During the colonial period, the use of national languages was practically limited to the teaching of Catholicism. However, the Portuguese language did not become entrenched throughout the territory owing to its limited use by African peoples, particularly those in rural areas. As a result, national languages remained relatively intact.
When the country became independent, those languages acquired the status of national languages, becoming theoretically placed on an equal footing with Portuguese as vehicles of communication and expression.
In order to valorize, use and promote local languages, the Institute of Angolan National Languages set down orthographic standards for Tchokwe, Kikongo, Kimbundu, Ngaguela, Kwanhama and Umbundo, and studied the phonetic, phonological, morphosyntactic, lexical and semantic aspects of these languages. The findings of this research served as a basis for the production of didactic material for the future introduction of these languages in primary education, together with Portuguese.
African languages are also used, for example, by Radio Ngola Yetu, which emits programmes and news, in seven national languages, on a daily basis.
THE PORTUGUESE LANGUAGE
Most African countries adopted the language of their former colonizer as the official language. However, Angola witnessed such an intense spread of Portuguese within the Angolan population – which is a rather rare phenomenon – that there is particular section of the population that makes exclusive use of Portuguese for communication purposes.
There are several ways of explaining this phenomenon. The first is the establishment, by the Portuguese colonial regime, of a policy of assimilation, aimed to ensure the adoption by Angolans of Portuguese habits and values, which were viewed as “civilized”. This included the mastery of the Portuguese language. Another important reason was the presence of a large number of Portuguese settlers spread throughout the territory, and of Portuguese military contingents which were stationed in Angola during the long Colonial War. In spite of this imposition, the adoption of Portuguese as the current language of communication in Angola also facilitated the transmission of ideas of liberation among certain sectors of Angolan society. From the mid 20th Century, the Portuguese language facilitated communication between people of different ethnic origins.
The Colonial War period was decisive for the expansion of the Angolan national conscience. Having begun as an instrument of domination and division between the colonizer and the colonized, Portuguese became a unifying factor amongst different people of Angola.
Independence in 1975 and the outbreak of the civil war in subsequent decades also resulted in the spread of the Portuguese language, owing to the migration of rural populations to the cities, particularly Luanda. This resulted in their cultural alienation and forced them to rapidly adopt Portuguese.
The establishment of the new nation-state itself reinforced the presence of the Portuguese language, which was used in the army, administrative system, school system and as a means of communication, etc.