Crioulo and Portuguese – the languages of Cape Verde
There is a saying that the language reveals much about a country. This also applies to Cape Verde, where Creole (Crioulo) – in addition to the official national language of Portuguese – reflects its citizen’s unbelievable diversity that has been produced by centuries of migration.
So Portuguese is used for legal matters, in the media, at public offices, in churches and schools. On the other hand, Creole is the colloquial language spoken on the streets but also the language of music and poetry. The Creole of the Cape Verde Islands is considered to be one of the oldest African-European Creole languages. It can be compared with the Creole of Haiti, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone or Réunion. What all of these languages have in common is their historical background: People of very diverse origins had to communicate with each other somehow and therefore mixed their own language with words from the prevailing colonial language. Consequently, the Creole of Cape Verde consists of 90% from the “old“ Portuguese. The rest was borrowed from the African, French, English and other European languages; words from all of those languages whose people influenced the island’s history in the past. Above all, the intonation and the figurative images of the Creole form of expression come from Africa.
In addition, each of the islands has its own dialect. Due to their history, many English words are heard in São Vicente and the language of Santo Antão sounds more like French. Whenever people work together across the regions, they speak a type of “official Creole“ that everyone understands. With ALUPEC (The Unified Alphabet for the Writing of Capeverdean Creole), it became possible to declare Creole, which had only existed as a spoken language up to that time, as the official second national language.
When you are a visitor to the islands and greet the residents with “Hello, how are you?” in Creole, you are sure to be welcomed with a happy smile. You can find the most important Creole words and sentences in the Creole language guides that we recommend.