What Languages Are Spoken in Palau?

The flag of Palau.
The flag of Palau.

Palau is an island country situated in the Pacific Ocean. The country includes about 340 islands which form the western chain of Caroline Island. The island country has a total area of 180 square miles. Palau was first occupied approximately 3,000 years ago by migrants from the Philippines, and the first European explorers arrived in the island country in the 16th century. Today, Palau has a population of about 21,000 people, 70% of which identify as native Palauan of mixed Melanesian and Austronesian descent. There are also several Asian communities in the country, with Filipinos forming the largest group. There are also people of mixed Japanese ancestry and a number of Bangladeshi and Nepalese workers living in Palau.

Languages of Palau

Given that nearly one-third of Palau's population consists of migrants and foreign workers, there are several languages spoken in the country. Generally, Palauan English are the country's two official languages. However, two states do not recognize either of the two languages as official. Most states also recognize additional languages, especially Micronesian languages, as official. Most of the local languages belong to the Micronesian family of languages.

Official Languages of Palau


Palauan is an official language spoken in Palau and belongs to the Austronesian language group. Although it is an indigenous language in Micronesia, it is not part of the Oceanic branch of the Micronesian language family. Most linguistics suggest that Palauan should be classified is the same sub-group with the Austronesian Chamorro language. Palauan is the most widely spoken language in Palau, and is spoken at home by more than 81% of the population aged five years and above. Palauan is used alongside English in government institutions, schools, and in business. Most migrants from Japan, Bangladesh, and other Asian communities are also able to communicate in Palauan with little or no difficulty.


Despite its official status, very few Palauans are native English speakers. English is the official language in all but two of Palau's 16 states, and is also used as the second language those states with other official languages. Only 9.4% of the country’s population are native English speakers, and the majority of these speakers are expatriates and migrant workers. The language is most popular in the capital, Koror, where most government offices businesses are located. English is also taught as part of the curriculum in schools.

Official Language of Sonsorol State


Sonsorolese is the official language spoken in the state of Sonsorol. It is one of the two indigenous languages spoken in Palau, and there are about 360 Sonsorolese speakers in the country. Some linguistics believes the language is slowly fading away, as the number of speakers has significantly reduced. Most Sonsorolese speakers are bilingual, and English is the second language used to communicate with the people from outside Sonsorol Island.

Minority Languages of Palau

Apart from the Sonsorolese language spoken in Sonsorol Island, Tobian language is also a local and official language spoken on Tobi Island. Additionally, the Japanese language is spoken by older generations in the country. Chinese and Korean populations living in Palau often speak their native languages as a first language. Other languages include Bangladeshi and Nepalese, which are mainly spoken by migrant workers and their descendants.


More in Society