Estimated native speakers: 236 million
Estimated total speakers: 300 million
Official/de facto official language in: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe
Language family: Indo-European - Romance
A brief history:
The language that Miguel de Cervantes once called "the sweet language" finds its roots in the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 216 BC. The soldiers, settlers and merchants who arrived from Rome brought Latin with them and within three centuries the region’s pre-existing local languages (with the exception of Basque) had all but disappeared. When the Western Roman Empire collapsed between the 5th and 8th centuries AD, the peninsula was occupied by Germanic tribes, locally known as “Barbarians”. Like all good ex-pats, the tribes soon learnt the local language. As Europe entered the Dark Ages, Portuguese (and Galician) started to split from the modern Spanish languages.
The Moorish invasion of 711 brought with it a new language, but Arabic was never adopted by the people of the Iberian Peninsula. Nowadays, approximately 700 Arabic words can be found in Portuguese. The language of the people outlasted the Moors and became the language of Iberian poetry.
When Portugal split from the Kingdom of Leon in 1139, Portuguese (at the time known as “the vulgar language”) was acknowledged as a language of its own to be called “the Portuguese Language”. During the Renaissance and Age of Discovery, Portuguese was carried around the world by sailors and became a lingua franca in Asia and Africa. Nowadays, Portuguese has only two common dialects (European and Brazilian) and is the world’s fifth most-spoken language.