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The Portuguese Language

Language History:

After the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula the 'vulgur latin' replaced virtually all local languages. In the territories along the Atlantic coast it gradually evolved in what is technically known as the ‘Galician-Portuguese’ language. Later, following the incorporation of Galicia into Spain and the independent development of Portugal, this language split into Galician and Portuguese branches.

Standard Portuguese is based on the dialect of Lisbon. Dialectal variation within the country is not extensive, but Brazilian Portuguese varies from European Portuguese in several respects, including many sound changes and some differences in verb conjugation and syntax. Portuguese is often mutually intelligible with Spanish despite differences in phonology, grammar, and vocabulary.

Number of people speaking Portuguese:

Approx. 270 million speakers


The four major dialect groups of Portuguese are Northern Portuguese, or Galician, Central Portuguese, Southern Portuguese (including the dialect of Lisbon), and Insular Portuguese (including Brazilian and Madeiran).

Countries Spoken:

Portugal, Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.

Facts about Portuguese:

Portuguese is described by Cervantes as the ‘sweet language’. It is an official language of the European Union and has around 270 million speakers. It is the fifth-most spoken language in the world and the most spoken in the Southern Hemisphere. As well as Portugal itself, Portuguese is the first language of Brazil, the fifth-largest in the world.