Most postcolonial societies make use of the language(s) of the former colonial power(s) and, additionally, of one or several local or Creole languages. This article analyses the complex linguistic relationships within postcolonial societies. As a hypothesis, we assume that the language ideologies in former colonies take a shape similar to those in Europe and we discuss the possibility that these ideologies were brought to the colonies along with the linguistic dominance of European colonialism. In particular, so-called ‘standard language ideology’ has had a considerable influence upon the way these societies deal with multilingualism. Following an introduction of key concepts, we discuss the individual linguistic situations in four case studies (Suriname, Cape Verde, Mauritius, ABC islands) and outline a comparison of the consequences that standard language ideology entails in the different societies.