Some historical facts about the Portuguese language
The world is so vast that sometimes we forget that our “tiny inner world” doesn’t mirror the reality of all humans, all of whom have their own distinct “tiny inner worlds” and different realities.
In some parts of this huge world, there are misconceptions about our country, our language, and our people.
As absurd as it may seem to Portuguese people, in certain countries the Portuguese language is often confused with Spanish—or Castilian, as it is called in Spain.
There are those who mistakenly think Portugal is or was part of Spain, which is totally false because until Portugal became a country, Spain was not a country either! They shared the same peninsula geographically speaking, but with different peoples and languages.
Some people also mistakenly think that the European Portuguese language is derived from “Brazilian” or “Brazilian Portuguese.” The first mistake is a terminology error: Brazilian is the term that describes a native of Brazil, not a language.
In Brazil, one speaks Brazilian Portuguese, which is derived from the Portuguese we speak in Portugal because we were already a nation when we colonized Brazil in the mid-1530s, giving rise to the Brazilian variant of our language.
And no, we are not “Latinos” in the American sense of the word, which is arguably associated with “race.” The word, anthropologically speaking, refers to the people that lived in the Italian peninsula (Italy, so totally unrelated!).
Portuguese is a Latin language, yes, but only because, along with other prior influences, it is derived from Latin just like languages such as Spanish, French, and Italian. Latin is a dead language, disseminated by the ancient Roman Empire, in times when the Roman and Greek people were the pinnacle of Western civilization and considered all other cultures mere “barbarians.”
When South and North America were “colonized” by the people of the Old World, the Germanic peoples conquered the northernmost parts while the peoples of the Iberian Peninsula (whose language was derived from the Latin of the Roman Empire) conquered the southernmost countries, leaving their Latin-derived languages in these parts of the Americas.
Hence the designation “Latin America,” wrongly associated with racial issues.
What is the Community of Portuguese Language Countries?
Today, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) is made up of 9 countries located on 4 continents (Europe, America, Africa, and Asia) whose official language is Portuguese:
Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Portugal, Timor-Leste, and São Tomé e Príncipe.
In all, there are approximately 230 million Portuguese speakers in different parts of the world, bonded by brotherhood and cooperation, ties that aren’t based on territorial proximity but founded on a historical bond and the sharing of the same official language to this day.
This means that by choosing to translate your texts into Portuguese, you are not making your business known to a mere 10 million people in Portugal, but to more than 200 million people worldwide.
And that’s not counting the approximately 13 million non-native Portuguese speakers in the world.
Portuguese is among the 10 most widely spoken languages on our planet.
Naturally, there are legal rules governing the spelling of the Portuguese language.
This is one of the reasons why you should always entrust your Portuguese translations and revisions, as well as adaptations from Brazilian Portuguese to European Portuguese, to experienced professionals that are proficient in both the target and source languages.
To do a good job, it’s not enough to be very good at the target language—having a proficient knowledge of the native language, its specificities and variants, grammatical rules, and spelling standards, is fundamental!
The art of translation lies less in knowing the other language than in knowing your own.
– Ned Rorem
Be sure not to miss Part II of this article where we will dive further into spelling rules and spelling agreements.
Read more about this subject here!