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Speaking Portuguese Across the World

From Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Portuguese > Traveling the World Thanks to Portuguese

From Portuguese Galician or “Portuguese vernacular” to today’s Portuguese language, Portuguese has gone through 9 centuries of changes.

Often mistakenly considered a foreign language that is spoken very little, the Portuguese language is present all throughout the world!

Let’s have a look at how Portuguese is not the idiom of immigrants, but instead, a living language in constant evolution. Let’s go on a language trip and learn to speak Portuguese at the 4 corners of the Earth…

The Portuguese Language is one of the Most Spoken Languages in the World

Of course, if one brings up which foreign language should be learned at an early age, the first to cross everyone’s mind may not be Portuguese. People may talk about learning English, learning Arabic, learning German, learning Spanish, and learning Mandarin Chinese in language schools.

However there are many reasons to learn Portuguese, one of which being that Portuguese is one of the top 10 languages spoken worldwide. In fact it is an official language in 9 countries across 4 continents showing that is spoken far and wide beyond the borders of Portugal.

This Latin language will be, according to a Unesco prediction, spoken by around 335 million people by 2050.

outside-land Portugal has a complex history with the lands outside of Cape Verde.

This language has a Latin alphabet, which means it shares our alphabet. It is spoken in 9 UN member countries – according to its colonial history – which means it reaches 7th place as far as languages most spoken all over the world.

Thank you Paulo Coelho!

Also, Portuguese occupies a prominent place in international organizations such as:

  • the European Union (EU).
  • Organization of African Unity (OAU).
  • Organization of American States (OAS).
  • The Common Market of South America (MERCOSUL).
  • Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI).
  • The Southern African Development Community (SADC).
  • The Latin Union (LU).

Finally, what some journalists call “a peculiar language” is very popular in terms of new media, since it is the 5th most used language on the web, with nearly 83 million Internet users.

Why and How Has Portuguese Spread All Over the World?

The Portuguese language celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2015. But first, let’s have a look at what has contributed to the emancipation of this language from its territory since its very first appearance in written documents towards the end of the 12th century.

No need to keep quiet any longer…you fine readers may have already guessed that it is indeed through its conquests and great expeditions that the Portuguese language imposed itself outside of its country.

It was during the time of the Great Discoveries, which extended from the early fifteenth century to the beginning of the seventeenth century, that the Portuguese – alongside other European countries such as France, Spain, and England in particular – indulged in the intense exploration of our planet Earth.

portugal-football The Portuguese language was officially born in 1215 when King Afonso had his will written down in Portuguese.


The Portuguese, led by great explorers like Magellan and the famous Vasco de Gama, left Lisbon and navigated to the Cape of Good Hope and the Route of Indes among others, in order to discover:

  • Africa
  • America
  • Asia
  • and Oceania.

The extent of where the Portuguese language reached would have been quite different if the Portuguese empire – which had begun its conquest of the world long before Spain and France – had not died down following Portugal’s relinquishing the crown to Spain (1580-1640).

When Portugal left its place to other colonizing countries – particularly those in the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and the seas of China and Japan – it focused exclusively on the colonization of Brazil.  This was in the seventeenth century, and an important turning point for Portugal and Portuguese. 

It was not until the nineteenth century that the Portuguese navigators  burst into Africa. Countries we now know to still practice Portuguese, such as:

  • Angola,
  • Mozambique,
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • and on the islands of Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe.

Learning Portuguese to Travel to Portugal

If you are studying Portuguese, you will no doubt be lured to its birthplace: Portugal! After our little history revision session, you will be familiar with Portuguese history and culture to a point that you will see its vital importance across the world. You will definitely want to continue your adventure by discovering Portugal.

In this country, the sun shines 300 days a year, and, thanks to your new linguistic background, you will now be able to go to the lands of Cristiano Ronaldo with the possibility to express yourself in Portuguese and make yourself understood as to speak to the local population.

It will also be a way to awaken your five senses, those cultural elements found in your textbook during those summer courses or online Portuguese classes – those senses linked to Portuguese gastronomy, architecture, or fauna and flora.

hotbed-culture Portugal is a hotbed for culture!

Also take a look at our article on job opportunities after learning Portuguese!

Learning Portuguese in Lisbon

In general, the first leg of a trip to Portugal takes place in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. It is a beautiful city, and easily compares to the beauty of Paris, in terms of architecture and natural landscapes.

Armed with your newly learned Portuguese language you will be able to improve your skills as you stroll under the sun and have a look at the incredible features the city has to offer:

  • Historical Monuments: Belém Tower, Jerónimos Monastery, Saint Jorge Castle
  • The district of Alfama, Baixa, or the district of Bairro Alto. The latter is the most popular, with restaurants and bars that mingle until sunrise.
  • Transportation, which includes tram 28, famous because it is oldest and goes down very old streets.
  • But also, the Santa Justa lift, built by a student of Gustave Eiffel’s in the sixteenth century and which offers an incredible panorama of the city.
  • Gastronomy, with the “pasteis de Belem” and famous grilled octopus.

Speaking Portuguese in Madeira

If the beauty of a country could be summed up in the splendor of its natural world, Portugal could count on the island of Madeira to perfect its reputation…

Nicknamed the island of flowers, this pearl of the Atlantic is located off the coast of Morocco and never ceases to surprise with the landscapes it offers and the activities it is brimming with, such as swimming with dolphins in the wild and without having to resort to phonetics!

This island is beautiful, and has the colors of its flowers as the first thing to thank. Madeira is a combination of roads, city, gardens, beaches, the mountains Pico de Arieiro, Pico Ruivo, and the incredible subtropical wet Laurisylve forest located on the heights of the island.

Here, knowing how to speak, write, and understand the Portuguese language will brighten up the language stay of any American and help him or her to quickly befriend the inhabitants of the island.

For those who dream to discover more, share your desires with me in the comments, and who knows, we could perhaps discover the rest of the country together – such as Cascais, Sintra or Porto.

Learning Portuguese to Travel to Brazil

Far from being a unique “lingua,” Portuguese is spoken in several countries around the world with major differences in the tonic accents, grammar, and personal pronouns. These differences are sure to amaze speakers who have learned only one version of the language they know as Portugal’s.

In Brazil – a Portuguese colony from 1494 until 1822 – the official language spoken by Brazilians is Portuguese, but we could rename it Brazilian it is so unique.

Through its history, its population, and its independence, the largest country in Latin America has created a Portuguese language which certainly has the structure of European Portuguese, but differs in several points from that of its old motherland.

Indeed, in Brazil, Portuguese has a sing-song character, a softened tone, and warmer accent. The largest Lusophone country in the world – with a population of nearly 200 million – has reinvented the language of Vasco de Gama.

That is why, despite a common official language, you may witness scenes where a Portuguese from Portugal does not understand a Brazilian and vice versa!

Here are some of the differences in the vocabulary:

Speaking Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro

When first traveling to Brazil, you will probably go to Rio de Janeiro. Students who have learned Portuguese in the national education classroom, at a language school, or through tutoring private lessons will quickly be able to follow the Rio accent.

In addition to a more “guttural” pronunciation, it is important to remember that:

  • The “r” is pronounced as an “h”
  • The “s” is pronounced “ch” at the end of the word or at the end of the syllable and is followed by a mute consonant (t, c, f, p). For example, meus pais (my country) becomes “mi-ouch paich”

We could continue on and on but I think you get the point. You will have to adapt if you want to understand the first language of South America and of the southern hemisphere in its Brazilian version. There are other differences of course, such as:

  • Formal and informal language with the use of “você,” which would sound inappropriate in Portugal.
  • The way certain words are written.
  • The simplification of conjugation. To greet someone you would use the word “parabens” in Brazilian Portuguese, while you would use two verbs in European Portuguese.

Learning Portuguese to Travel to Africa

magic-language Explore Angola and part of Africa with the Magellanic language!

If you needed more convincing as to why you should learn Portuguese, then you should know that it is a language spoken in various countries across Africa, too!

Composed primarily of English speakers in the East and South, and French speakers in the West and North, the presence of the Portuguese language is often neglected on the African continent.

Traveling to Africa is a unique opportunity for learners who want the opportunity to practice their Portuguese close to Mother Earth.

But which of these countries have Portuguese as their official language?

Speak Portuguese in Angola

Before its independence on November 11, 1975, this great African country was supposed to become the Brazil of Africa.

Located at the junction of Central Africa and Southern Africa, Angola is the second largest Portuguese-speaking country (after Brazil) and the third largest in terms of population (after Brazil and Mozambique)!

There are, however, 42 other ethnic languages spoken in this country bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

It should be noted that, in view of the financial crisis in Europe, Portuguese workers headed to Angola once they looked to return to a working life.

Learn the Portuguese Language in Cape-Verde

Long considered Portuguese citizens in their own right, the population of the Cape Verde Islands became their own citizens on 5 July 1975 when the country became independent.

Located off the coast of Senegal, the archipelago of Cape Verde (or “Little Country” which is what it was nicknamed by Cesaria Evora…) is a destination unknown to most tourists. A result of the hybridization of Portuguese settlers and African slaves, Cape Verde is a unique destination not to miss out on.

Portuguese Guinea and the Portuguese Language

Far from Kenya’s safaris is Guinea-Bissau. With very little tourism (particularly because of its lack of facilities and tourist services) this small West African country is a former Portuguese colony since 1500.

Located between Guinea and Senegal, this small coastal country located in West Africa is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Independent since 24 September 1973, the official language of Guinea-Bissau has remained Portuguese. However, it is the Creole Bissau-Guinean, – one of the oldest Creole Portuguese – which is the main language of the country.

Speaking Portuguese in Mozambique

craft-work An ex-Portuguese colony, Mozambique was used as a place for crafts.

On June 25, 1975, day of Mozambique’s independence, Portuguese was adopted as an official language for the sake of national unity.

For those of you who intend to travel to Mozambique alone, know that 30% of the population speaks Portuguese and studies consider that only 5% of Mozambiquans have Portuguese as their mother tongue.

Sao Tomé-and-Principe

Composed of two small islands and located in the Gulf of Guinea near the coast of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe is one of the smallest countries in Africa.

This former colony of Portugal, which has been independent since 1975, has Portuguese as its official language.


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