Portuguese in the Americas

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In the Americas, Portuguese is the official and national language of Brazil as well as one of three official languages of MERCOSUL. In addition it is spoken by other smaller communities throughout the western hemisphere. Lusophone immigration came from various countries and in various waves throughout the Americas.

Geographic distribution[edit]

Brazil is the largest country in which Portuguese is spoken in the Americas with a population of approximately 190 million, almost all of whom are native speakers of Portuguese. The size of this population renders Portuguese a relevant regional and world language. Research in regional and social variation in Brazilian Portuguese reveals the diversity of this language. The country also received settlers from Portugal and white settlers from former Portuguese African colonies, East Timor, and Macau and Eurasian settlers from Macau and East Timor.

Argentina was the first Spanish-speaking member state of Mercosur to participate in the Frontier schools project. It involves the exchange of language teachers with Brazil. Secondary schools are now required to offer Portuguese as a foreign language.[1] The same goes for primary schools in provinces bordering Brazil.[2]

Uruguay, born out of conflict first between the Spanish and Portuguese empires and then Brazil and Argentina, has Portuguese speakers in northern region. The acronym DPU (Dialectos Portugueses del Uruguay) is used to describe the varieties of Portuguese spoken in this region. DPU is not standardized and so Brazilian Portuguese serves as the primary model for Uruguayan speakers of Portuguese, native and non-native speakers alike. Instruction in Portuguese has now been increased in the Uruguayan education system. In the northern departments bordering Brazil, education has become bilingual combining Spanish and Portuguese as languages of instruction.

Paraguay has been receiving waves of Brazilian immigrants for decades, known as Brasiguaios. Unlike in Uruguay, the Brasigaios are a result of more recent immigration and, as such, are more markedly Brazilian in speech and cultural identity. These immigrants tend to settle in the eastern regions of the country and most originate from the Brazilian state of Paraná. Estimates of the size of this community range from 200,000 to 500,000.

Venezuela has a large and prominent Portuguese immigrant community, one of the largest in Hispanoamerica. Its membership in MERCOSUR is pending and, towards that end, the Venezuelan government has begun to encourage the teaching of Portuguese as a second language. Portuguese is to be made available in the public school system.[3]

In the USA, the state of Massachusetts has the largest communities of Portuguese speakers. Portuguese, Angolan, Brazilian, and Cape Verdean immigrants have been in the US for a couple of centuries.

Canada has received lusophone immigrants primraily from Portugal, Angola and Brazil. Portuguese immigrants first arrived in Canada the 1950s. The majority of Luso-Canadians are settled in Toronto, Ontario and in Montreal, Quebec.[4] According to the 2006 census, there are 318,000 Canadians of Portuguese origin.[5]

The importance of Brazilian Portuguese[edit]

In the Americas, it is Brazilian Portuguese which is the standard for learners and non-native speakers. P.l.e. (Português como língua estrangeira) is the acronym used to describe the learning and instruction of Portuguese as a second or foreign language; a term comparable to ESL. Brazil's growing international profile and the adoption of Portuguese as an official language of Mercosur have created a demand for non-native fluency in Portuguese in the Hispanic member states. This has accompanied a growth in the private language instruction in Portuguese in said countries.

The Museum of the Portuguese language (the second language museum in the world) is located in São Paulo, Brazil.

The Brazilian Ministry of education has developed a proficiency test in Portuguese specifically for Brazil and based on the Brazilian norm: CELPE-Bras

The latest orthgraphic agreement was ratified first by Brazil and while it requires adjustments in spelling, hyphenation and accentuation from all CPLP member states, the agreement favours the Brazilian norm.

Media and popular culture[edit]

Portuguese-speaking communities in the Americas outside of Brazil, from Canada to South America form the primary audience for Brazilian and Portuguese satellite television in their respective countries. Such programming be it football matches, telenovelas or variety shows allow lusophones outside of Brazil to access media and cultural content in Portuguese and stay informed and connected to events in Brazil. Rede Globo and RTPi are available throughout the Americas.

Immigrants from Portugal, Brazil and Lusophone Africa in North America, Hispanomerica and the Caribbean maintain Portuguese to one degree or another as a heritage language. Locally produced and published 'ethnic' media (print, radio and television programming) allow for Lusophone immigrants to articulate their realities in the host countries in Portuguese.

See also[edit]


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