Taking a Closer Look at the Portuguese Language
The Portuguese language is classed as one of the Romance languages and is derived from the medieval language spoken in the Spanish province of Galicia. It currently has more than 272 million speakers around the world, with the vast majority of them living in Brazil. It is also spoken in some African countries, as well as countries in the South-East of Asia. This prevalence makes it the fifth most common language found around the world today.
During the Age of Exploration, when European powers colonized much of the world, Portuguese was spread through their many countries by the sailors aboard their vessels. Most of the time this was in the form of a lingua franca, which meant that it was used for administrative purposes in areas that had a high amount of different languages spoken in them. It also became popular due to the Roman Catholics missionaries who worked with the Portuguese, as they had lots of contact with the local people and in many instances had considerable amounts of influence over them.
Linguistically, the language is similar to that of Spanish, which is understandable when one considers the close proximity of the countries. The Iberian Peninsula was at one point split up in to many different languages, but as Spain began to unify its languages in to one, the language spoken in Portugal remained unaffected.
Although the Portuguese language has spread throughout the world, the way it is spoken in different areas is remarkably different. For example, the way that a Brazilian would pronounce a phrase would be different to how a Portuguese would pronounce it – although they would be understandable to one another. It is the same principle that occurs in the English language, with – for example – England and the United States.
While Portuguese was spread throughout the Age of Exploration, more modern events have also shaped the distribution of the language throughout the world, with the most notable one being the ease with which people can migrate. In the United States alone there are about 688,000 speakers of Portuguese, while in other countries the percentage is as high as 2% of the population. Although this doesn’t spread the language to locals of the area, it does ensure that there is a large Portuguese community to be found in virtually every country in the world.
It has recently been suggested in various governments throughout the world that Portuguese should be a compulsory language within their education system. These governments include Venezuela, South Africa and Namibia. Additionally, the language is already part of the curriculum in both Argentina and Uruguay, where there are large pockets of Portuguese speakers.