"The languages in Angola are those originally spoken by the different ethnic groups and Portuguese, introduced during the Portuguese colonial era. The indigenous languages with the largest usage are Umbundu, Kimbundu, and Kikongo, in that order. Portuguese is the official language of the country.
Mastery of the official language is probably more extended in Angola than it is elsewhere in Africa, and this certainly applies to its use in everyday life. Moreover, and above all, the proportion of native (or near native) speakers of the language of the former colonizer, turned official after independence, is no doubt considerably higher than in any other African country.
There are three intertwined historical reasons for this situation.
In the Portuguese "bridgeheads" Luanda and Benguela, which existed on the coast of what today is Angola since the 15th and 16th century, respectively, Portuguese was spoken not only by the Portuguese and their mestiço descendents, but—especially in and around Luanda—by a significant number of Africans, although these always remained native speakers of their local African language.
Since the Portuguese conquest of the present territory of Angola, and especially since its "effective occupation" in the mid-1920s, schooling in Portuguese was slowly developed by the colonial state as well as by Catholic and Protestant missions. The rhythm of this expansion was considerably accelerated during the late colonial period, 1961–1974, so that by the end of the colonial period children all over the territory (with relatively few exceptions) had at least some access to the Portuguese language.
In the same late colonial period, the legal discrimination of the black population was abolished, and the state apparatus in fields like health, education, social work, and rural development was enlarged. This entailed a significant increase in jobs for Africans, under the condition that they spoke Portuguese.
As a consequence of all this, the African “lower middle class” which at that stage formed in Luanda and other cities began to often prevent their children from learning the local African language, in order to guarantee that they learned Portuguese as their native language. At the same time, the white and “mestiço” population, where some knowledge of African languages could previously often been found, neglected this aspect more and more, to the point of frequently ignoring it totally. After independence, these tendencies continued, and were even strengthened, under the rule of the MPLA which has its main social roots exactly in those social segments where the mastery of Portuguese as well as the proportion of native Portuguese speakers was highest. This became a political side issue, as FNLA and UNITA, given their regional constituencies, came out in favour of a greater attention to the African languages, and as the FNLA favoured French over Portuguese.
The dynamics of the language situation, as described above, were additionally fostered by the massive migrations triggered by the Civil War. Ovimbundu, the most populous ethnic group and the most affected by the war, appeared in great numbers in urban areas outside their areas, especially in Luanda and surroundings. At the same time, a majority of the Bakongo who had fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early 1960s, or of their children and grandchildren, returned to Angola, but mostly did not settle in their original "habitat", but in the cities—and again above all in Luanda. As a consequence, more than half the population is now living in the cities which, from the linguistic point of view, have become highly heterogeneous. This means, of course, that Portuguese as the overall language of communication is by now of paramount importance, and that the role of the African languages is steadily decreasing among the urban population—a trend which is beginning to spread into rural areas as well.
The exact numbers of those fluent in Portuguese or who speak Portuguese as a first language are unknown, although a census is expected to be carried out in July–August 2013.[dated info]Quite a number of voices demand the recognition of "Angolan Portuguese" as a specific variant, comparable to those spoken in Portugal or in Brazil. However, while there exists a certain number of idiomatic particularities in everyday Portuguese, as spoken by Angolans, it remains to be seen whether or not the Angolan government comes to the conclusion that these particularities constitute a configuration that justifies the claim to be a new language variant."