The Portuguese-speaking World

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The Portuguese Language

The Portuguese language, a Romance language of the Indo-European language family, is the national language of Portugal, the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira, and Brazil. It is also an official language of former Portuguese colonies in Asia: Timor Leste and Macau; and in Africa*: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe- collectively known as the PALOP- Países Áfricanos da Língua Oficial Portuguesa. In 2014, Equatorial Guinea was formally admitted as a full member of the CPLP (Comunidade dos Países da Língua Portuguesa), thus making Portuguese as an official language, along with French and Spanish.

With a total of more than 236 million speakers, Portuguese is one of the most spoken languages in the world, the 3rd most spoken Indo-European language, and the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere. Portuguese is termed "the language of Camões", after one of Portugal's greatest literary figures, Luís Vaz de Camões.

There are also significant Portuguese-speaking immigrant communities in many countries including Andorra (15.4%), Australia, Bermuda, Canada (0.72% or 219,275 persons in the 2006 census but between 400,000 and 500,000 according to Nancy Gomes), Curaçao, France, Japan, Jersey, Luxembourg (9%), Namibia (about 4-5% of the population, mainly refugees from Angola in the North of the country), Paraguay (10.7% or 636,000 persons), Macau (0.6% or 12,000 persons), South Africa, Switzerland (196,000 nationals in 2008), Venezuela (1 to 2% or 254,000 to 480,000), and the USA (0.24% of the population or 687,126 speakers according to the 2007 American Community Survey), mainly in California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts (where it is the second most spoken language in the state), New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. In some parts of the former Portuguese India, i.e. Goa, Daman, and Diu, the language is still spoken.


According to estimates by UNESCO, Portuguese is one of the fastest-growing European languages after English. The Portuguese language, according to the newspaper The Portugal News publishing data given from UNESCO, has the highest potential for growth as an international language in southern Africa and South America. The Portuguese-speaking African countries are expected to have a combined population of 83 million by 2050. In total, the Portuguese-speaking countries will have 335 million people by the same year. Since Brazil signed into the economic community of Mercosul with other South American nations, such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, there has been an increase in interest in the study of Portuguese in those South American countries. The demographic, political, economical and cultural weight of Brazil in the continent will continue to strengthen the presence of the language in the region. Although early in the 21st century, after Macau was ceded to China and Brazilian immigration to Japan slowed down, the use of Portuguese was in decline in Asia, it is once again becoming a language of opportunity there; mostly because of increased diplomatic and financial ties with Portuguese-speaking countries in China, but also some interest in their cultures, mainly Koreans and Japanese about Brazil.

Portuguese is also one of the official languages of several international organizations, including the Mercosur, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the Union of South American Nations, the Organization of American States,the African Union, and the European Union.