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Portuguese – The Sweet and Gracious Language

heart shape flag of Portugal on brick wall

heart shape flag of Portugal on brick wall

Portuguese is often considered the language of Portugal. Portugal is one country where the language is used, but it is spoken in many other countries throughout Europe, South America, Africa, and even Asia. The language has around 220 million native speakers, and 260 million speakers in total world-wide. This makes it the fifth-most spoken language on the planet. It is also the third-most spoken language in all of Europe.

Considering the population of Brazil, another country where the language is the official tongue, Portuguese is the most spoken language in all of South America. It is second behind Spanish on the list of most spoken languages in Latin America. Portuguese is an official language of the European Union, the African Union, and Mercosul.

Portuguese is a Romance language. Its official classification puts it in the Ibero-Romance group. These languages derived from Vulgar Latin. Portuguese was established during the Kingdom of Galicia in medieval days. Another name for Old Portuguese is, in fact, Galacian-Portuguese. And like Spanish, the other tongue of the Iberian Peninsula, many vocabulary and grammar rules can be rooted to Arabic. Arabic was the official language of this Peninsula after the year 711. The Latin-speaking natives would use both languages interchangeably, thus many common associations developed over time.

Like the other Romance languages, Portuguese uses the Latin alphabet. This denotes 26 letters, with 5 diacritics that may indicate vowel pronunciation. These marks can also denote stress, contraction, or nasalization. Variations in the writing system do exist, in relation to different dialects.

Portugal and Brazil were noted as two countries that use Portuguese as their official language. This may be true, but it is difficult to link these two variants together. Although standard Portuguese is taught at a fairly universal level throughout Portuguese-speaking countries, what is spoken on the streets of Brazil would hardly be comprehensible to Portugal natives. As for any dialect, the effects of the localization can be washed away through formal education. However, in some parts of Brazil, using this educated speech may get you adverse glances, or worse. Variations exist all the way down to the writing and even dictionary spelling of words. Of course, dialects exist in other parts of the world.

Portuguese is the official language of nine countries. These are Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe. The remaining two are co-official status in Macau and East Timor. Speakers of a creole form of Portuguese can be found in Goa, India, and Sri Lanka.

Spoken in four of the world’s continents by over a quarter of a billion people, Portuguese has grown legs larger than the small country that bears its name. In the words of Miguel de Cervantes, Portuguese is “the sweet and gracious language.”

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