Portuguese: It’s More Than One Language

Portuguese Speaking CountriesApart from the mother country, Portuguese is usually associated with Brazil, but it is also the official language of Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe. Together, these countries comprise the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP), an organization for friendship among Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) nations. The very term Lusophone is derived from the Ancient Roman province of Lusitania, which covered present-day Portugal.

Each of these Lusophone countries has its own dialect that greatly differs from the language spoken in Portugal. For example, Brazilian Portuguese differs from the European variant by an extensive set of grammatical rules, syntax and vocabulary. Voce and tu both mean you, but the latter is used frequently in some regions as a colloquial expression, while the former is the official variant of the term. Voce is not well received in Portugal nor used there. Many words have two variants; train: comboio (Portugal) and trem (Brazil); farm: quinta (Portugal) and fazenda (Brazil). Apelido means “last name” in Portugal and “nickname” in Brazilian Portuguese. But differences don’t end here: Brazilian Portuguese also differs greatly from Mozambican and other variants; at the same time, every variant has its own set of differences, adding to the linguistic mash.

In today’s world of global communication, there is a need for a “universal” Portuguese, a variant that will be accepted and spoken worldwide. Although there is still heated debate on the subject, many steps have been made to bridge the gaps between and among the multiple variants. In 1990, the Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement was established. Its purpose is the formation of a unified orthography for all the Portuguese-speaking countries. This agreement has facilitated communication and reduced spelling differences among countries of the Lusophone world.

Translation

With more than 250 million speakers, Portuguese ranks as the sixth most spoken language in the world and Portuguese translation is one of the most requested services from translation agencies. Brazil claims the biggest part of Lusophone population (201 million, more than 80%), so it would be logical to expect Brazilian Portuguese to become the standard variant, accepted by most Lusophones. Time will tell whether this variant will become the dominant one. Until then, Portuguese-speaking nations will continue to make their best effort to understand one another.