Before we traveled to Cape Verde, we wanted to know which language they speak on the different Islands. We find it much easier to communicate in English. So we did some research about the language they speak in Cape Verde.
Do the People in Cape Verde Speak English? The official language in Cape Verde is Portuguese. However, Creole (or Kriole) is widely spoken on the islands. Creole is a mixture of Portuguese, English, African languages, and French. Many people speak French. And on the bigger islands like Sal and Santiago, you’ll find a lot of local people that can speak proper English.
We already knew Cape Verde is a former Portuguese Colony, so we figured that many people would speak in Portuguese. But where we know a few basic words in Portuguese, we didn’t understand any Creole.
In this article, we’ll tell you more about the most commonly spoken languages in Cape Verde, and some other interesting historical facts about the islands. Ready to learn more? Let’s find out!
English Speaking Cape Verdeans, Where to Find Them?
English is not the first language of Cape Verde, so you’ll find that at many places, people are not that comfortable speaking English. But that is also the charm of visiting a foreign country, right!?
We always love it when we try to communicate with the local people and don’t speak the language. But you know what, almost every time we can understand each other using sign language, combining words or just pointing out the things we mean!
The islands where you can find many local people that speak English are also the islands that are the most developed. Sal, Santiago, and Boa Vista are the most popular islands among tourists. The staff in different hotels and restaurants are multilingual, so don’t worry about communication during your holiday!
On almost every island you’ll find people that can speak proper English. But when you’re visiting the smaller islands, prepare yourself that it might be possible you’ll only run into locals that speak their local language.
English is becoming more and more commonly spoken within the local community. Tourism is an important factor in learning the English language because of economic reasons. Many schools are teaching English to the children, so the people getting more and more acquainted with the language.
The Official Language of Cape Verde; Portuguese or Creole?
Portuguese is the official language of Cape Verde. Since the discovery of Cape Verde and until 1975, Cape Verde was part of Portugal. Today the official language of Cape Verde is still Portuguese. Everyone can speak Portuguese on the islands. However, the spoken word on many islands is Creole. Creole is a mixture of languages and cultures that developed during the time that Cape Verde was an important hub in the transatlantic slave trade.
Learning Basic Portuguese
Everyone in Cape Verde speaks Portuguese. When you are visiting one of the islands during your travels or holiday, it might be helpful to learn some basic Portuguese.
Of course, we can help you with some simple words to make your conversations much more comfortable!
- Hello = Olà!
- Good morning = Bom Dia!
- Thank you = Obrigado
- Goodbye = Adieus
- See you soon = Ate Logo
- Please = Por Favor
- I don’t understand = Não Comprende
- Yes = Sim
- No = Não
Where Portuguese is the official language of Cape Verde. Creole is widely spoken among the locals and on every island. Creole is a verbal language, which means it’s not a written language. You can say that Creole is the second official language of Cape Verde. However, that’s a personal statement ;).
Creole is a mixture of Portuguese, African languages, Dutch, French, and English. On every island, the dialect differs. So people on Santiago speak a different Creole than people on Fogo or São Vicente. That’s mainly because of the historical influences on every island vary as well.
History of the Cape Verdean Language
To understand where the mixture of languages is coming from, you will need to know a few facts about the history of Cape Verde.
The islands of Cape Verde were uninhabited until the discovery by the Portuguese around 1462. Cape Verde is discovered during sea expeditions, which were mostly funded by the Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator. The Portuguese colonized Cape Verde.
They acknowledged that the islands were ideally located to set up a transatlantic slave trade. Santiago became the center of this, what we see now as a horrible trade. Nowadays you can still visit the village of Cidade Velha, which was at that time the central village on the island.
Many of the slaves came from other African countries, and those who were not able to make the journey to America of just weren’t sold stayed behind at the islands. Also, sailors who were too weak to travel further or needed rest before continue their journeys remained on the islands. That’s the reason why there’s such a unique mixture of people on the Cape Verde Islands.
At the beginning of the 19th Century, the transatlantic slave trade was banned by many governments, which had its influences on the economic position of Cape Verde as well. Santiago already lost its prominent position for this trade, mainly because it was allowed for other countries to trade on the African mainland. But also because of periods of extreme drought and famine, which started around 1775 and is a problem ever since.
In almost 100 years, approximately 40% of the Cape Verdean population died because of starvation. The Portuguese didn’t pay much attention to the Cape Verde Islands at that time.
It was also the time that many people started to emigrate, searching for better places to live and new opportunities.
British Influences in Cape Verde
The British influences in Cape Verde dating back to the start of the 19th Century. When they began a settlement for the British Eastern Indian Company in Mindelo on the island São Vicente. The Natural harbor in Mindelo makes it a comfortable stopover for ships sailing to other places in the world.
Mindelo became a coal deposit, an important stopover for ships refueling and restocking their food. Also, it was the first island of Cape Verde with a submarine communications cable, which made the island an important strategic communications center for the British empire.
The city lost it’s position as a stopover for transatlantic navigation at the end of the 19th Century, because of the switch from coal to oil. And the rise of other big harbors in Dakar and Canary Islands.
With the influence of the British and the vital position of the harbor, Mindelo grew as a city. Many people were attracted by the city and ended up staying longer than planned. It became a melting pot of different cultures, and nowadays, people still refer to Mindelo as the cultural heart of Cape Verde.
You’ll find many English speaking Cape Verdeans on São Vicente.
Cape Verde Best Islands To Visit
With so many different influencers over time, it’s not strange that Cape Verde is a cultural melting pot.
It’s a pleasure to visit the Cape Verde Islands. There’s so much history to find. However, today Cape Verde is mainly visited as the perfect sun destination!
When you are visiting the main islands, it’s easy to get around when you speak English. On the smaller islands, you may find people only speaking Portuguese or Creole. Depending on your travel plans, make sure to learn some Portuguese or use an easy translation guide (check the latest price on Amazon.) We’re always using one when we’re visiting a country where we don’t speak the language. It’s also fun to learn the language!
So, the best islands to visit Cape Verde, were to also speak English, are the islands;
- Boa Vista
- São Vicente
The islands where you’ll have a harder time finding people that speak proper English are;
- Santo Antão
- São Nicolau
All these islands are exciting to visit, but it depends on what kind of holiday you’re looking for. I recommend reading our article, Which Cape Verde Island Is Best To Visit, to learn more about the different islands.
Recommended Articles Cape Verde
We wrote many articles about Cape Verde to tell more about the islands, and help you choose and prepare for your next travel destination. You can find the complete list of articles on this page.
Some of the articles you might find interesting are:
Cape Verde is located in the North Atlantic ocean, around 600 miles from the African mainland. The nearest city is Dakar in Senegal. Cape Verde is the most western point of Africa. The Islands Santo Antão is the most westerly point of Cape Verde.
Cape Verde is considered a perfect holiday destination. Mainly because of the tropical climate. It’s almost always sunny in Cape Verde! You can spend your time in various ways on different islands. Relaxing on the beach, go kitesurfing, or exploring some beautiful nature with several hiking routes.
Santiago is the biggest island of Cape Verde. The second biggest island is Santo Antão.
Sal is the most popular destination in Cape Verde. It is the perfect island for a sunny beach holiday. Just like the other islands, the climate is year-round mild and warm. Find out the best things to do in Cape Verde in our most popular article about the archipelago.