Every living language or "lingua" has its stories, idiomatic expressions, and memories to hold on to.
Few people are aware of the extent of Portuguese history and culture, all the way from its detachment from Latin, to its first appearance in writing, to its modernized use in former Portuguese colonies, such as Brazil and Angola.
Apart from the wide variety of accents and richness of its vocabulary - perceived by historians as a popularization of the Latin language - the Portuguese language carries centuries of colonial history, naval conquests, and explorers who set sail from Lisbon to navigate their way across the seven seas between the 15th and 17th centuries.
The small Iberian nation has left a big footprint on the globe, with Portuguese speaking countries being found on four continents.
But European Portuguese is quite different to the forms that you will find elsewhere in the world. The differences aren't as big as between Spanish and Portuguese, but they are still noticeable.
For those of you who have decided to deepen your Portuguese learning by taking tutoring classes, let's discover together how this foreign language, often considered as obsolete or scarce, is still spoken on 4 continents and taught in language schools all over the world.
Why you should learn Portuguese is an important question, and the diversity of the answer will surprise you more than you probably think.
What is the History of the Portuguese Language?
According to the legend, a popularization of Latin was the origin of the Portuguese language...You may read this and think that Portuguese is latin slang...
Stop a moment and let us explain..!
According to linguists, the Portuguese language has phonetic, morphological, lexical, and syntactic terms that correspond to a more popular evolution of Latin...
Common under the Roman colonists in the third century BC, Latin then mixed its pronunciation, its grammar and its conjugation with other languages and dialects throughout the ages.
It was not until the fifth century, after the fall of the Roman Empire and its linguistic influence, that Galician-Portuguese started to diverge from other romance languages. The language began to develop using a dialect borrowed from the Latin structure in its use of adverbs, adjectives, and personal pronouns.
Rapidly differentiating itself from other languages that came after the Roman Empire, Galician-Portuguese reached its peak in the 13th century, when it became the prestigious language of medieval European lyricism.
It was named as the official language of the Kingdom of Portugal by King Denis I in 1290. The language was imposed on all inhabitants of Portugal by its extremely rich literature and presence in manuscripts.
However, just as the People's Republic of China did much later with Mandarin, Portugal rose to modernity in 1536, during the Renaissance, with the establishment of grammatical conventions which were orchestrated by writers and historians Fernão de Oliveira and João de Barros, who reformed the language.
Portugal's living language had a boom worldwide - especially in African countries - in the 16th century. Indeed, it was during the time of the great discoveries outside of Portugal that the Portuguese seafaring people led by Vasco de Gama, among others, spread Portuguese beyond its borders with their ambition to conquer new lands.
Finally, in 1990, Portugal ratified the Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement in order to encourage its former colonies to follow one and only one spelling. The nations targeted were:
- Cape Verde,
- and Sao Tome and Principe.
The widespread use of the language means that speaking Portuguese opens professional doors to people familiar with this tongue, across the world.
Who Are the Ambassadors of the Portuguese Language?
Often known as a migrant people, Portuguese politicians, athletes, musicians, and actors live all over the world.
They are often the ones who, like some celebrities who have the power to make you want to learn English, learn German, learn Russian, or learn Spanish, have managed to entice people to learn the Portuguese language.
The Portuguese Language in "Celebrity" Terms
Here is a select list of famous Portuguese people:
- Pope Damascus I (366-384), Pope of the Catholic Church from 366 until his death. Famous for reconciling differences between the Church of Rome and the Church of Antioch.
- Pope John XXI (1215-1277), Pope of the Catholic Church who is believed to have been the only physician to have ever been Pope.
Art, Literature, and Music
- Paula Rego (1935- ), artist known for telling stories through her works. Her work is often considered to reflect feminism.
- José Sousa Saramago (1922-2010), Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1998 who was praised by the Nobel committee for his "imagination, compassion, and irony".
- Luís de Camões (1524-1580), thought to be the Portuguese language's greatest poet, whose talent has been likened to Shakespeare and Homer, amongst others. His masterpiece, Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads), is praised for being the most important single piece of work to the Portuguese language.
- Cesária Évora (1941-2011), Cape Verdean singer known as the "Barefoot Diva". Credited with giving the Portuguese language classics such as Sodade.
Business and Politics
- Américo Amorim (1934-2017), owned a 50% stake in the world's largest cork producer and was named the 385th richest person in the world by Forbes in 2015.
- Teresa Heinz Kerry (1938– ), philanthropist, heiress of H.J. Heinz Company, widow of Henry John Heinz III, and wife of John Kerry. (Mozambican-born Portuguese)
- António Guterres (1949- ), former Portuguese Prime Minister who is the current Secretary-General of the United Nations.
- Cristiano Ronaldo (1985- ), five-time world player of the year, four-time Champions League winner, and the man who led Portugal to their only major tournament win, the 2016 European Championships.
- Luis Figo (1972- ), league title winner in Portugal, Spain, and Italy, he was voted the best player in the world in 2001.
- Jose Mourinho (1963- ), Champions League winning manager with two different clubs, he has won league titles in every country where he has worked. He was also voted FIFA Coach of the Year in 2010.
- Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (1942-2014), born in Mozambique but represented Portugal at football. Top scorer at the World Cup in 1966, and a winner of many league titles and a European Cup with Portuguese side Benfica. He was voted European footballer of the year in 1965, and is widely thought of as being one of the best footballers to have ever lived.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list. Far from it. In fact we haven't even mentioned the explorers of the 15th and 16th century, such as Vasco da Gama, Henry the Navigator, and Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed the seven seas to find new lands and discover things about our world that have shaped modern thought for centuries.
Search for a Brazilian Portuguese online course here.
Brazilian Promoters of the Portuguese Language
You will notice that the list above doesn't mention a single Brazilian. The reason for this is that a whole article could be written on Brazilians who have promoted the Portuguese language in one way or another. Were we to write such an article, it would be sure to include:
- Camila Alves - Model and designer
- Ayrton Senna - Three time Formula One world champion
- Gisele Bündchen - Model, actor, and UN Environment Programme Ambassador
- Pelé - Three time World Cup winner, seven time Ballon D'Or winner, and FIFA Player of the Century winner.
- Princess Isabel - Advocate for, and ultimately signature of, the law that abolished slavery in Brazil in 1888.
All of the above are ambassadors of their language and culture. The two are interlinked and therefore promotion of one means an indirect promotion of the other.
How Learning Portuguese Can Help Your Understanding of Portuguese History and Culture
Learning Portuguese at school, in a language school, or via private lessons is in part thanks to the national explorers of the 15th century.
There are numerous reasons to learn Portuguese, and if you choose to do so, you will learn about all these exciting historical figures.
Additionally, taking Portuguese lessons will improve the way that you express yourself - whether via free Internet lessons or paying evening classes - and give you an opportunity to revisit the famous Treaty of Tordesillas, signed in 1494, which aimed to to divide the "New World" between Spain and Portugal.
"Never was the world as big as after Magellan's journey," said historian Pierre Chaunu.
After the treaty, Ferdinand Magellan, who had already become the first European to lead a voyage to Asia, undertook a voyage to reach the Molucca Islands (Spice Islands), a project that guided him - although it was not his initial project - to embark his fleet on a legendary world tour. Although he died in the process, his efforts laid the ground work for lucrative trade between the region and Portugal.
Learning Portuguese and Its Music
The Portuguese language has long given birth to amazing songwriters and musicians.
In fact, music has always been an integral part of the Portuguese culture. Dancers, musicians, and informed listeners, illustrate the aesthetic virtues of the Magellanic language without using a dictionary.
But even outside of Portugal, learning Portuguese to travel is a brilliant idea. Brazil, Angola, and Cape Verde also have a great love for music, as you will see with the fado bossa nova or the Cape Verdean morna, which have blown many people away.
So, just like when you took your first steps in Spanish and immersed yourself in Ricky Martin (do not pretend you did not visit that musical universe...), you may want to learn the Portuguese language via the country's artists.
First, head to Cape Verde and indulge yourself in the melancholic lyrics of Cesária Évora, which can accompany souls in search of purity and transport them as they discover new words in Portuguese.
Then why not travel to Brazil, by listening to the playful sounds of Seu Jorge or Jorge Ben Jor which, for those of you who love football, may have already heard the hit Mas Que Nada.
Finally, for those of you looking to delve into the traditional Portuguese music, you will have to turn to Fado: a Portuguese soul singing, which dates back to Lisbon in the nineteenth century. Fado has been sung by artists like Amália Rodrigues, Mariza, Dulce Pontes, Ana Moura, and Carlos do Carmo.
All in all, enough artists to brighten up any playlist...
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