Portuguese Speaking Countries

We explain which countries speak Portuguese and what are the characteristics of this language. In addition, we tell you the history of the Portuguese language.

Portuguese speaking countries
With 270 million native speakers, Portuguese is the most widely spoken language in the southern hemisphere.

In which countries is Portuguese spoken?

the portuguese It is a Romance language (that is, descended from Latin) of European origin and belonging to the Indo-European language family.. His direct predecessor was the Galician-Portuguese. It is the ninth most spoken language in the world, with some 270 million native speakers, and the most spoken in the southern hemisphere of the planet.

Known as “the language of Camões”, the greatest poet of the language, the Portuguese language it is the official language of eight countries in Europe, Africa, America and Asia, and it is also spoken in its creolized form in the different regions that were part of the Portuguese colonies in the world. In addition, during the 20th century, the Portuguese people emigrated abundantly to Spanish, German and Anglo-Saxon speaking countries, where there is still a presence of the language on the part of migrant communities.

The international presence and importance of the Portuguese language led to the emergence in 1996 of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, a multilateral entity of Portuguese-speaking nations, based in Lisbon, Portugal. This organization sponsors the International Institute of the Portuguese Language, in charge of the dissemination, study and enrichment of Portuguese worldwide.

See also: Countries that speak Spanish

History of the Portuguese language

the portuguese arose in the Iberian Peninsula, the result of the long evolution of Vulgar Latin or spoken Latin that the Romans brought to the Celtiberian peoples of the region in the 3rd century BC. C. The Romans baptized those regions as Lusitania and Gallaecia, historical precursors of modern Portugal and Galicia. The variant of Latin that was spoken in these regions was heavily influenced by the language of the Celtswhich lacked writing.

Later, the Latin of this region received an important contribution from the Swabian and Visigothic peoples, who settled in the area after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. C. When the latter occurred, the linguistic uniformity was fractured, since the different peoples spoke Latin in their own way, and that led to the creation of new dialects, some quite different from each other, such as Catalan, Galician-Portuguese and Hispanic languages ​​(Castilian, Aragonese, Leonese, Asturian, among others).

Something similar happened in the year 711, when the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula took place. and a good part of it remained under the control of al-Andalus. This Islamic regime, in comparison with medieval Europe, was the bearer of a great cultural and scientific wealth, and of an important cultural tolerance that not only allowed the Latin dialects to continue to exist, but also contributed widely to them, especially in lexical matters. and phonetics.

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Already in the 9th century, the first texts written in an independent language appeared in the northern region of Portugal., although continually accompanied by Latin phrases. Many of them had to do with the Portucalense County, founded in 868 during the first efforts to expel the Arabs from the Iberian Peninsula (the Reconquista).

But only with the birth of the Kingdom of Portugal in 1139, with the coronation of Alfonso I of Portugal (1109-1185) and the triumph in the battle of Ourique against the Muslims, did the vernacular language take its first steps towards being established as a national language. .

Called “Vulgar Latin” at the time, Galician-Portuguese (or Medieval Portuguese) became in 1290 the substitute language for Classical Latin at the royal court and in the studies of the first Portuguese university (the General status founded by King Dionysius I of Portugal). Barely six years later it was already the language of the chancellery and in which local poetry was composed, and from the end of the 13th century to the 14th century there was a period of splendor and cultural flourishing in the region.

At the beginning of the 15th century, the Galician-Portuguese was presenting its first divisions, as a result of the political and territorial separation between the kingdom of Portugal and the region of Galicia, under the control of the nascent Spanish (Castilian) monarchy. Thus, as the central-southern Portuguese variant was established as a cultured norm of the language, the Portuguese language began to be formally distinguished from Galician.

The period of expansion of the Portuguese language took place between the 15th and 16th centuries.as a result of the imperial competition between Spain and Portugal for the conquest of America, and the use of Portuguese as lingua franca between Europe and Asia, given the importance of Portuguese navigators and explorers in founding maritime trade routes to the East. From then on, Portuguese was spoken not only in Brazil, but also in India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Malaysia, Indonesia, and parts of China and Japan.

Likewise, the language also spread to Africa, when the colonial and commercial Empire of Portugal established colonies in Angola, Mozambique, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and other regions of the continent, which played a fundamental role in the trade of slaves to the plantations of the so-called “New Continent”.

Characteristics of Portuguese

The general features of the Portuguese language are the following:

  • It is a Romance language, derived from Latin. and related to Spanish, French, Galician and Catalan, among others. At the same time, it presents a great influence from Arabic, Carthaginian, Phoenician and Celtic.
  • It differs from its sister languages ​​in many aspects, not only phonetic and lexical, but also grammatical., keeping certain similarities with Vulgar Latin and with Old Spanish. In addition, it has a complex phonological system, with 9 vowel phonemes and 19 consonants, as well as 10 oral and 5 nasal diphthongs.
  • It has been orthographically reformed five times: 1911, 1943, 1945, 1971 and 1990. In the latter, common standards were established for all Portuguese-speaking countries.
  • It is usually called luso either lusitano, in reference to the pre-Roman towns of the region (which the Romans baptized “Lusitania”). The fact of speaking Portuguese is called lusophony.

Portuguese speaking countries

Portuguese speaking countries map
Portuguese is an official, co-official or minority language in almost twenty countries.

Portuguese is an important international language, whose largest number of speakers are found in Brazil (81%), Portugal (4%), Angola (4%) and Mozambique (3%), but it is present in other national entities. Portuguese is an official, co-official or minority language in almost twenty countries.

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Country % of Lusophone citizens Number of Portuguese Speakers language status
Portugal 99% 10,262,000 inhab. Official language
Angola 71% 20,426,700 inhab. co-official language
Argentina 1.9% 802,341 inhab. minority language
Brazil 95.59% 198,700,000 inhab. Official language
Cape Verde 89.9% 450,526 inhab. Official language
Spain 0.08% 40,000 inhab. minority language
Guinea-Bissau fifteen % 1,460,253 inhab. Official language
Equatorial Guinea 1.18% 21,000 inhab. co-official language
India 0.005% 65,000 inhab. minority language
Japan 0.3% 467,150 inhab. minority language
Macau (China) two % 13,000 inhab. co-official language
Mozambique 50.3% 12,600,000 inhab. Official language
Paraguayan 8.9% 600,000 inhab. minority language
Sao Tome and Principe 95% 183,742 inhab. Official language
South Africa 1.13% 600,000 inhab. minority language
East Timor 31.94% 339,541 inhab. co-official language
Uruguay 25.9% 854,441 inhab. minority language
Venezuela 1.6% 527,700 inhab. minority language

Dialects and variants of the Portuguese language

macau-Portuguese speaking countries
Both Chinese and Portuguese are spoken in Macau.

The Portuguese language, as occurs with most colonial languages, has a large number of dialects and geographical variants, as well as creolizations and hybridizations resulting from the expansion of the language to other continents and sustained contact with other cultures. The main dialects of Portuguese are:

  • european dialect. It refers to the typical way of speaking Portuguese in Portugal, which presents more or less marked differences depending on the region of the country, or if it is the Portuguese spoken in the Azores or Madeira islands. In general, the Portuguese of the central-southern region of the country, like the one spoken in Lisbon and the University of Coimbra, is considered the cultured norm, a more rigid and closed Portuguese compared to its American variants.
  • brazilian dialect. It refers to the Portuguese spoken in the different regions of Brazil, which presents differences in vocabulary, pronunciation and a few spelling discrepancies with respect to the European variant, despite the fact that it is actually a set of dialects, given the enormous size and quantity of population of Brazil. However, they have common traits, such as the use of you instead of your. The main Brazilian dialects are Northeast (states of Alagoas, Maranhão, Piauí, Paraíba, Pernambuco), Bahia (Bahia and Sergipe), Paulistano (São Paulo), Gaucho (Rio Grande do Sul), Fluminense (Rio de Janeiro). and Espíritu Santo) and the sertão (Goiás, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul).
  • Angolan dialect. It refers to Angolan Portuguese, the variant with the most speakers in all of Africa. Despite being the official language and the educated university norm, Portuguese is in constant interference and hybridization with the other local languages, which is why, together with the Mozambican variant (of less intensity), it is one of the Portuguese dialects. of more variety and diversification. Its pronunciation is quite different from the European and American variants, with its own cadence and a lexicon highly adapted to local reality.
  • Macau dialect. It refers to the Portuguese dialect spoken in the Chinese special administrative region of Macao, distinct from Macaense Creole, a hybrid born in this Asian region. Macao Portuguese differs from the European and American variants both in its grammar and in its pronunciation and cadence, since it is a more faithful variant of medieval Portuguese that arrived at the hands of explorers in the 16th century. And also, naturally, the lexicon of this variant has been adapted to the Chinese cultural reality.
  • Oliventian dialect. It refers to the Portuguese dialect spoken in the region of Olivenza and Táliga, in the Spanish province of Badajoz. This dialect arose as a result of the fact that these two Spanish municipalities were part of the Kingdom of Portugal between 1297 and 1801. It is a Portuguese very similar to that spoken in the Portuguese region of Alentejo, and which is currently undergoing a marked process of Castilianization, therefore which is considered an endangered variant.
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Influence of Portuguese on other languages

Portuguese, as a colonial language, has left its mark on other languages ​​of the world, contributing terms and usages (known as Lusitanisms) and giving birth to Creole variants in different Asian and African territories, such as Macanese Creole, Cape Verdean Creole, Forro Creole, Indo-Portuguese Creole or Papiamento. From his encounters with the Spaniard, the portunola kind of intermediate language between the two.

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  • “History of the Portuguese language” on Wikipedia.
  • “Portuguese Dialects” on Wikipedia.
  • “Origins of Portuguese Language” in The Translation Company.
  • “Portuguese language (português)”in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.