Did you know that there are more than 800 languages in Papua New Guinea?

Published on 10/07/2023

Papua New Guinea is a country in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The country is made up of more than 700 islands, but there are only two main islands: New Guinea and Papua New Guinea. The languages spoken in Papua New Guinea vary from place to place. More than 800 languages are spoken in the country, making it one of the most linguistically diverse countries on Earth. Papua New Guinea has a rich history and culture that is reflected in its languages. English is one of the country's official languages, but as it is a popular tourist destination, it is common to hear other languages such as Italian and Portuguese. German and Spanish are also languages that can be heard in this part of the world, as it is a place frequented by intrepid travellers.

Índice de contenidos

Index of contents

Index du contenu


  1. Linguistic diversity of Papua New Guinea
  2. The story behind Papua New Guinea's linguistic diversity

Linguistic diversity of Papua New Guinea

The people of Papua New Guinea speak a wide variety of languages. Exactly 836 languages are spoken in the country, although a few more are known.

Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country in the world. There are also a number of other languages used by Papua New Guineans, including English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu. Some of the languages in Papua New Guinea are: Tagalog, a language spoken mainly in the Philippines, but also by some people in Papua New Guinea and in other parts of the world; Malay, a language spoken by 150 million people in Malaysia and Indonesia; Indonesian, a language used by 60 million people in Indonesia; and also worth noting is Hiri Motu, a language spoken by 64,000 people on the island of New Ireland.

Any translation agency in the world could verify the language richness of Papua New Guinea. Nowadays, we can observe that a large number of languages are disappearing as the people who speak them die or move to other areas where they acquire the local language and stop using their own. This is a great shame but, in this case, it has not had a noticeable effect, with the country preserving almost all the languages spoken there in a living way.

In any case, it is important to note that if you travel to Papua New Guinea you will not have any problems. If you speak English, it is a language that is widely used throughout the country, unless you go into some of the more remote areas away from the downtown hubs. But it would also be a good opportunity to discover the wealth of languages spoken in the country. The fact that more than 800 different languages are still spoken in this area of the world speaks volumes about the importance of communication there. The limited effect of colonisation had at the time helped to preserve all this heritage, a phenomenon worthy of study. It is every translation company's dream.

The story behind Papua New Guinea's linguistic diversity

Papua New Guinea's linguistic diversity is largely due to its geographical and cultural isolation. It was late-colonised, which meant that many of its languages were protected from outside influences. Papua New Guinea's geography is varied and includes more than 700 islands, inhabited by more than a hundred different groups of people who speak languages that are largely minorities but have remained alive. It has no central government, but is divided into four autonomous provinces:

  • Highlands Region.
  • Islands region.
  • Momase Region.
  • Papua Region.

This part of the world has been an independent sovereign country since 1975, although its head of state is the current King Charles III of England. It therefore enjoys the protection of the United Kingdom by being part of its commonwealth of nations. Papua New Guinea not only offers enormous linguistic diversity, but is also a top tourist destination that is worth discovering.

Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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