Portuguese: A Language That Unites 220 Million People

welocalize May 9, 2022

What unifies Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique, and Macau? These countries and territories are united by the language their residents speak: Portuguese.

It’s among the 10 most spoken languages in the world. Portuguese is spoken by over 220 million people spread over 10 countries and states in the world. Only 5% of native Portuguese speakers reside in Portugal.

Portuguese is a widely spoken language. Here are some fascinating facts about the Portuguese language.

History of the Portuguese Language

Portuguese is a Romance language that was developed over 2,000 years ago when the Romans arrived on the Iberian Peninsula, which is modern-day Portugal and Spain. Roman soldiers arrived speaking Vulgar Latin, a form of spoken Latin, which is the root of all Romance languages.

While Portuguese is a Romance language, the Romans weren’t alone in influencing Portuguese. After the Roman Empire collapsed, Germanic tribes conquered the Iberian Peninsula, while bringing their languages to the region and adopting some of the Vulgar Latin dialects and culture.

This was followed by the Islamic Moorish invasion of 711 CE, which also influenced the Spanish and Portuguese languages. The Portuguese language was heavily influenced by Arabic during the Moorish invasion.

Despite its rich history and external influences, at its core, Portuguese derives from Vulgar Latin and Medieval Galician.

Where Is Portuguese Spoken?

Portuguese is the official language of 10 countries and territories. Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe are all locations with native Portuguese speakers.

The 15th and the 16th centuries are when Portuguese colonialism took place. The Portuguese language was brought to many countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, as the Portuguese colonized these countries and territories. It was used as a common language to facilitate communication, and thus, it gained popularity among the locals of the colonized countries.

Today, the Portuguese language remains the official and primary language of communication in many of these countries.

Portuguese and Spanish: How Different Are They?

Portuguese and Spanish share the same linguistic roots. They’re both Ibero-Romance languages and are descendants of Vulgar Latin. Seeing that they originated in neighboring countries during the same period, it’s natural for both these languages to have high levels of similarity.

Portuguese and Spanish have 89% lexical similarity. That is 89% of words in Portuguese have an equivalent word in Spanish. They are sister languages. A native Portuguese speaker will be able to understand Spanish and vice versa.

The difference between Portuguese and Spanish lies in its pronunciations.

Cultural Facts About the Portuguese Language

Languages evolve. Seeing that Portuguese speakers spread over several countries and continents, it’s natural to have variations in the form of Portuguese spoken in each of these locales.

European and Brazilian Portuguese differ quite a bit from one another. Just think about how British English differs from Australian English. Brazil and Portugal are divided by a common language.

While Brazilian and European Portuguese are almost identical, there are differences in grammar, spelling, and the meaning of certain words. One of the biggest differences between the two variants has to be você and tu. Both are singular second-person pronouns equivalent to “you” in English. In Portugal, você is used in formal settings and tu is used informally. On the other hand, Brazil uses você for both formal and informal situations.

Portuguese Only Had 23 Letters Until 2009

Yes, you’re reading that right. The letters, “k,” “w,” and “y” weren’t a part of the Portuguese alphabet until recently. In words having “k,” the Portuguese would swap the “k” with “qu,” while “w” and “y” sounds were only found in foreign proper nouns.

In 2009, Portuguese-speaking countries across the globe came together to sign a new “Orthographic Agreement.” This agreement standardized the spellings across different variations of the language and introduced the letters “k,” “w,” and “y.”

Portuguese Words in English

Portuguese is an old language. It’s a widely spoken language with its speakers spread across continents. It’s natural to find its influence in other languages. The English language has borrowed several words from Portuguese.

Some Portuguese words have become so much a part of English that we don’t even realize they are non-English while using them.

Cashew, acai, coconut, flamingo, lingo, mango, mosquito, piranha, samba, savvy, and zombie are all words of Portuguese origin. This by no means is an all-inclusive list. There are many words that the English language has borrowed from the Portuguese language.

Portuguese: A Language Spoken by Millions

Portuguese is spoken by millions of people across the globe. It’s the second fastest-growing European language.

For an organization, this means there’s a huge audience that understands and communicates in Portuguese. Organizations must understand their audience and make their content available in the Portuguese variation that its audience understands.

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