What Languages Are Spoken In Mozambique?

Maputo, Mozambique.
Maputo, Mozambique.

Mozambique is a multilingual State with numerous Bantu languages spoken along with Portuguese. Ethnologue identifies a total of 43 languages used across Mozambique. Most Mozambicans are fluent in more than a single language. Numerous native languages in the country feature loan terms of Portuguese origin.

Portuguese: The Official Language Of Mozambique

Over 50% of the Mozambican population is Portuguese-speaking. From 1498 to 1975, the region that is now Mozambique's territory was called Portuguese Mozambique. The long-term use of Portuguese made Mozambique keep the language after gaining self-rule. The use of the language is particularly visible in the urban regions where 80% of the residents of urban Mozambique are Portuguese speakers. The more educated Mozambican people are fluent in the language. The varieties of the language as used in Mozambique make up the unique Mozambican Portuguese. Portuguese allows Mozambicans, regardless of ethnicity, to communicate and many Mozambican Portuguese-speakers speak it with accents of the different African languages found in the country.

Bantu Languages Spoken In Mozambique

The overwhelming majority of Mozambican indigenous languages are recognized as Bantu languages. The most popular of these languages is the Makhuwa language, used by four million Makua people. These people inhabit the region north of the Zambezi River and more specifically the Nampula Province whose demographics is completely ethnically Makua. Makhuwa is among the languages of the Niger-Congo family. The Central Makhuwa dialect has about 3 million speakers, while the Chirima and Meeto have 1.5 million and 1.3 million users respectively. Tsonga is another prominent Bantu language in Mozambique. Tsonga includes loan words from Portuguese, isiZulu, English, and Afrikaans. Tsonga is native to the Tsonga ethnic community and it is mutually intelligible with Ronga and Tswa. Sena is used in the Mozambican provinces of Manica, Tete, Zambezia, and Sofala. There are over 1 million Sena speakers including those who use it as a second language. The Sena dialects of Podzo and Rue are divergent. The Ndau language has 1.4 million speakers residing in central Mozambique as well as southeastern Zimbabwe. The main variants of Ndau in Mozambique are named Danda and Shanga. Ndau enjoys legal status in neighboring Zimbabwe. Lomwe is another of Mozambique's indigenous languages with over one million speakers. The Ronga language is mostly heard south of Maputo, and it has approximately 650,000 speakers. Ronga's alphabet makes use of that of Tsonga which was introduced by Portuguese settlers and Methodist missionaries. Other native Mozambican languages include Zulu, Chopi, Makonde, Kimwani, Chuwabu, and Ronga. Mozambique is among the African States which use Swahili.

Mozambican Sign Language

Mozambique's deaf community uses the Mozambican Sign Language as its primary language. This language is not founded on either the Portuguese Sign Language or the American Sign Language, and its origin is not noted. The language is regarded as having "some dialectal variation” and it is mainly used in Nampula, Maputo, and Beira.


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