Portuguese Language Day

April 28th, 2021

Although not one of the six official languages of the United Nations, World Portuguese Day is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Portuguese is the 9th most popular language in the world with around 234 million speakers, most of them coming from Brazil. In fact, only about 5% of the world’s Portuguese speakers are from Portugal. It is also an official language in nine countries and the most common language spoken in the Southern hemisphere. 

Portuguese is a romance language that gets most of its influence from Latin and Galician, a language spoken in the northwestern region of Spain. Around the 14th century, the Portuguese language emerged from Galician and they still have many similarities, and speakers are able to communicate fairly easily. In Brazil, Portuguese became an official language in 1758, but because of its distance from Portugal and influence from other countries in South America, it has developed some differences. 

There are quite a few differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese. Pronunciation is a big difference with Brazilians saying vowels longer and wider while Europeans put less emphasis on the vowels. This difference creates distinct accents that differentiate the two and many people find Brazilian Portuguese slightly easier to understand when they are first learning the language. 

The grammar and spelling also have some variations. One of them is the pronunciation of “s” and “z” when they are in the final position of a word. In Brazil, it sounds like a normal “s” while in Europe, they tend to pronounce it as “sh”. The spelling still has some variation, however, in 1990, both the Brazilian and Portuguese governments came together to agree on a common spelling for many words. This change has made written communication between the countries much easier, but there are still people that use the old spellings and some words still have unique spelling. 

The main difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese is the vocabulary. Due to the way the language has evolved and the influence of other cultures, some difference in the vocabulary has formed. For the most part, the language is the same in both places, but the differences can make it confusing for someone speaking Brazilian Portuguese to communicate with a European Portuguese speaker. The differences are minimal so they can usually figure the differences out fairly quickly. 

Many people who want to learn the language wonder if they should learn Brazilian or European Portuguese. The decision usually comes down to what you plan to do with the language, such as traveling, who you want to communicate with, and what culture draws your attention. For people that want to go to Brazil or experience South American culture, Brazilian Portuguese is the way to go. Since most Portuguese speakers live in Brazil, there are usually more learning opportunities and resources available. Also, some of the words have similarities to English, so it can be easier for native English speakers to learn. The pronunciations and accents are also typically easier to understand compared to European Portuguese. 

European Portuguese is one of the most common languages spoken in Europe so if traveling through Europe is on your bucket list, this is the one for you. Although it can be slightly more difficult for English speakers to learn, it is very doable. This form is most similar to the origins of the language, so if history and classic literature are what you are interested in you will have lots to learn from.

No matter if you want to become fluent in the language or just learn a few phrases for a future trip, Portuguese is a beautiful language that is spoken in many corners of the world and can open many doors for travel, business, and much more.