Portuguese (português) is a Romance language and the eighth most spoken language in the world. Currently there are estimated to be well over 200 million Portuguese speakers, also known as ‘Lusophones’, worldwide. The language originated in northern Portugal and what is now Galicia (Spain). It uses the Latin alphabet and most of its vocabulary derives from Latin, though it has also adopted many loanwords from languages all over the world. It has about 1,000 Arabic words from the influence of Moorish Iberia, such as ‘alface’ (lettuce) and ‘azeite’ (olive oil). The Portuguese explorers (from the 15th century onwards) also came back with words from Asia, e.g. ‘chá’ (tea) from Chinese, and South America, e.g. ‘tucano’ (toucan) from Guarani. More recently, influences have come from other European languages, e.g. ‘filé’ (steak) from French and ‘futebol’ (football) from English.
Portuguese became an official language in 1290 when then King Denis of Portugal opened the first University in the country, in Lisbon. The Portuguese language spread in the 1400s and 1500s as Portugal established its empire worldwide, most notably to Brazil, but also to Goa, Macau, East Timor, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola and Mozambique. The first Portuguese dictionary was published in 1569 and around the same time an official Portuguese grammar was established. A Museum of the Portuguese Language was opened in 2006, housed in a busy train station in São Paulo.
Many creole languages based on Portuguese have sprung up across Africa, Asia and the Americas. Generally these have a similar vocabulary to their parent languages, but a very different set of grammar. There are two main varieties of the Portuguese language: European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. Though mutually intelligible there are numerous lexical differences and spelling varies. The main barrier to inter-communication, however, is the marked difference in pronunciation. ‘Portuñol’, a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, can be heard mostly along the border regions of Brazil where it meets its neighbouring, Spanish-speaking countries.
Portuguese is the fourth most learned language in the world, and is an obligatory subject for students in Uruguay and Argentina. According to UNESCO, Portuguese is the language with the highest possibility for growth as an international language, due largely to the emergence of Brazil as a world ‘super power’. It is already an official language of the European Union, Mercosul and the African Union and there are campaigns afoot for it to be included as a further official language of the United Nations.
The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), founded in 1996, is an inter-governmental entity for relations between Portuguese-speaking countries. It established the International Portuguese Language Institute, with its headquarters in Cape Verde, to promote, defend and enrich the spread of the Portuguese language worldwide.
Specialist Portuguese Translators
Business Language Services Ltd. (BLS) specialises in Portuguese translation (both English to Portuguese translation and Portuguese to English translation). We have a broad network of highly experienced, qualified professional Portuguese translators, who only translate into their mother tongue. What’s more, all our Portuguese translations are proofread by a second, independent linguist. We can cater for all varieties of Portuguese and can also localise existing content. BLS has an extensive database of Portuguese interpreters, selected according to their expertise, specialist knowledge, friendly attitude and professional reliability. BLS also works with some of the best Portuguese language tutors, enabling us to offer you tailor-made courses to match your precise needs and suit your ongoing work commitments.