One can never picture a Fado artist singing a song about saudade, longing, distance and love in any language but Portuguese. Just as one can never imagine Greek’s Gods living anywhere but on Mount Olympus! It goes without saying! It’s just how these things should be.
Spoken by around 215 million native speakers, Portuguese is a Romance language which has evolved from Vulgar Latin and Medieval Galician. It is the most spoken language in South America and the 2nd most spoken language in Latin America, being the official language in 9 countries.
Almost 90% of the lexicon of Portuguese is derived from Latin. Nevertheless, the Portuguese language is heavily influenced by Arabic. This is a result of the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages. To this date, many words derived from Arabic remain in use in Portuguese, such as ‘aldeia’ (village), ‘azeite’ (olive oil) and ‘garrafa’ (bottle), to name just a few.
As one might imagine, the language is closely related to Spanish. These two languages share 89% of their vocabulary and grammar. Despite the resemblance, however, Portuguese and Spanish are not mutually intelligible. So, most probably if you already know Spanish, learning Portuguese will be a piece of cake! 😊
For those of you familiar with the phrase “divided by a common language” when talking about American and British English, the same goes for Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. They are almost the same . . . but not quite, as there are differences in grammar, spelling and the meaning of certain words. What’s more, until 1990, Brazil and Portugal even had different spelling conventions.
Let’s focus our attention now on what makes this language so unique.
A first thing would be its enormously rich range of vowel sounds. Typical of the Portuguese sound system is the use of nasal vowels, indicated in the orthography by m or n following the vowel (e.g., sim ‘yes,’ bem ‘well’) or by the use of a tilde (∼) over the vowel (mão ‘hand,’ nação ‘nation’). How lucky are all the Portuguese singers!
Secondly, most of the Western European languages, Romance and Germanic alike, have the days of the week named after a mix of pagan and/or Christian references. Portuguese assigns them all numbers except for the weekend. 😊 Saturday (the day of Saturn – the god) is known as the Sabbath= Sábado and Sunday (the day of the Sun) – the Lord’s Day = Domingo.
Every other weekday is just numbered though: Monday = Segunda-feira /Tuesday = Terça-feira (the third day). Pretty simple, right?
Lastly, the language takes great pride in the word “saudade”, which in theory means “to miss something”, considering it as being unique to Portuguese and untranslatable, as it represents the feeling of regret, nostalgia, loss.
Portuguese is a rich, intense and beautiful language, just like the people who speak it.
One should learn the language, even if the only reason for it would be listening to Fado music and understanding it, or being able to read Camões in their native language. 😊
We can’t conclude, without leaving this here! Enjoy it. We know we have!