PORTUGUESE SPEAKING COUNTRIES

Introduction

The Portuguese language is the fifth most spoken on the planet. In the western world it’s the third most spoken language (after English and Castilian).

There are 250 million people in the world who speak this language. 80% of Portuguese speakers are in Brazil. Portuguese is the official language in Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Cape Verde, Brazil, Mozambique, East Timor, Sao Tome and Principe and Equatorial Guinea.

Bearing in mind the importance of language, in these countries, portuguese language teaching is compulsory at school. Portuguese is also used as an unofficial language in places such as Macau (China) and Goa (India).

In these places, the language is spoken with a small minority of the population. The language of Camões (the famous Portuguese poet), had its origin in Latin (language that the Romans inserted in brought to the north of the Iberian peninsula).

With the arrival of the Romans people, practically all the peoples of the peninsula began to use Latin (except the Basques in Spain). Portuguese, Castilian, and Galician thus have their origin in Latin.

In essence, Portuguese is a Romance language, or rather, Iberian-Romance. The Romance language gave rise not only to Portuguese but also to Castilian, Catalan, Italian, French, and Romanian. The Portuguese language differs through different dialects and is internationally classified into European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese.

1. Portugal

Population: 10 million people

portugal european map

The birthplace of this great language. Portugal is a country located in southern Europe (Iberian Peninsula). The capital city is Lisbon and the only country it borders is Spain.

Since Portugal is a member of the European Union, its currency is the euro. Its location along the Atlantic Ocean has influenced the history and development of the country (maritime expansion and fish consumption are examples of this Portuguese interaction with the sea). The beaches of the Algarve and the cities of Lisbon and Porto are popular destinations for tourists. There are around 10 different accents from “Açoreano” to “Portuense”.

2. Brazil

Population: 200 million people

brazil world map

The capital of Brazil is Brasilia and the currency is Real (BRL). This country is in South America and the most developed areas are Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Minas Gerais. Brazil is a country with enormous potential but huge social and economic problems. It is a country with a lot of political corruption, with great social inequalities and big differences in the distribution of wealth and job opportunities.

Brazil is the biggest Portuguese-speaking country in the world. There are at least 12 dialects. Brazilian Portuguese speak differently from European Portuguese. The spoken language has more differences than grammar and writing.

3. Angola

Population: 21 million people

angola map world

The Portuguese have been present since the fifteenth century in some parts of what is today the territory of Angola, interacting in various ways with native peoples, especially those who lived on the coast. The delimitation of the territory only happened at the beginning of the twentieth century. The first European to arrive in Angola was Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão. Independence from Portugal was achieved in 1975 after a long war of liberation. After independence, Angola was the scene of an intense civil war from 1975 to 2002.

The country has vast natural resources (large reserves of minerals and oil). Since 1990, its economy has shown growth rates that are among the highest in the world, especially after the end of the civil war. Angolan living standards remain very low. About 70% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day. Life expectancy and child mortality rates in the country remain among the worst in the world. Angola is also considered one of the least developed countries on the planet by the United Nations and one of the most corrupt in the world.

4. Mozambique

Population: 22 million

mozambique map world

The area was noted by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and in 1505 was annexed by the Portuguese Empire. After more than four centuries of Portuguese rule, Mozambique became independent in 1975, becoming the People’s Republic of Mozambique shortly thereafter.

After just two years of independence, the country plunged into an intense and prolonged civil war that lasted from 1977 to 1992. In 1994, the country held its first multiparty elections and has remained a relatively stable presidential republic ever since. The country is divided into 12 areas. Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources. The country’s economy is mainly based on agriculture, but the industrial sector, mainly in the manufacture of food, beverages, chemicals, aluminum, and oil, is growing. The country’s tourism sector is also growing. South Africa is Mozambique’s main trading partner and main source of foreign direct investment. Since 2001, the average annual economic growth rate of Mozambican GDP has been one of the highest in the world. However, Mozambique’s per capita GDP, human development index (HDI), income inequality and life expectancy rates are still among the worst in the world. The United Nations considers Mozambique one of the least developed countries in the world. The only official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, which is spoken mainly as a second language by about half of the population. Among the most common native languages are Macua, Tsonga, and Seine.

5. Cape Verde

Population: 500 thousand people

Cape verde map world

The capital of the Republic of Cape Verde (located off the western coast of Africa), is Praia. The official currency is the Cape Verdean Escudo. Cape Verde’s economy depends greatly on agriculture and tourism. However, sadly drought has a major impact on the country’s agriculture and economy. Coffee, bananas, sugar cane, fruits, maize and cassava, are the crops mostly grown in this ever so fragile economy.

Cape Verde was colonised by the Portuguese in 1410 and became independent in 1975. Portuguese is the official language but people from Cape Verde also speak Crioulo, a native creole language.

6. Guinea-Bissau

Population: 1.6 million

guinea-bissau world map

The capital is Bissau and the official currency is the CFA Franc. This country is located on the western coast of Africa. Guinea-Bissau is heavily dependent on agriculture and fisheries (over 60% of its GDP). Guinea-Bissau exports fish and shellfish as well as crops such as peanuts and palm kernel. Rice is the most produced cereal grain and vital in the diets of Guinea-Bissauans. Tourism is also important to the country’s economy. It was conquered by the Portuguese in the 1800s. Portuguese is the official language but along with various other native languages from the region too.

7. São Tomé and Príncipe

Population: 1.630.000

são tome and principe world map

These islands make up the smallest Portuguese-speaking country in the world. The Portuguese settled in São Tomé in the 1470s and just like most of the other colonies, gained its independence following the Portuguese revolution.

São Tomé and Príncipe, officially known as the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, is an island country located in the Gulf of Guinea (Central Africa). The country has two archipelagos around the two main islands (the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe). The nearest mainland countries are Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon.

The country was uninhabited until its discovery by the Portuguese explorers: João de Santarém and Pedro Escobar in the year 1470. Gradually colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century, the country became  a very important commercial centre for the slave trade.

Cycles of social unrest and economic instability in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ended in peaceful independence in 1975 (after the Portuguese revolution of 1974). It should be mentioned that São Tomé has been one of the most stable and democratic countries on the African continent ever since then.

The country has a population of 204,454 inhabitants in an area of ​​1001 km².The majority of these inhabitants being essentially Catholic. São Tomé and Príncipe is the second least populous African sovereign state. The history of Portuguese rule is very visible in the culture, customs and music of the country that mixes European and African influence.

8. Equitorial Guinea

equitorial guinea world map

The capital of this country is Malabo and the currency is the CFA Franc. Equatorial Guinea is located on the western coast of central Africa. The three official languages spoken here are Portuguese, Castilian and French. Both the Portuguese and Spanish colonised here, yet Equatorial Guinea became independent from Spain in 1968.


The Portuguese language is also the official language of Macau (China) and Timor-Leste. In addition to these countries, it is also the official language in parts of India ( a former Portuguese colony) in Goa, Daman and Diu, where Portuguese is spoken among the natives. In Malaysia (Malacca) there are also a significant number of people who speak the language of Camões.

In 2050, there will be about 350 million people speaking Portuguese as a result of the increase in tourism in the CPLP (community of Portuguese-speaking countries). It is without a doubt, that Portuguese is and will be an extremely important language in the world. If you are thinking of learning Portuguese, you can do so in all these countries.

However, if you learn Portuguese in Portugal, you will be able to communicate with all Portuguese speakers from all countries where one speaks Portuguese.

Often Portuguese students decide to learn Brazilian Portuguese because it is easier to understand. Yet, learning this will not prepare students to speak Portuguese in all other Portuguese-speaking countries where the accents are more difficult to understand.


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