Portuguese - interesting facts


Portuguese – língua portuguesa, português - is the mother tongue of about 250 million people (more than 3% of the world's population), which places it in the sixth-highest position on the list of the most popular languages in the world in terms of the number of native speakers. Within the European languages, it ranks third in this respect.

Portuguese is of course the official language of Portugal, but the largest Portuguese-speaking country is Brazil, with a population of about 200 million. Língua portuguesa also has the status of an official language in other former Portuguese colonies, namely Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, East Timor, Macau, Cape Verde and the São Tomé and Príncipe. These countries cooperate closely with each other thanks to the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, founded in 1996.

Portuguese belongs to the group of Romance languages. It derives from the extinct Galician-Portuguese language, used in the northwestern part of today's Portugal. The oldest surviving document written in Portuguese dates back to the 12th century.

There are two standard, equal varieties of lingua portuguesa: European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese (quite dialectically diverse), which differ mainly in pronunciation, spelling and vocabulary (at the grammar level, these discrepancies are insignificant). Regarding lexicality, the Brazilian language variant is influenced by the Tupi languages spoken by the indigenous peoples of South America and African languages. See also the curiosity section.

Portuguese is popularized and disseminated by the International Portuguese Language Institute, based in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde.

Portuguese belongs to the official languages of the EU, Mercosur (Southern Common Market), the Organization of American States and the African Union.

In the Brazilian Portuguese variant, vowels are reduced in unaccented syllables, so in common sense, Brazilians' speech is softer and more melodious.

Among the more interesting examples of lexical differences between the Brazilian and European varieties of Portuguese are the following pairs of words: ônibus (braz.) and autocarro (port.) – bus, sorvete (braz.) and gelado (port.) – ice cream, cadarço (braz.) and atacador (port.) – shoelace.

Another interesting phenomenon regarding the differences between the two options is the fact that in the Brazilian version, foreign language borrowings are not subject to as strong modifications as in the European option. The computer mouse in "Brazilian" is a mouse, and in the European variant rato (mouse as an animal).

In 2006, a Portuguese Language Museum was established in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is interactive and the first institution of its kind in the world.

The longest non-specialist word in Portuguese is the adverb anticonstitucionalissimamente, meaning "unconstitutionally". 


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Influence of Arabic on Portuguese

The Portuguese language has many words of Arabic origin that were integrated into it during the Moorish rule of the Iberian Peninsula (711-1492). It is estimated that about 1,000 Portuguese words come from the Arabic language. Most of them are names of places, animals, and plants, but also words used every day, such as "aldeia" (village) or "azeite" (olive oil). Knowing these words can help Polish-speaking speakers understand many words and cultural references in Portuguese.

Similarities with Spanish 

Portuguese and Spanish are closely related Romance languages. For Poles who already speak Spanish, learning Portuguese will be easier. There are many similarities in vocabulary, syntax and grammar, which can make learning Portuguese easier for someone who knows Spanish. Nevertheless, there are differences in pronunciation that are worth knowing to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes.

The Importance of Accents in Portuguese

In Portuguese, accents are very important and can affect the meaning of a word. Unlike Polish, Portuguese has various accents, such as a sharp accent ('), a heavy accent (`) and a long accent (^). Mastering accents is crucial for correct pronunciation and understanding, as changing the accent can change the meaning of the word.

Differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese

European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese are two distinct variations of the Portuguese language that have evolved independently due to historical, cultural, and geographic factors. While they are mutually intelligible, the two variants have notable differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

Pronunciation is one of the most noticeable distinctions. Brazilian Portuguese generally exhibits open vowels and a more relaxed pronunciation compared to European Portuguese's more closed and nasalized vowels. There are also differences in how certain consonants, such as the letter "s," are pronounced.

Vocabulary diverges to some extent as well. Brazilian Portuguese has incorporated many loanwords from indigenous languages and African dialects, reflecting Brazil's rich cultural diversity. On the other hand, European Portuguese has preserved some archaic vocabulary and is influenced by its proximity to Spain.

Grammatical disparities can be found in verb conjugation, personal pronouns, and certain grammatical structures. For instance, the use of the pronoun "tu" (you) and its corresponding verb forms is more prevalent in European Portuguese, while Brazilian Portuguese often employs the third-person plural "você" instead.

Another distinction is the presence of formal and informal registers. European Portuguese tends to maintain a clearer distinction between formal and informal language, whereas in Brazilian Portuguese, informal speech is more commonly used in everyday conversation.

It is important to note that these differences are not absolute, and variation exists within each variant. Moreover, due to media, travel, and increased communication, the two variations are gradually becoming more similar, especially in urban areas.

Understanding European and Brazilian Portuguese differences is essential for effective communication in various contexts. Appreciating and embracing the uniqueness of each variant enriches cultural exchange and strengthens connections within the Portuguese-speaking world.


Palatalization in Portuguese

Palatalization is a phonetic process in which the sound becomes more similar to the sound emitted in the palate. In Portuguese, palatalization occurs often, which can be a new and interesting aspect for Polish-speaking students. An example of palatalization is the sound /ː/, which occurs in words such as "mulher" (woman) or "trabalho" (work). This sound does not occur in Polish, which makes learning how to pronounce such words extremely interesting for Poles learning Portuguese. It is important to pay attention to these kinds of sounds when learning, as understanding and mastering palatalization can significantly affect the correct pronunciation and understanding of the Portuguese language.


A wealth of verbs in Portuguese

The Portuguese language is famous for its richness of verbs. There are 14 different grammatical times, which can be divided into three categories: present, past and future. Unlike Polish, Portuguese also has a presumption mode (subjuntivo). Mastering this aspect of grammar can be challenging for Polish-speaking students, but it is also fascinating because it allows them to understand better and express a variety of situations and emotional states. For Portuguese learners, taking the time to understand and learn verbs is important, as they play a key role in communication.


Diversity of Portuguese dialects

The Portuguese language encompasses a wide array of dialects, each reflecting the cultural, historical, and geographical diversity of the regions where they are spoken. Portuguese dialects vary significantly in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar from Portugal to Brazil, Angola to Mozambique, and beyond.

There are notable regional dialects within Portugal, such as the distinctive accents of Lisbon, Porto, and the Azores. These variations reflect the local cultures and historical influences in each region. Similarly, Brazil exhibits a remarkable diversity of dialects, shaped by its vast size and regional differences.

Beyond Portugal and Brazil, Portuguese dialects in other countries, including Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and Guinea-Bissau, possess their own unique characteristics influenced by local languages and cultures. These dialects often exhibit distinct pronunciation patterns and vocabulary specific to their regions.

The diversity of Portuguese dialects enhances the richness of the language, allowing for vibrant cultural expression and fostering a sense of identity within each community. It is a testament to the dynamic nature of language and the ability of Portuguese to adapt and evolve in different environments.

Despite the variations, Portuguese speakers from different regions can generally understand each other due to the mutual intelligibility of dialects. This linguistic diversity contributes to the multicultural tapestry of the Portuguese-speaking world and reinforces the importance of embracing and appreciating the differences that make each dialect unique.


Portuguese literature – a wealth of culture and history

Portuguese literature and poetry have a rich and storied tradition, marked by profound contributions to world literature. Portuguese writers have made an indelible impact on the literary landscape from medieval epic poems to modernist masterpieces.

One of the most significant contributions of Portuguese literature is the epic poem "Os Lusíadas" (The Lusiads) by Luís de Camões. This 16th-century masterpiece celebrates the achievements of Portuguese explorers, blending history, mythology, and national pride into a captivating narrative.

Portugal is also renowned for its lyrical and introspective poetry. From the classic sonnets of Luís de Camões to the romantic verses of Almeida Garrett and the subtle musings of Fernando Pessoa, Portuguese poets have explored themes of love, melancholy, existentialism, and spirituality with profound insight.

In the 20th century, Portuguese literature experienced a surge of innovative and influential voices. José Saramago, the Nobel laureate, captivated readers with his thought-provoking novels exploring philosophical and social issues. The works of Fernando Pessoa, with his multiple poetic personas, delved into questions of identity, existence, and the nature of art.

Portuguese literature has also produced notable female authors who have challenged societal norms and provided powerful perspectives. The works of Florbela Espanca, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, and Agustina Bessa-Luís have garnered international acclaim for their poignant and evocative writing.

Beyond individual authors, Portuguese literature has given rise to literary movements such as the "Presencismo" and "Neorealismo," which reflected the social, political, and cultural climate of their respective eras.

The influence of Portuguese literature extends beyond the Portuguese-speaking world. Translations of works by Portuguese authors have introduced readers worldwide to the beauty and depth of Portuguese storytelling. The impact of Portuguese literature can be seen in the works of writers like José Saramago and Lídia Jorge, who have garnered international recognition and accolades.


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Your Essential Portuguese




yes sim (sĩ)
no não (não)
please por favor (poʁ fa'voʁ)
thank you obrigado (obɾi'gadu) / obrigada (obɾi'gada)
I'm sorry desculpe (dɨʃ'kulpi)
good morning bom dia (bõʊ̯̃ 'dia)
good evening boa tarde (bõʊ̯̃ 'taɾdʒi)
goodbye boa noite (bõʊ̯̃ 'nɔjtʃi)
good night adeus ('adɐjʃ)
hi olá (o'la)
how are you?  Como você está? (Ko'ɱu vo'se eʃ'ta)
well Obrigado, estou bem  (obɾi'gadu, eʃ'tow bẽj) / Obrigada, estou bem  (obɾi'gada, eʃ'tow bẽj)
My name is... Meu nome é  (mew 'nomi e)
I don't understand Não entendo (não ẽ'tẽdu)



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