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Speech & Language

7 Interesting Linguistic Enclaves, Exclaves, and their Multilingual Countries

By Michael Sum | 17th May 2021

The world, with its varied languages and complex borders, can be a strange place.

There are thousands of people of different ethnicities and linguistic ancestries living side by side. Huge, sprawling metropolitan cities like New York, Hong Kong, and Sao Paulo are prime examples of cities within multilingual countries.

However, what can sometimes be overlooked is the complexity of political geography, more specifically enclaves and exclaves. These are some of the most exciting and unusual places in the world.

Isolated and strangely situated, knowing more about these territories in and away from their countries can be a great boon. Expand your knowledge of the world with us, so let's jump in.


Enclaves and Exclaves

An enclave is when a territory is surrounded by another entity. This could be one nation’s land surrounding another or one U.S. state’s region surrounding another. 

An exclave is when a territory is cut off from its main territory, be it political or culturally different. An enclave is always surrounded, but exclaves aren’t. 

In this sense, enclaves and exclaves are often the same, but specific examples of Exclaves exist. 

The concept of Enclaves and Exclaves is primarily a political affair. However, this same concept can be refocused to apply to a linguistic field. Where a country’s language is unique and contrasts the lingua franca of surrounding territories – this is a linguistic enclave.

Many expert voice actors have to craft characters around countries and regions. Understanding some of the most diverse locations around the world can help prepare a professional for any role they encounter.

Besides that, we just think this is super interesting!

With all that said, let’s delve into some of the most notable enclaves and exclaves that exist today. 


Torres Strait Islands

The Torres Strait Islands are 274 small islands located in the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea. These islands are not to be confused with the Torres Islands, which are a different place.

The Torres Strait Islands are mostly part of Queensland, Australia, and are governed by the regional Torres Strait Regional Authority. The Federal Australian Government runs this authority. It is enclaved within Papua New Guinea, and over 4,000 Australians call it home.



This means that the islands have a complex linguistic makeup of local indigenous languages and Australian English. Native languages to the islands include Kalau Lagau Ya, Meriam Mir, and Torres Strait Creole.


Y Wladfa

Y Wladfa, Welsh for “The Colony”, and also known as Y Wladychfa Gymreig, is a Welsh settlement within Argentina. While Y Wladfa is not considered a political enclave of Wales or the United Kingdom, it can be viewed as a linguistic and cultural enclave.

Y Wladfa began in 1865, primarily on the coast of Argentina’s Chubut Province in Patagonia. However, since 1865, a few more Welsh-founded settlements have sprung up. In today’s world, the Welsh-Argentine communities are generally found in Gaiman, Trelew, and Trevelin. In total, there are around 50,000 people that live in these communities.



Out of this population, the main languages spoken are both Argentine Spanish and Patagonian Welsh. As per the last census, it is thought that there are around 1,500 – 5,000 native Patagonian Welsh speakers alive today in Argentina.  


Campione d’Italia

Europe has many small enclaves dotted about its many borders and many multilingual countries, but there is one fascinating enclave. The Italian enclave of Campione d’Italia within Switzerland.

The enclave is officially a Province of Como in Lombardy, but the Swiss Canton of Ticino entirely surrounds it. So far, Campione d’Italia is the smallest enclave featured on our list, with a total area of 2.68 square kilometres or 1.03 square miles.



While the town is within the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. Switzerland itself also has German, French, and Romansh speakers. Many of the nation’s areas are bilingual or even multi-lingual natively. The town has a detailed history that has much to do with Swiss neutrality in the various conflicts of Europe. For example, during the Italian wars of unification in 1848, the town petitioned for Swiss annexation, which was subsequently denied.

The enclave was even used as a United States staging post of Strategic Services, the CIA’s precursor, during World War Two. Currently, it has a population of just under 2,000 people. 


Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia, Latin for “New Scotland”, is a province of Canada located on the nation's East Coast. It exists as one of Canada’s three maritime provinces and one of four of Canada’s Atlantic provinces.

Nova Scotia has a rich history, originally being inhabited by the Mi’kmaq nation before European colonists arrived. According to records, the French were the first Europeans to break ground in 1604. However, the Scots Gaelic speaking communities of Nova Scotia trace back to 1621 when King James IV of Scotland issued the colony foundation charter.



It wasn’t until 1629 that William Alexander established the first thriving Scottish colony in the Maritimes after several failed colonisation attempts.

Nowadays, some Nova Scotians speak a variant of Scots Gaelic called Canadian Gaelic. As per the last count, it is thought that as many as 4,000 people speak some form of Gaelic that descends from Scots’ Gaelic in the Maritimes.

While Nova Scotia isn’t an enclave of Scotland, it does prove to be a linguistic enclave of Scots Gaelic historically.  


Akrotiri and Dhekelia

The island of Cyprus is a very complex place politically and culturally. It is divided like no other place of its size in the world for such a small place. The island is divided into three nations; Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Turkey controls the North of the island after Turkey invaded the island in 1974. This section mainly consists of Turkish Cypriots and is considered the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus by Turkey or the Republic of Cyprus.



The South of the island is controlled by Greece and primarily consists of Greek Cypriots. Finally, Akrotiri and Dhekelia are two areas of the island under the control of the United Kingdom. While these U.K. areas are a military base and a power plant, it also includes land around these two areas of interest that consists of the civilian population.

Depending on what section of the island they are from, Cypriots speak English, Greek, or Turkish, respectively.  

Within Akrotiri and Dhekelia is yet another layer of exclaved depth. Ormidhia, Xyloyymbou, Dhekelia Power Station, and "Electricity Authority of Cyprus" Refugee Settlement are all Cypriot territories inside of the U.K. regions of the country. 

exclaves, inside enclaves, in a contested multilingual country.




By far the most complicated on our listBaaarle-Nassau is a town in southern Netherlands that borders with the Belgium town, Baarle-Hertog in an exceedingly interesting way.

All over the region, the two towns divide up the area into a multitude of minor territories that aren't even consistently connected! 



The various Belgian and Dutch areas weave between each other - making it feasible for someone to work in Belgium and have to travel through the Netherlands to get to their workplace.


The roads are lined with markers that determine when you are crossing from one country to the next. 

However, Dutch is the primary language of both communities.



The last entry we are mentioning on our list of interesting enclaves and exclaves is Lesotho, otherwise known as the Kingdom of Lesotho, enclaved within South Africa.

Lesotho holds a unique place on this list because it is a sovereign nation that is fully enclaved inside another nation, and therefore it is an enclave but not an exclave. Two other nations only hold this status; the Vatican City and San Marino.



The nation has an intriguing structure, with a unitary government structure with a parliament and a constitutional monarchy. In this fashion, its political structure is similar to that of the United Kingdom.

With a total area of 30,355 kilometres squared (11,720 square miles) and a population of just over 2 million, it is no small nation like Vatican City or San Marino. The linguistic divide in the nation is between English speakers and Sesotho speakers, with around 99% of the nation having Basotho ethnicity.  



As this list details, the world and its multilingual countries can be a very divisive place.

Political boundaries don’t always fall along with ethnic divisions, resulting in unique linguistic structures of particular nations.

Know of any others we missed? Were you surprised to learn about certain regions? Let us know by joining the conversation on Twitter!  


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Michael Sum

Michael Sum

Marketing Specialist and resident Content Monkey at Voquent. Michael has a lifelong passion for gaming media and bases his personality on whatever anime he is currently watching.

About Author

Michael Sum

Michael Sum

Marketing Specialist and resident Content Monkey at Voquent. Michael has a lifelong passion for gaming media and bases his personality on whatever anime he is currently watching.