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Portugal and its language in the world.© Pixabay

Europe. Your Languages.
Portugal and its language in the world.

Those who stay on the coast cannot discover new oceans.

unknown author

Portugal is considered the oldest nation in Europe. Due to its geographical location, it was predestined to be the starting point for voyages of discovery. From here, Portuguese sailors set out on the first historically documented voyages around the world. Thus, in the 15th/16th century, when Portugal rose to become a world power and built up its colonial empire, which included what is now Brazil as well as areas in Africa and on the coasts of Asia, the seed was sown, so to speak, for the importance of the Portuguese language in the world.
But what is the significance of the Portuguese language in the world today? What remains of the magic of this language through translation? And how does multilingualism work in international language use? With these and other questions, the conference series Europe. Your Languages. 2021 followed with a multifaceted programme the EU Council seat to Portugal.

Here Quotes From Our Guests at the Event

H. E. Francisco Ribeiro de Menezes © Screenshot Europanetzwerk Deutsch

Portuguese Ambassador to Germany
H. E. Francisco Ribeiro de Menezes

“People are taking an interest in our language and culture and we’re delighted about that.
One remarkable feature of Portugal as a nation of multilateralism, a nation of universal concord between peoples, is doubtless our commitment to promoting our language. Portuguese is a language of dialogue and understanding that is actually spoken on every continent and in every corner of the world by hundreds of millions of native speakers and people who have learned or are learning Portuguese as a foreign language. A growing Lusophonia.”

Susanne Sporrer © Susanne Sporrer

Director of the Goethe-Institut Lisbon
Susanne Sporrer

“The importance of Portuguese may be widely underestimated, so I can’t withhold some figures for starters. According to the Instituto Camões, 261 million people – and counting – on five different continents currently speak this language, and their numbers are expected to increase to 388 million by 2050. These figures are impressive, but even more impressive is the magic of the Portuguese language as expressed for centuries now in its wonderful literature and music.”

Daniela Schlegel © Screenshot Europanetzwerk Deutsch

Embassy Counsellor, Deputy Head of Mission at the German embassy in Lisbon
Daniela Schlegel

“Those who don’t need a translator have a much closer understanding. Especially in a community of cultures and values like the EU and, of course, particularly in my profession, diplomacy. […]
We all experience the importance of ‘multilingualism’ in our everyday lives, not only for a better understanding of what is said and agreed, but also as a bridge to their interlocutors’ hearts and minds!”

José Manuel Durão Barroso © JM. Barroso

former President of the European Commission
José Manuel Durão Barroso

“One of the things that has helped me the most in my professional and political life was simply the ability to speak several languages besides Portuguese, for a language isn’t just a tool, it’s more than that: it’s a way of seeing the world. I think we say Weltanschauung in German.“

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti © Screenshot Europanetzwerk Deutsch

Chef de Cabinet to UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti

“The EU institutions and the UN view multilingualism the same way: as a natural consequence of multilateralism. Multilingualism intrinsically embodies the values of democracy, equality and diversity.[….] At the United Nations, we believe that our six working languages can serve only as a common denominator for the nearly 7,000 languages and dialects of the world. If and when necessary, they need to be supplemented by additional languages that are not working languages. About 260 million people around the world speak Portuguese, which is widely recognized as an international language of communication. The geographical diversity of the Lusophone communities in Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Oceania is an important tool for global communication.”

Susanne Frueh © OECE

Director of the Office of Internal Oversight at the OSCE Secretariat
Susanne Frueh

“Although English usually suffices nowadays as a common working language, it’s vital to be able to communicate and negotiate in the respective national languages, too. So multilingualism remains extremely important for an international organization like the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to operate effectively.”

Dr Sarah Breslin © ECML

Executive Director of the European Centre for Modern Languages of the Council of Europe
Dr Sarah Breslin

“The working languages of the Council of Europe are English and French. When the Council was founded, English and French were recognized as the languages of diplomacy and as world languages. […] Unofficially, many other languages are used in small working groups/discussions as a matter of course – communication is the point. And respect for cultural and linguistic diversity is a principle of the Council of Europe. Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights, which is the cornerstone of the Council of Europe, is all about freedom of expression. And multilingualism is very important to the Council of Europe.”

Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge © Screenshot Europanetzwerk Deutsch

WHO Regional Director for Europe
Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge

“Multilingualism serves the purpose of providing equitable access to vital information. Multilingualism is simply central to our efforts to promote health literacy and trust in science. The WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) has four official languages: English, French, German and Russian. […] As I see it, multilingualism also means leaving no one behind, and being able to speak directly to every person in our diverse region of 53 Member States. Our road map, the European Programme of Work, came out in all four official languages and has also been translated into the other Member States’ national languages to reach as many people as possible. [...] This is what day-to-day work at our country offices is all about: putting messages about public health across to the local population and making sure people get them and fully understand them. Language also helps build trust. [...]
I can't put it any more clearly: the direct result of multilingualism is better health. WHO Europe are doing all we can to achieve this goal. And that’s why we take multilingualism so seriously [...].”

Orlando Pinto © Orlando Pinto

Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Luxembourg in Germany
Orlando Pinto

“Portuguese is a language spoken on five continents, with a diaspora to be found all over the world, so one always comes across people who speak Portuguese. It’s also an important language in the diplomatic scene.
Communicating in Portuguese often involves shared cultural aspects that are inherent in the language.”

Philip Crowther © Philip Crowther

foreign correspondent for Luxembourg in Washington, DC
Philip Crowther

“As a polyglot reporter, I have a wonderful advantage: I can speak to many people in their native language almost everywhere in the Americas, for example. It’s easier to make contact with people without an interpreter and often doors are literally opened to me because speaking the language builds trust.”

Diogo Da Silva Passos © Diogo Da Silva Passos

paediatrician at the Wilhelmstift Children's Hospital in Hamburg
Dr. Diogo da Silva Passos

“I’m a native speaker of Portuguese, so I can understand my patients better, including those from countries like Guinea, Angola and Brazil, and build mutual trust, which is the basis of my work as a doctor. I can speak more directly to parents, for example, to convince them that their child needs treatment.”

Marie-Charlotte Opitz-Vilaça © Screenshot Europanetzwerk Deutsch

translator in Lisbon
Marie-Charlotte Opitz-Vilaça

“My languages are German, English, French, Italian, Luxembourgish and Portuguese. I wouldn't be who I am at all if I didn't speak these languages. The world opens up, doors are opened, and I get to indulge my curiosity without needing any translators.”

H.E. Francisco Ribeiro Telles © CPLP

Ambassador, Executive Secretary of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP)
H.E. Francisco Ribeiro Telles

“The CPLP was founded in 1996 and its ‘identity matrix’ is the Portuguese language. At the time, eight countries got together in Lisbon and decided to create the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. I’d like to point up two elements that make the CPLP a unique and irreplaceable organization. The first is its multicontinental configuration. It is present on four continents, from the Atlantic all the way to the Indian and Pacific oceans.  What’s more, there are no territorial barriers between the Portuguese-speaking countries, which says a lot. Each CPLP member state is actively involved in its own dynamic of regional integration.”

Michael W. Wirges © Andreas Lahn

President of the German-Portuguese Society e.V. (DPG)
Michael W. Wirges

“The Portuguese language, ranked fifth in the world, spoken by some 260 million people worldwide, has contributed to understanding and connection between peoples for over five centuries, especially in Europe, Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, and makes important contributions to social, cultural, economic and political life.”

Afonso Reis Cabral © Afonso Reis Cabral

Portuguese writer
Afonso Reis Cabral

“The magic of translations is of course thanks to the translators, but it seems to me there’s a paradox here. The magic of Portuguese is naturally no longer present in a German translation: the German language takes its place and a transformation occurs. So it's very interesting to think about the fact that literature can be put across using another language. After all, I don't just write Portuguese, I write my Portuguese. So I'm trying to turn Portuguese more into my own Portuguese and my literature. This is a step every writer has to take if they really want to master the language. [...]”

H.E.  João Ribeiro de Almeida © Camões Institut

Ambassador, President of the Instituto Camões
H.E. João Ribeiro de Almeida

“I’d like to very briefly emphasize the importance of multilingualism, that I’ve tried to learn German too, even as an adult, and how important it is for us to get to know another reality that way, in addition to the widespread predominance of the English lingua franca. It’s important that we want to learn other languages for our own enrichment, but also to understand others better and to have some conception of the diversity in the world. So learning foreign languages is fundamental to achieving more participation, more solidarity, more dialogue. These should be the values of international relations and, above all, of human relations.”

Ana Paula de Almeida © Screenshot Europanetzwerk Deutsch

jurist, Portuguese Ministry of the Interior, Department of International Relations
Ana Paula de Almeida

“The Europanetzwerk Deutsch programme is an important place for all staff members to share their experiences, and it encourages them to forge ties across networks throughout Europe.”

José Madeira © José Madeira

former Director-General for the Budget of the European Commission
José Madeira

“You might know Maria João Pires, the Portuguese pianist. She called a collection of Schubert pieces Le Voyage Magnifique. That's what my journey with the German language was like too […]. The Portuguese discovered new worlds. I discovered German!”

Portugal and its language in the world. Video from 23 June 2021

Aufzeichnung Europa. Deine Sprachen.: Portugal und seine Sprache in der Welt. © Screenshot Europanetzwerk Deutsch


You can watch the video in english or portuguese.

Logos Europanetzwerk Deutsch Portugal