Portuguese is the official and most widely spoken language of the nation, spoken by 50.3% of the population. Most Mozambicans living in the cities speak Portuguese as their first language.
The Bantu-group languages of Mozambique that are indigenous to the country vary greatly in their groupings and in some cases are rather poorly appreciated and documented.
Apart from its lingua franca uses in the north of the country, Swahili is spoken in a small area of the coast next to the Tanzanian border; south of this, towards Moçambique Island, Kimwani, regarded as a dialect of Swahili, is used. Immediately inland of the Swahili area, Makonde is used, separated farther inland by a small strip of Makhuwa-speaking territory from an area where Yao or ChiYao is used. Makonde and Yao belong to a different group, Yao being very close to the Mwera language of the Rondo Plateau area in Tanzania.
Prepositions appear in these languages as locative prefixes prefixed to the noun and declined according to their own noun-class. Some Nyanja is used at the coast of Lake Malawi, as well as on the other side of the Lake.
Somewhat different from all of these are the languages of the eMakhuwa group, with a loss of initial k-, which means that many nouns begin with a vowel: for example, epula = “rain”.
There is eMakhuwa proper, with the related eLomwe and eChuwabo, with a small eKoti-speaking area at the coast. In an area straddling the lower Zambezi, Sena, which belongs to the same group as Nyanja, is spoken, with areas speaking the related CiNyungwe and CiSenga further upriver.
A large Shona-speaking area extends between the Zimbabwe border and the sea: this was formerly known the Ndau variety but now uses the orthography of the Standard Shona of Zimbabwe. Apparently similar to Shona, but lacking the tone patterns of the Shona language, and regarded by its speakers as quite separate, is CiBalke, also called Rue or Barwe, used in a small country near the Zimbabwe border.
South of this area are languages of the Shangaan group, which are quite different again. XiTswa or Tswa occurs at the coast and inland, XiTsonga or Tsonga straddles the area around the Limpopo River, including such local dialects as XiChangana. This language area extends into neighbouring South Africa. Still related to these but distinct, are GiTonga and CiCopi or Chopi, spoken north of the mouth of the Limpopo, and XiRonga or Ronga, spoken in the immediate region around Maputo. The languages in this group are, judging by the short vocabularies, very vaguely similar to Zulu, but obviously not in the same immediate group. There are small Swazi- and Zulu-speaking areas in Mozambique immediately next to the Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal borders.
Arabs, Chinese, and Indians primarily speak Portuguese and some Hindi. Indians from Portuguese India speak any of the Portuguese Creoles of their origin aside from Portuguese as their second language.