What language is spoken in Macau?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Paulo Barbosa

The most commonly spoken language in Macau is Cantonese, similar to the neighboring Guangdong province. But Mandarin has been gaining ground since Macau’s handover to China in 1999.  Other Chinese dialects, like Hokkien, are also spoken. The other official language besides Chinese (the region’s Basic Law does not clarify whether it be Mandarin or Cantonese) is Portuguese, spoken by a minority of the population made up of Portuguese and Macanese. Official data indicates that 0.7% of the population speaks Portuguese, but the language retains its prestige in areas such as law and journalism. Macau has a lively Portuguese press, including three dailies and a radio and a TV channel. It’s calculated that around 2.3% of the population speaks English, which makes it much more difficult to communicate using Shakespeare’s language than in the neighboring Hong Kong. Other languages, like Tagalog and Bahasa Indonesia, are predominantly spoken in the large communities of Filipinos and Indonesian. The endangered Patuá language dates back to the epoch when the first Portuguese traders arrived in Macau and mixed with the local population. This creole language mixes Portuguese, Cantonese and Malay and was spoken by the Macanese community. It is estimated that the number of Patuá speakers may be in the hundreds.

Related Questions