Portuguese (português or, in full, língua portuguesa) is a Romance language originating in the Iberian Peninsula of Europe. It is the sole official language of Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Brazil, while having co-official language status in East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, and Macau. A Portuguese-speaking person or nation is referred to as “Lusophone” (lusófono).
As the result of expansion during colonial times, a cultural presence of Portuguese and Portuguese creole speakers are also found around the world. Portuguese is part of the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia and the County of Portugal, and has kept some Celtic phonology and its lexicon.
With approximately 215 to 220 million native speakers and 50 million L2 speakers, Portuguese has approximately 270 million total speakers. It is usually listed as the sixth-most spoken language and the third-most spoken European language in the world in terms of native speakers.
Being the most widely spoken language in South America and all of the Southern Hemisphere, it is also the second-most spoken language, after Spanish, in Latin America, one of the 10 most spoken languages in Africa, and is an official language of the European Union, Mercosur, the Organization of American States, the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, an international organization made up of all of the world’s officially Lusophone nations. In 1997, a comprehensive academic study ranked the Brazilian variety of Portuguese as one of the 10 most influential languages in the world.
Portuguese helps you learn Spanish and other Romantic languages
It’s no secret that Portuguese and Spanish are closely related, but most people don’t realize just how similar these two languages are. They share an 89% lexical similarity. This means that the vast majority of words in Spanish and Portuguese are similar. To put this in context the English language has a 60% lexical similarity with German and 27% with French. The words don’t always look or sound exactly the same in Portuguese and Spanish. Still, if you dedicate yourself to studying Portuguese, your hard work will also go a long way to help you learn Spanish.
It’s spoken across the world (Europe, South America, Africa, Asia)
When you think of the Portuguese language, what countries come to mind? Portugal is the obvious choice and Brazil isn’t that far behind it. But the reach of Portuguese language goes far beyond these two countries. Several countries on the African subcontinent list Portuguese as an official language, including Angola, Cape Verde, and Mozambique. There’s even an autonomous territory in western China called Macau, which also speaks the language.
It’s not too far from English
Portuguese comes from the Romance family of languages, which also includes popular foreign languages like Spanish, French, and Italian. This is good news for native English speakers! While English isn’t a Romantic language (it comes from the West Germanic language family), it has more in common with Portuguese than you might realize.
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