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The Languages and Alphabets Old Colonies Use


During the Colonial Period, lots of countries from all over the world were colonized by Europeans and some colonies were strongly influenced by their colonizers. Hence, some old colonies are still using their colonizer’s language and/or writing system. In this text, you will read about the languages and writing scripts old colonies use.


First, the countries that use their colonizers’ both language and alphabet:

Canada (except Quebec), the United States, Australia, and New Zealand speak mostly English since they were all colonized by the United Kingdom. But them speaking mostly English is because they killed (especially the US and Canada) almost all their native population. In addition, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile speak Spanish and Brazil speaks Portuguese due to similar reasons.


Second, old colonies that speak their native languages but use their colonizers’ alphabets (the Latin alphabet):

First, let’s talk about some island nations in Oceania. Samoa (independent) and American Samoa (an overseas territory of the US) speak Samoan which is a Polynesian language. However, they use their own version of the Latin alphabet (which has just 5 vowels and 10 consonants) while writing. Similarly, Nauru which is an island nation located in Oceania has its own native language called Nauruan and they also use their own version of the Latin alphabet which has 5 vowels and 12 consonants. And the reason for this is them starting to write their language during the colonial period. So, they don’t have a native alphabet, they first started writing with the Latin alphabet. Next, Southeast Asia. Vietnam was a part of the French Indochina, and they got their independence in 1945. They speak Vietnamese with their own version of the Latin alphabet which has 12 vowels and 17 consonants. Additionally, Indonesian is the national and official language of Indonesia (old Dutch colony), and it has over 40 million native speakers. Moreover, over 150 million people speak it as a foreign language. Indonesian uses the Latin script and has 6 vowels and 18 consonants.

After that, the Philippines. The Philippines (old Spanish colony but was annexed by the US) is a pretty diverse country, so it has a lot of native languages and some of these (regional) languages have their own writing scripts. However, the official languages are English and Filipino. And since English uses the Latin alphabet and Filipino uses its own version of the Latin alphabet, I categorized it this way. Next in line is Malaysia and Brunei (old British colonies). Malaysia’s official language is Standard Malay, and it again uses its own version of the Latin alphabet. Brunei’s official language is also Standard Malay, but the locals have their own dialect called Brunei Malay. Finally, South Africa (first colonized by the Netherlands but gained independence from the UK). South Africa has 11 official languages, but the most common ones are Afrikaans, Zulu, and Xhosa which all have their own versions of the Latin script.


Next, old colonies that conserved their native languages and their traditional alphabets. Cambodia and Laos were a part of the French Indochina and gained their independences in 1953. They speak Khmer and Lao respectively which both have their own traditional writing script. Similarly, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India were a part of the British Raj, and they also preserved their languages because they were so diverse that making all the states and tribes only speak English was almost impossible. If we summarize it, Myanmar mostly speaks Burmese which has its own alphabet, Bangladesh mostly speaks Bengali which again has its own writing script, Pakistan has so many languages, but the most common ones are Punjabi and Urdu which have their own alphabets and lastly, India uses English as a standard language (in the parliament etc.) but has lots and lots of local languages that are just too many to list. Finally, the Middle Eastern countries like Iraq and Lebanon were colonized by France and the UK but they mostly speak Arabic and use the Arabic writing script.

And lastly, some countries use both such as Chad and Hong Kong (a part of the People’s Republic of China). Chad uses both the colonizer’s language which is French, and the locals also speak a dialect of Arabic. While the most common language is Arabic (with 60%), education is generally in French so we can say it’s a tie. On the other hand, Hong Kong’s situation is a little bit different. They were a part of the British Empire, and they were mostly speaking English. But then the British Empire collapsed. So, China benefited from this weakness and recaptured Hong Kong. After that, they made Chinese

common again. Now they both use Chinese and English which makes them similar to Chad.

In conclusion, the language and the writing script a nation uses represent their culture and history. Thus, it should be preserved.

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