, among other popular phrases.


Apart from Portuguese, about 23 other languages are spoken in the country, all of which are living. Of the 23 languages, 18 are indigenous while 5 are non-indigenous. About 5 languages are in danger of dying. Guinea-Bissau Creole is the widely spoken language in the country with approximately 44% of the population speaking the language. It is considered a national language in the country although it has not been granted official status. Other native languages of Guinea-Bissau include Balatan, Mandjak, Papel, and Fula among others. A few people, especially expatriates, speak French, English, and Spanish

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018