Macau, or officially The Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is a city in the western Pearl River Delta by the South China Sea, south of the city of Guangzhou. Macau is a special administrative region of China which maintains separate governing and economic systems from mainland China.

Cantonese and Portuguese are the official languages of Macau. This is partly because, being a Special Administrative Region, Macau is allowed a higher degree of autonomy compared to other parts of China due to the Chinese policy of “one country, two systems”.

One of the official languages and the predominant language in Macau is Cantonese, which is a variant of Chinese originating in Guangdong and which is spoken by 87.5% of the total population of Macau. 80.1% speak it as a first language, while 7.5% regard it as their second language. The Cantonese variety is spoken in southern China where Macau is located, which is why Cantonese is spoken in Macau.

The other official language is Portuguese, which is only spoken fluently by about 7% of the population. 3% of the population are native speakers. The influence of Portuguese in Macau is a reflection of its colonial history. A Portuguese settlement was established in Macau in the 16th century, and the region remained under colonial rule until 1999. Macanese Portuguese is the dialect of Portuguese spoken in Macau. Macanese Portuguese is different from the Portuguese spoken in other countries, as it is influenced by Cantonese. Macanese Portuguese is also influenced by Sinhalese, Konkani, and Marathi languages, all of which are spoken in Goa and Sri Lanka, places that used to be ruled by Portugal. Macanese Portuguese also has some words borrowed from Malay.

Mandarin at 3.2% of speakers and English at 1.5% are the other two languages spoken by the people in Macau, while other Chinese variants are spoken by 6.7% of the population. There has been a recent increase in the number of Mandarin speakers due to large amounts of immigrants coming to the city from mainland China. Mandarin speakers make up about half of the population, or 50.4%. 5.5% are native speakers, while 44.9% speak it as their second language.

In writing, traditional Chinese characters are used, rather than that simplified characters which are used on the mainland. Additionally, English is considered a working language and is spoken by around 27.5% of the population, of which 24.7% speak English as a second language, while only 2.8% are native speakers. Macanese Patois is a local creole language generally known as Patuá, and is spoken only by a few people in the older Macanese community. Macanese Patois has some influences from Cantonese and although it is different than standard Portuguese, it has a basis in Portuguese.


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