Olé! 7 Surprising Facts About the Portuguese Language

Hailing from the land of incredible beaches and port wine, Portuguese is as beautiful as where it comes from. For a rapidly growing language spoken all around the world, there’s surprisingly not a lot of common knowledge on it. Whether you are learning Portuguese or are just brushing up on your knowledge of romance languages, there’s a lot to be discovered. Here are our picks for the seven most interesting facts about Portuguese.

7 Surprising Facts About the Portuguese Language

1. It Took Nearly 1500 Years to Become a Recognized Language

Latin made it’s way over to modern-day Portugal in around 200BC. With the influence of Roman soldiers and colonizers, Latin stuck around. Portuguese was gradually created in the several hundred years that followed. However, it wasn’t until King Denis of Portugal came along in 1290 and declared it Portugal’s official language.


2. Nine Countries Use Portuguese as Their Official Language

Most know Brazil and Portugal as Portuguese speaking nations. However, Portugal is actually the official language of nine countries around the globe. Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Timor-Leste, Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verse, São Tomé and Principe all use Portuguese as their official language. Additionally, the Chinese autonomous territory of Macau uses Portuguese and Chinese as their official language.


3. Portuguese and Galician are Mutually Intelligible

Portugal and Galicia have a very intertwined history. The two languages evolved right alongside each other and inevitably created a lot of similarities along the way. Portuguese evolved from a variety of local Galician dialects and Latin until it emerged as its own distinct language centuries later. Even now, the two are mutually intelligible, which is just a fancy way of saying that native speakers of either language can understand one another.

facts Portuguese language
4. The Alphabet Had Some Renovations in 2009

Until about years ago, the Portuguese alphabet had only 23 letters. “K,” “W,” and “Y” were added in 2009 as part of an “Orthographic Agreement.” Why? These sounds are very rarely used in Portuguese origin words. However, with the rise of foreign words, primarily English origin words, they decided it was time to add the sounds officially.

facts Portuguese language
5. Portuguese Has More Than Five Verb Tenses

One thing that will really perplex anyone attempting to learn Portuguese is the verb tenses. While English has three main verb tenses, Portuguese is made up of six. With this, an average verb can have over 50 forms. Once you get the hang of it though, it’s not all that difficult.

facts Portuguese language

6. It’s the Second Fastest Growing European Language in the World

Second only to English, Portuguese is the fastest-growing European language in the world. Portuguese is currently the sixth most spoken language in the world and is only ticking up. According to UNESCO, Portuguese even has the potential to be an “international communication language” at this rate.


7. Only 5% of Portuguese Speakers are in Portugal

Brazil and Mozambique who are two of nine countries claiming Portuguese as their language have populations of 210 million and 30 million respectively. So it should come as no surprise that most Portuguese speakers are outside of Portugal. However, 5% is quite a staggering figure for the birthplace of the language. Especially given that around 280 million people worldwide are native Portuguese speakers.

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Melanie Hamilton
Melanie Hamilton

Melanie is an avid traveller with a passion for history and global foods. She is currently based in Tbilisi, Georgia where most of her time is occupied with qvevri wine and Soviet history. Having do-si-do'd her way across Europe and Latin America, she's enjoyed some of the world's most exciting places firsthand and can't wait to tell you about them.

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