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The Official Languages of Portugal

Posted by Chloe G. on February 18, 2024.

What are the official languages of Portugal? Portugal, situated in southwestern Europe, boasts a rich history of exploration and discovery, being one of the earliest European nations to embark on voyages around the globe. Despite its relatively small size, covering an area of 35,560 square miles, Portugal supports a population exceeding 10 million inhabitants. The overwhelming majority, approximately 96%, trace their ancestry back to Portuguese roots, with minority communities encompassing various ethnic backgrounds such as Spaniards, Iberians, and Italians.

The Portuguese language reigns supreme as the primary mode of communication, serving as the mother tongue for the vast majority of the populace. Nevertheless, the Portuguese people have embraced the utility of foreign languages, particularly English, French, and Spanish, as means of intercultural exchange and commerce. While Portuguese holds the status of the official language of the nation, English stands as the second most prevalent language, widely spoken and understood across Portugal.

Let’s explore the official languages of Portugal in this post.

The Official Languages of Portugal: Portuguese

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You might be curious: What language is spoken in Portugal? Well, Portuguese is the official language of Portugal and the most commonly used across the country. Following Portuguese, English ranks as the second most prevalent language in Portugal.

Currently, approximately 240 million individuals worldwide speak Portuguese, making it the sixth most spoken language globally. UNESCO even suggests that Portuguese could evolve into an international language for communication in the future.

Now, let’s delve into the characteristics of the Portuguese language. Firstly, it belongs to the Indo-European language family. In Portugal, there are ten distinct dialects of Portuguese used in various contexts, ranging from bureaucratic settings to everyday conversations.

As for the Portuguese alphabet, it consists of 23 letters in the “Alfabeto.” Sharing its Latin roots with the English alphabet, the Portuguese alphabet lacks the letters K, W, and Y.

 

Difference Between Portuguese and Spanish

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Can Spanish speakers comprehend Portuguese? This question frequently arises among those interested in learning Spanish. These two languages indeed share a significant portion of their vocabulary and stem from Latin origins, offering a straightforward explanation for the comparison between Portuguese and Spanish. Let’s explore this further.

In terms of written language, Portuguese closely resembles Spanish. However, disparities emerge in the spoken language. While Spanish words are typically pronounced as they are written, Portuguese often involves the elision of vowels. Additionally, while Spanish encompasses 24 phonemes, Portuguese boasts 37. Consequently, speakers of Portuguese tend to have a better initial understanding of spoken Spanish. Nevertheless, individuals proficient in either language can grasp approximately 50 percent of each other’s speech.

 

The Official Languages of Portugal: Popular Languages in Portugal

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Aside from Portuguese, there are some of the official languages of Portugal, including English, Spanish, French, and Mirandese.

English is the Second Most Common Language in Portugal

English stands as the second most widely spoken language in Portugal, particularly prevalent in tourist hubs like Lisbon. Its popularity extends due to its inclusion in school curriculums, ensuring familiarity among the younger population. Business professionals constitute a significant portion of English speakers in Portugal, with exposure to American movies, music, and television programs further solidifying its prevalence. English signage in public transport, airports, and menus in cafes and restaurants contribute to its ubiquity, bolstered by Portugal’s historical ties with England.

Spanish and French 

Spanish also holds significance in Portugal, with approximately 10 percent of the population proficient in the language. The linguistic similarities between Portuguese and Spanish facilitate mutual comprehension, as evidenced by their shared vocabulary.

While French enjoyed popularity in Portugal in the past, particularly among older generations, its prominence has waned over time, yielding ground to English.

Mirandese

Mirandese, an Indo-European and Astur-Leonese language, is spoken by around 15,000 individuals as both a first and second language. Primarily spoken in the municipalities of Vimioso, Miranda do Douro, and Mogaduro, Mirandese comprises three dialects: border, central, and Sendinesse Mirandese.

Portuguese Sign Language

Approximately 60,000 deaf individuals in Portugal communicate using Portuguese sign language, a member of the Swedish Sign Language family.

Dialects of Portuguese

Portuguese exhibits various dialects, with four main groupings: Central (Beira), Southern (Estremenho), which encompasses Lisbon, Alentejo, and Algarve, Insular, including Madeira and Azorean dialects, and Brazilian.

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