Which Countries Speak Portuguese

You might have asked yourself which countries speak Portuguese. Well, not the countries themselves, obviously, but the people that live in them hihi. Well, in today’s post I try to address this question and I will also give you some insights about the history of the Portuguese speaking countries. Let’s go? =)

Europe

Portugal

Inhabitants: 10,839,514

Capital: Lisboa

Portuguese is the native language of Portugal.

History:

Portuguese originated from Latin, brought by the Romans into the Iberian Peninsula. Archaic Portuguese developed in the V century AC as a Romanic dialect called the Galician-Portuguese. It stayed like this till the Renaissance, when it officially became Portuguese.

Since then, it has suffered some mutations and alterations to its grammar structures and vocabulary. The last one was the New Orthographical Agreement of the Portuguese Language of 1990, which was signed by most Portuguese speaking countries, in order to give uniformity to the Portuguese language across all those countries. A lot of controversy has been taking place due to this Agreement with many critics defending it is not being adopted by all countries in the same way. In Portugal, most critics claim that the biggest reason for this attempt at unifying the language is economical rather than for the best interest of the language and its culture.

Portuguese is now widely-spoken, due to its power during colonial periods. Next, let us take a look at the countries and regions where we can hear this beautiful language in all its variations.

 

South America

Brazil

Inhabitants: 207,353,391

Capital: Brasília

Portuguese is the native language.

History:

  • Brazil is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world and the only Portuguese speaking country in America. Brazilian Portuguese is very similar to European Portuguese. However, the accent of these two Portuguese variants is quite different, a bit like American English and European English. There are also some differences in grammar and vocabulary (check here for more info).
  • Brazil was one of the “crown jewels” of Portuguese colonization. Around 1500, a man named Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brasil and the Portuguese slowly started migrating to the country. The Portuguese language was then brought to Brazil during this colonial period (ca 1500-1800).
  • The Portuguese took a lot of the Portuguese culture to Brazil, but the opposite also took place. Nowadays, Brazil culture is well present in Portugal. The Portuguese like to watch Brazilian “telenovelas”, listen to Brazilian music, try Brazilian food and travel to Brazil, among other things.

 

Africa

Angola

Inhabitants: 29,310,273

Capital: Luanda

Portuguese is the official language; However, most of the Angolan people have  one of the African languages found in the region as first language.

History:

  • Angola was also one of the Portuguese colonies. While Brazil saw its independence much earlier, Angola kept being a colony up until the middle of the 20th century. In fact, after some war years between Portugal and Angola, its independence only occurred in 1974, after the Portuguese dictatorship was abolished.
  • 85 % of Angolan people are still  fluent in Portuguese till this day, with as much as 75 % of households using it as first language; However, this happens more in the big cities, while much less in the rural areas, where people prefer the African languages as their household language.

 

Mozambique

Inhabitants: 26,573,706

Capital: Maputo

Portuguese is the official language; However, it is spoken as a second language by the majority of its population.

History:

  • Like Angola or Brazil, Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony. Like Angola, it only got its independence after 1975, when the Portuguese dictatorship ended.
  • Around 50% (80% in urban areas, 35% in rural areas) of the population is fluent in Portuguese. However, the language is used as a second language, with the majority off people choosing some of the African languages found in this area as first language.
  • Mozambique has a big influence from Portugal, but the opposite is also true. This can be seen in food, music, art, movies, traditions, etc.

 

Guinea-Bissau

Inhabitants: 1,792,338

Capital: Bissau

Portuguese is the official language but it is spoken only by minority as a native language [around 27% of the population].

History:

  • Along with Angola and Mozambique, Guinea was a Portuguese colony from mid-1600s till around 1974.
  • Only up to 27% of the people are native in Portuguese; The “língua-franca” is Guinea-Bissau Creole/Portuguese Creole, which is spoken by more than half of the population. This language is a mix between Portuguese and the regional African languages and most of the people use it as a first language.

 

Equatorial Guinea

Inhabitants: 778,358

Capital: Malabo

Portuguese is spoken by a significant minority as a native language.

History:

  • Main official languages: Spanish (spoken by 70 % of the population) and French.
  • Portuguese in an official language in this country only since 2010. Guinea adopted Portuguese as an official language to be able to join the CPLP (Community of Portuguese Language Countries). Portuguese is now being taught to children in primary schools as a Government policy to promote the language.

 

Cape Verde

Inhabitants: 560,899

Capital: Praia

Portuguese is the official language and it is spoken by the majority of the population.

History:

  • Cape Verde was also a Portuguese colony from mid-1500s to 1975;
  • Portuguese is used in the news, radio, TV and official documents. It is also used as an official language in schools. However, Cape Verdean Creole (kind of a Portuguese-based creole) is used in everyday interactions, instead of Portuguese.

 

São Tomé and Príncipe

Inhabitants: 201,025

Capital: São Tomé

Portuguese is the official language and it is spoken by the vast majority of the population as a native language.

History:

  • São Tomé e Principe was another colony that only had its independence in 1975.
  • There are other creoles which are spoken in São Tomé, but Portuguese has a strong presence in the country.

 

Asia & Oceania

East Timor

Inhabitants: 1,291,358

Capital: Dili

Portuguese is spoken by a small minority as a native language -> less than 1000 people are native in Portuguese with the majority having Tetum as their native language.

History:

  • Timor is located in Southeast Asia and it is known by its amazing beaches. Timor was a Portuguese colony between 1500 and the 20th century. Along with other countries above mentioned, Timor became independent in 1975;
  • Its official languages are Portuguese and Tetum, but Portuguese has a very small presence in the country nowadays.

 

Macao

Inhabitants: 601,969

Capital: Macau

Like in Timor, Portuguese is spoken in Macau by a small minority as a native language.

History:

  • Nowadays, Macau is in the administrative region and it belongs to China, but it belonged to Portuguese administration until the year 2000!
  • The official languages of Macau are Chinese and Portuguese. However, in the household only a minor part speaks Portuguese as a native language (most speak Chinese).

 

Goa

Inhabitants: 1,817,000

Capital: Panji

Portuguese is spoken only by well-educated, older people.

History:

During the Portuguese colony period, Portuguese was one of the official languages of Goa. Nowadays, however, it is not anymore. In fact, only some older and well-educated people still speak it, which means that Portuguese has lost most of its power in the territory.

 

Member States of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries

Please note that Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde,  Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor belong to the Member States of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa; CPLP). All of the 9 member states have Portuguese as their official language and were mostly former Portuguese colonies.

Moreover, I would like to add that especially in South America, there are small Portuguese “communities” in countries like for example Uruguay, Venezuela, Argentina and Paraguay.

 


I hope you enjoyed my article and know now which countries speak Portuguese. I would love to hear if you have ever been in any of those countries and / or if you heard Portuguese in any other countries? In case you have any questions or corrections, please feel free to leave a comment below. I will definitely take a look at it and answer you 🙂

Beijinhos,

Mia.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments to “Which Countries Speak Portuguese”

  1. It’s so interesting how the Portuguese language spread so much! I wanted to learn Portuguese at one point, but for the wrong reasons. I was simply thinking about the money that could be made from translating. When I started to learn it, I found that my reason was too shallow to persevere. Now, that you’ve shown all the places where Portuguese is spoken, it makes more sense because it could increase the enjoyment in traveling to learn the language. Is the language spread so broadly because of the Portuguese empire’s attempts to conquer other nations? Just curious.

    1. Hey Tiffany!

      Thank you so much for your comment. Indeed, being able to speak a language of so many different countries can be a good reason to learn it, although your first reason was also a valid one. But as you say, it is better to have more motivation to learn something rather than money. Now at least you have two 😉

      Indeed, the Portuguese empire was quite big in the 1500s and we conquered many places. Therefore, the language stuck to those places and it evolved, mixing with other regional languages sometimes, giving origin to the different creoles. It is a very interesting thing to see how these languages developed.=)

      I hope I answered your question. If you decide to learn Portuguese again, feel free to come back to my page and check out the new materials and content I am constantly posting.

      Thank you,

      Mia

  2. I didn’t know that Portuguese was spoken in so many African countries! I am somewhat fluent in Spanish, and so I’ve often considered learning Portuguese as a natural extension of that, but I don’t know whether it will be a lot harder or come easier than I expect. Any advice?

    1. Hello Danny!

      Thank you for your comment =)

      I mean, if you know Spanish it would be easier for you to learn Portuguese grammar and vocabulary. However, at the beginning you would probably have a harder time understanding the pronunciation and it would probably take you a bit more time to get there. However, if you followed a pronunciation course, like the Mimic Method (more infos here) there would be a bigger chance that you would be speaking Portuguese really soon.

      Hope this can help you =) If you do decide to learn Portuguese do not hesitate to come by my website because I am constantly updating it with new materials and posts about this beautiful language 😉

      Thank you,

      Mia

    2. Hi again Danny!

      Sorry, I forgot to add the link to the Mimic Method. Here it is:

      https://learn-portuguese.org/european-portuguese-language-course-the-mimic-method

      Thanks,
      Mia

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