Portuguese, together with Spanish, is the fastest growing language in western Europe and has the highest growth potential as an “international communication language in Southern Africa and South America”, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
UNESCO’s findings are backed up by a report published last week by the Geographic Distribution of the Portuguese Language organisation, which identifies Portuguese as gaining in popularity around the world.
The language, according the report, is now being spoken throughout Europe, including Luxembourg and Andorra where 10 per cent of the population speak it.
In Luxembourg, the language is gaining strong roots, and most citizens of Portuguese descent can speak it perfectly. It is growing in popularity to the extent that there are now Portuguese radio and TV stations, and it is being taught in several schools.
There are also strong Portuguese speaking communities in Belgium, France, Germany, Jersey and Switzerland.
UNESCO says that even in Britain the number of people speaking Portuguese in the Creole dialect is on the increase with the arrival of more immigrants from Portugal’s former colonies in Asia and Africa.
The Portuguese speaking African countries are expected to have a combined population of 83 million by 2050. The language is also starting to regain popularity in Asia.
With more than 200 million native speakers, Portuguese is one of the few languages spoken in such widely distributed parts of the world, and is the fifth most-spoken language in the world.
It is spoken by 187 million people in South America, 17 million in Africa, 12 million in Europe, two million in North America and over half a million in Asia.
Because Brazil, with 184 million inhabitants, constitutes about 51 per cent of South America’s population, Portuguese is the most widely spoken language on the continent and is now used as the first language in all inter-government negotiations and trade talks.
UNESCO points out that Portuguese is an “optional learning language in 11 European countries” - nine of them in the European Union. It is also an official language of the EU, the African Union and the South American Latin Union.
More than one million people in South Africa are now speaking the language and 20 per cent of the population of Namibia use it as their mother tongue.