Although Portuguese is the official language of the country, on the streets you will hear Creole. Technically speaking, Cape Verdean Creole, or Kriolu, is an africanized/reconfigured form of archaic Portuguese. In other words, it is the language of the original Portuguese colonizers that was quickly filtered through the prism of African slavery, mixed-race offspring, and plantation culture. Although the vast majority of its words derive directly from Portuguese, Cape Verdean Creole utilizes a distinct grammar and can be considered a separate language. English, French, and other languages have also influenced Creole.
Most Cape Verdeans speak standard (Continental) Portuguese in addition to their particular island’s dialect, which can vary considerably. For example, a speaker from Santo Antão (at the extreme northwest of the archipelago) and a speaker from Santiago might have difficulty in communicating fully. The two main dialects can be categorized along the lines of north (Barlavento), with a home base in Mindelo, on São Vicente, and south (Sotavento), based in the capital, Praia, on Santiago.
In terms of foreign languages, Cape Verdean public schools usually offer both French and English in their curricula. As a result, many students have become quite proficient in these languages. Spanish is also relatively well-known and can be used in a pinch if you speak it (it’s quite similar to Portuguese). Due to historical emigration patterns, Cape Verdeans who have lived abroad for a considerable amount of time may also be familiar with or even fluent in Dutch, Italian, or even German and other more far-flung languages. Take note, however, that the level of English fluency or even basic comprehension among citizens who have never left the country is quite low. Chances of speaking English with locals in Boa Vista and Sal will be higher, as these are historically the islands with the most exposure to tourism and ex-pat cultures.
Should you require an interpreter or translator, AITA has multiple experts on call and on all the islands to meet your specific needs.
|English||Kriolu (Santiago)||Creol (São Vicente)|
|Goodbye||Txau (as in Italian ciao)||Txau|
|How’s life? (greeting)||E modi? Tudu dretu? Tudu fixi?||Manera? Tud dret? Tud kool?|
|Good morning||Bon dia||Bom dia|
|Good afternoon||Bo’ tar’||Boa tard’|
|Good evening/good night||Bo’ noit||Boa noite|