Goa is a multilingual state thanks to its colorful history of thousands of years which has seen people of various regions, ethnic races and religions from India and abroad settling in Goa and influencing the local language.The culture of Goa, including its language, has been influenced by different cultures during its long history. The history of Goa has been marked by periods of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian rule.Portuguese was widely spoken until Goa was liberated from the Portugal regime in 1961. In fact, the older generations still speak Portuguese. Konkani is the mother tongue of Goans, while Marathi too is widely spoken. Approximately one-third of Goa’s population recognizes the language of Marathi as their mother-tongue.This language has a special statute in Goa. It sounds very similar to Konkani. Both these languages belong to the Indo-Aryan group of the Indo-European family of languages and have numerous dialects of common origin (probably from Sanskrit) and script — Devanagari. Many Goa people speak both, Konkani and Marathi well enough.
While English is widely spoken in all the major towns of Goa, knowing a few Konkani phrases can always help. If nothing else, it can win you heartfelt appreciation and open smiles from the locals. You may also find it useful when exploring Goa’s outback.The generation of Goans that were born and grown up in the period of Portuguese rule also speak the Portuguese language. At schools it is studied at will as the third language and its use is limited and gradually dies off. However, many Portuguese words have entered the local languages firmly, especially among the Christian population of the state. Besides, as a result of the influence of the Portuguese and English languages the Latin alphabet is often used in written communication even in local languages.
In major towns, English is widely used in writing and conversation. Goa being a major tourist destination offers a tourist friendly medium of interaction through English. On the other hand, Portuguese, the language of the colonial rulers and the official language until 1961 before Liberation, not withstanding the official patronage and compulsory medium of education, failed to make a permanent dent in the majority of Goans. It remained the language of the elite. Thus just after the departure of the Portuguese, the Portuguese language lost its usage. Only a small percentage of the older generation still speaks Portuguese. Their children have by and large switched to English.The other prominent language of Goa is Hindi besides Konkani, Marathi, English and Portuguese. Hindi is also widely understood in the parts visited by travelers and used on road signs, bus destinations and tourism-related notices.Whatever language you speak, Goans will always understand the language of ‘smile’!