Do you speak Portuguese?

Times change, desires change,
we ourselves change, and our certainties.
Change is the stuff of all the world,
always renewing itself as it ages.
Luís Vaz de Camões

About 260 million people in the world speak Portuguese. It is the third most widely spoken European language in the world, after English and Spanish. Eight countries have Portuguese as their official language: Angola, Brazil, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, East Timor and Macau. Out of these countries, Portuguese is the mother tongue in the first five. The language is still spoken in Andorra, Luxembourg, Namibia and Paraguay, but not officially.

It all began around 2000 years ago, in the north of Portugal. The Portuguese language, also known as the language of Camões, the author of the poem above, is a Romance language that derives from Latin. When Portuguese people started traveling overseas and conquering new areas in the 15th and 16th centuries, the language reached America, Asia and Africa. Due to Portuguese trading development, Portuguese became the trade language at that time. In Sri Lanka, for example, several kings spoke it fluently and Portuguese names were common in nobility. The expansion of the language is also accredited to religious missions, which adopted the language in the evangelization of the conquered countries.

Many Portuguese words have been incorporated by several Asian languages, such as Malay, Indonesian, Bengali and Japanese. These are some Japanese words which are derived from Portuguese:

Japanese pronunciation Japanese writing Portuguese
arukōru アルコール álcool
biidoro ビードロ vidro
botan ボタン botão
kappa 合羽 capa (de chuva)
kompeitō こんぺいとう confeito
shabon シャボン sabão

Portuguese has also been influenced by several languages, evolving, changing and renewing itself in different ways in every place where it is spoken. Nowadays, two standard forms are internationally recognized: European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. The differences are visible, but they do not make one version better or more important than the other or prevent Portuguese speakers from understanding one another.

Some interesting facts about Portuguese:

  • Portuguese speaking countries do not border each other.
  • The Portuguese English language is the only Romance language with mesoclisis.


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3 thoughts on “Do you speak Portuguese?”

  1. Pingback: Você fala português? - Lexiophiles

  2. I’m Brazilian and I face some difficult to understand some Portuguese. They speak “eating” some letters. In Brazil, it is more common you hear all the letters. Someone told me that Brazilian speak an old Portuguese language mixed with some Indian and African words. In Portugal, they speak a language mixed with some European language such as French and Spanish.

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