Junior Language Challenge: why Portuguese?

The Junior Language Challenge 2015 launched last week, with children all over the UK learning Portuguese in the first round of our national competition. If you’re wondering why we picked Portuguese, here are a few fun facts about one of the world’s most widely spoken languages.

Boa sorte to everyone taking part in the Junior Language Challenge – and if you’re a parent or teacher of children aged 10 or under, take a look at the JLC website to find out more – it’s a lot of fun!

Portuguese facts and figures

Portuguese flagPortuguese is the official language of Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

It’s a Romance language, along with French, Spanish, Italian and Romanian. This family of modern languages derives from Latin, which was spoken in the Roman Empire – hence the name.

Portuguese is the second most spoken of the Romance languages, after Spanish, and it’s the seventh most widely spoken language in the world. That said, there are significant differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese, so make sure you learn the right one before you travel! (We offer both…)

Portuguese and English

Some Portuguese words that we’ve adopted in English – piranha, flamingo, cobra, albino, palaver, mosquito. Does anyone know any more?

Saudade is a word with no direct English translation, which means a feeling of longing or nostalgia for someone or something that may never return.

Famous Portuguese speakers

José de Sousa Saramago (1922-2010), who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998.

Luís Vaz de Camões (1524-1580), often considered the Portuguese language’s greatest poet, and best known for his epic work, Os Lusíadas.

Explorers Vasco da Gama, the first person to sail directly from Europe to India, and Ferdinand Magellan, the first to sail around the world. Some people also think that Christopher Columbus was Portuguese too, although most agree he was actually Italian.

Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and manager Jose Mourinho, who are both from Portugal.

Actor Rodrigo Santoro and former racing driver Rubens Barrichello both come from Brazil, as did singer and actress Carmen Miranda.

Portuguese idioms

Like every language, Portuguese has its own idioms. Here are a few of our favourites:

A galinha do vizinho é sempre mais gorda

Translation: your neighbour’s chicken is always fatter

Meaning in English: the grass is always greener on the other side

Burro velho não aprende línguas

Translation: an old donkey doesn’t learn languages

Meaning in English: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Água mole em pedra dura tanto bate até que fura

Translation: water dripping day by day wears the hardest rock away

Meaning in English: persistence pays off

Did you know?

Tom Hanks, Keanu Reeves, James Franco and Nelly Furtado all have Portuguese heritage.

There’s an interactive Museum of the Portuguese Language, which opened in 2006 in São Paulo, Brazil. The 12,000 square foot museum is in the Estação da Luz train station.

Most importantly…

Portuguese was the language learnt by Colin Firth in Love Actually, so that he could ask a girl to marry him.

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