Here are some key points about how many people in Macau speak Portuguese:

  • Macau was a Portuguese colony from 1557 until 1999, when it was returned to China as a special administrative region. This long period of Portuguese administration left a linguistic legacy.
  • Portuguese is one of Macau’s official languages, along with Chinese. However, it has a much lower number of speakers compared to Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese.
  • According to a 2016 survey, only around 3% of Macau’s population of 649,000 people could speak fluent Portuguese. This equates to approximately 19,500 Portuguese speakers.
  • There are larger numbers of people in Macau with more basic or conversational proficiency in Portuguese. A 2013 survey showed around 19% of residents could understand basic everyday Portuguese but were not fluent.
  • The majority of fluent Portuguese speakers tend to be in older generations who received education when Macau was still under Portuguese rule. Among younger generations, Portuguese fluency is declining.
  • To preserve the linguistic heritage, the local Macanese government still promotes the teaching of Portuguese in schools. But most residents use Cantonese and other Chinese dialects in their daily life.

So in summary, Portuguese has a symbolic importance in Macau but only a relatively small minority of around 20,000 residents have maintained fluency in the language. Efforts continue to promote school instruction in Portuguese and preserve its legacy, despite an overall shift toward Chinese dialects.

Josh Plotkin Changed status to publish August 25, 2023