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People, Languages & Religions in Brunei


Malays formed 67% of the population in 2002. Minorities included an estimated 15% Chinese and 12% designated as other. There is also a relatively large expatriate community, with significant numbers of British and Australian citizens.


There are a multitude of languages spoken in Brunei. The official language of the state of Brunei is Standard Malay. This came into force on 29th September 1959, with the signing of Brunei 1959 Constitution. English is also widely used as a business and working language. It is also the language of instruction in secondary and tertiary education.

The native languages of Brunei belongs to the Borneo-Philippines languages branch of the Austronesian family. There are seven ethnic groups defined as Bumiputera by the constitution of 1959. These are the Belait, Bisaya, Brunei, Dusun, Kedayan, Murut, and Tutong indigenous races. The native languages spoken by these people are Belait Malay (Belait), Bisaya language (Bisaya), Brunei Malay (Brunei), Dusun (Dusun), Kedayan (Kedayan), Murut (Murut), and Tutong (Tutong). Ethnologue classifies the Tutong language as two different languages, but merges the Brunei Malay and Kedayan languages into one category. Not all of these languages are mutually intelligible.

The Chinese minority in Brunei speak a large number of the various Chinese languages and dialects. The Hokkien tongue predominates in the Brunei-Muara and Temburong districts, while Cantonese and Hakka speakers are mostly concentrated in the Seria and Kuala Belait areas of the Belait district. Other versions of Chinese spoken in Brunei include Hoisan, Fuchow and Hainanese.

Mandarin is the language of instruction at the primary level in the private Chinese schools, and is taught as a subject at the secondary level. Mandarin is also used as the lingua franca among the Chinese community.


Islam, the official religion, dominates everyday life. Religious practice is controlled by the influential Religious Affairs Department. According to unofficial estimates, 67% of the population are Muslim. About 13% practice Buddhism, 10% are Christian, and 10% are tribal folk-religionists and members of other religious groups. Primary Christian denominations include Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists.





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