Portuguese is currently the official language of 8 countries in the CPLP (Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa): Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, São Tome e Príncipe, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Timor Leste. It is also an official language of Macau, which is now part of China, and is still spoken in parts of Goa and Mauritania. Ecuatorial Guinea applied to be a member of CPLP and would add Portuguese as an official language in the case of its entrance. In the United States there are vibrant immigrant communities around the country that still use Portuguese as their second language.
One of the largest Portuguese speaking nations is Brazil. Today Brazil is considered by many to be an emerging superpower, whose progress will impact the world. Already Brazil makes its mark hosting the 2016 Olympics, and is known for its passionate music and innovative dance, soccer teams, engineering and architectural firsts (Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam, which provides energy to much of South America, and Brasilia, Brazil’s capital built in 1960). The site of the Amazon river and forest, this places Brazil in the forefront of environmental discussions.
For careers in government, art, music, dance, engineering, architecture, environmental science, international business and marketing, knowing Portuguese offers you more avenues to explore.
Portuguese developed from Latin as did the other romance languages. The earliest documents written in Portuguese date back to the 9th century. Portugal became an independent country in 1143, and Portuguese was declared an official/distinct language in 1290. Portuguese was used as a lingua franca during the age of exploration. You probably learned of three of those navigators in elementary school: Magalhães (Magellan), Vasco da Gama and Pedro Alvares Cabral. “Modern” Portuguese evolved in the 16th century and most of the speakers these days are in Brazil. Riveting Luso-Brazilian literature has been published in modern Portuguese, written by authors such as Luis Camões, Eça de Queiros, Machado de Assis, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Clarice Lispector, Jorge Amado and José Saramago
Portuguese opens the door to cultures on four continents: Portuguese speaking immigrant communities in the United States and Canada, Brazil in South America, Portugal in Europe and various nations in Africa. Students interested in Latin American and in African Diaspora studies, will be able to travel to Brazil and explore texts and culture by people of African descent in Brazil and by Africans who speak Portuguese. Since it is less studied than some other European languages (in spite of its world importance), students who speak Portuguese will stand out among the crowd. Portuguese enables the student of environmental and biological sciences to actively participate in journeys and projects occurring in the Amazon rain forest. Spanish speakers and students can enhance their knowledge and program of study by learning Portuguese. Comparison of Spanish and Portuguese languages and their European and Latin American literatures gains popularity every day in academic circles.
Studying Portuguese, you encounter people and cultures that are engaging, diverse, ancient and modern, traditional and innovative. “Seja bem-vindo!”