1. Origin and Classification of Portuguese.
Even though there is evidence that Portuguese was introduced in around 200 BCE, it became the official language of Portugal only in 1290. Portuguese evolved from Latin and it is being categorized as Romance language. The other languages that belong to this group are French, Romanian, Italian and Spanish. Since Portuguese shares quite a lot of similarities with Spanish, most Portuguese speakers are able to understand this foreign language quite well. However the same cannot be said about Spanish speakers since they find it difficult to understand Portuguese. It should be also mentioned that Portuguese has even more similarities with Galician, which is a language that is being spoken in northwestern part of Spain. Some other important dates for Portuguese is year 1986, when it became the official language of EU (European Union).
Portuguese has around 230 million of speakers, which makes it the 8-th most spoken language in the world and 3-rd in Europe. While this language originates from Europe, the largest number of speakers can be found in Brazil. Due to previous colonization, Portuguese has quite a large number of speakers in some African countries too. Based on future projections, the number of Portuguese speakers is expected to grow further. Due to immigration, quite large communities of Portuguese speakers can be also found in US. It is estimated that this number can be between 0.8 – 1.2 million speakers.
3. Official Language in 4 Different Continents.
Due to long history of this foreign language, Portuguese is spoken in four different continents. In Europe it is being spoken in Portugal, in South America – Brazil, Asia – Macau and East Timor and in Africa – Sao Tome, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau as well as Mozambique. All in all, Portuguese has the official language status in 10 different countries / territories.
4. Two Major Dialects.
Due to so many different countries speaking Portuguese it is quite normal that this foreign language would have many different dialects. Two of the most commonly distinguished dialects are Brazilian and Standard Portuguese.
Although these dialects have quite a lot of differences they are still being considered as mutually intelligible. The main differences between these dialects can be found in vocabulary (Brazilian Portuguese has more loan words). There are quite a lot of words in Portugal and Brazil that describes the same, but are totally different. A few examples could be bus is ônibus (Brazilian) and autocarro (European); mouse is mouse (Brazilian) and rato (European). Differences in pronunciation of the same words is also quite common among these dialects too. In addition to vocabulary differences, there is some distinction in syntax. For instance, speakers of Standard Portuguese dialect tend to add pronoun (object) after the verb while Brazilian speakers – before the verb.
While there are other dialects too, they have fewer differences than compared to Brazilian. One of the main reasons for that is that other Portuguese colonies declared their independence only recently. Due to this spoken Portuguese in these colonies tends to be very similar to European Portuguese.
It is also worthwhile to mention that dialect differences within regions are more noticeable in Portugal. This is quite surprising fact keeping in mind that Brazil is significantly larger than compared to Portugal.
5. The Alphabet.
The alphabet of Portuguese language consists of a total of 23 letters, where 11 letters have diacritics. The pronunciation of these letters is quite similar to English, so it is quite easy for most learners to read and write in this foreign language. Due to large influence of English language, recently Portuguese alphabet was modified. Three new letters were included into the alphabet – k, y as well as w. The main reason for this is that these letters are needed for writing English loan words and foreign names.
6. Official Language of International Organizations.
Portuguese has the official language status in many international organizations. The list includes European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF), The Common Market of the South (Mercosul), African Union and a few others. Since it has a working language status in so many organizations, learning Portuguese can be a great choice for people who are seeking international career.
7. Grammar – Difficult to Learn.
When it comes to grammar, it can be said that Portuguese is not an easy language to learn and there are a couple of reasons for that. Verbs in Portuguese can be inflected and there are a total of 3 possible moods, 3 tenses, 3 voices and 3 aspects. Adjectives, articles, nouns and pronouns can be inflected too. There are 2 possible genders – feminine & masculine and 2 possible numbers – plural or singular. Learning Portuguese grammar can be easier for learners who are familiar with other Romance languages since they share quite a lot of similarities in this area too. For instance, the format of Portuguese sentence is similar to English so most learners are able to express their ideas without too much difficulty.
8. Influences from Other Languages.
One of the languages that influenced Portuguese is Arabic. During the time of 700 – 1500 CE Spain was ruled by Moors, which also affected Portugal. The influence of this can be seen in Portuguese language and its vocabulary. Some of the words that originates from Arabic include alface (lettuce), azeite (olive oil), aldeia (village) and many others.
Some words originated from Portuguese can be found in English language too. These include words like piranha, cobra, mango, banana, flamingo and many others.