World Languages: Portuguese

Number 6: Portuguese

We’re almost half way through our list of the world’s most spoken languages. This week we are covering number six: Portuguese!

The Portuguese language is native to Portugal and Spain where is it spoken across the population. Worldwide over 203 million people (3.5% of the world’s population) speak this eloquent language. It is also popular across 12 countries worldwide including Andorra, Angola and Brazil. Because of the many countries where this language is spoken, there are regional dialects that have developed over time, but (for the most part) can be understood by other Portuguese speakers.

You may know Portuguese as a romance language as it has many Latin roots. It is part of the Indo-European language family and shares similar roots with Spanish. Some may find the two languages indistinguishable but when it comes to the trained ear of a Spanish or Portuguese speaker, there are many differences. Because Portuguese is part of the Indo-European language family, there are many cognates – words that sound similar to English words – among the language that may be understood. Some of these words include “bicicleta,” “televisão” and “problema,” which mean “bicycle,” “television” and “problem” in English.

Portuguese uses a Latin alphabet with 26 letters. Of these 26 letters, there are 7 vowels with 14 vowel sounds that are distinguished with accents to show pronunciation.

Portuguese follows a subject-verb-object sentence structure and, as mentioned, can have similar sounding words to Spanish or Italian. If you know either of these languages, you would most likely have an easier time learning this language, however if you do not have a basis in these languages…fear not! Portuguese is one of the easier languages for English speaking natives to learn.

Next week we’re half way through the list! Come back to find out what Ethnologue has named the fifth most spoken language in the world!