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2 September 2014
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Portuguese today
The history of Portuguese
Names and writing system

Portuguese today by Viv Edwards

Most Portuguese came to the UK in the 1960s and 1970s. Prior to membership of the European Union in 1986, Portugal was one of the poorest countries in Europe. The pressure on the land and limited opportunities in the manufacturing sector meant that there was often no alternative to looking for work abroad. During this period, many young men also emigrated to avoid military service, as Portugal waged a series of wars in an attempt to keep its African colonies.

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Most Portuguese speakers in the UK live in Greater London and work in the service industry. In a 2000 survey of London school children, Portuguese was ranked the fourteenth most common language in the capital. The highest concentrations of Portuguese speakers are in Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth and Westminster, where large numbers work as domestic staff or chauffeurs and live in tied accommodation. There is also a small community in Greenwich from the Cape Verde Islands, which speaks Kriolu, a Portuguese-African creole.

Outside London, significant numbers of Portuguese, mainly from Madeira, live in the Channel Islands where traditionally they have worked in the horticultural and tourism industry. In 2000, the Portuguese community in Guernsey represented 3.3% of the population - some 2,000 people; in Jersey, there is a permanent population of at least 6,000. Other Portuguese-speaking communities are scattered throughout the UK: there are some fifteen local associations.

Portuguese is spoken as a mother tongue by large numbers of people who have settled in the UK. But it is also an official language of the European Union, which promotes the learning of at least two foreign languages of member states by all young people. The BBC Talk Portuguese site offers a lively introduction to the language, with useful phrases and quizzes.

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Your Comments
What is your experience of Portuguese?

R. Carreiro, Warwickshire
I am bilingual as both my parents are Azorean. I also seldom speak Portuguese as my husband is only beginning to learn the language. It is so comforting to speak your own language and to be able to express yourself properly! I always make a point of identifying myself to Portuguese speakers just to engage in polite conversation in Portuguese for a change!

Bob Battersby, Stretford, Manchester
I always wanted to learn Portuguese as a child, fascinated by the written language with it's abundance of accented letters. I started learning Portuguese when I first went to Portugal in 1989 and found no one could understand a word of English! It opened up a whole new world to me. My family and I have just come back from a holiday there. It's great when people have to guess our nationality: They usually think we're Spanish (although I'm the only one who speaks Portuguese). People say it's rare to find a Portuguese speaking Englishman. I even started speaking in Portuguese to my children this time round! It's a language I'd love them to learn too, even though we have no Portuguese heritage and live in the UK! I believe Cervantes called Portuguese "the sweet language". At times it sounds almost musical to my ears at least!

Bob Battersby, Manchester, Reino Unido.
I learnt Portuguese through Amateur Radio back in the late 1980s. Portugal has changed a lot. The best thing is the old people now are old with dignity instead of living in wretched poverty as before. The downside is the Algarvians who work in the Tourist industry do not wish us English to speak to them in their own language. they are aggressive in their attitude. They cut their nose off to spite their face. I could teach them to hone their ability in English as they could me and my children, but no way! Eles nao me querem a participar!

Vanessa de Sousa from London
I am London born with a Portuguese father. I would really like my 5 year old son to learn Portuguese but am finding it difficult to find classes for his age in North London.

Christine Silva
I am a london-born with Portuguese parents and am lucky to be a Portuguese Bilingual. Im very proud to be of Madeiran origin but have not met many portuguese people my age in London. I am currently studying to be a Portuguese/English Interpreter, as i feel there are lack of European Portuguese speakers helping the new immigrants with poor English to settle in London. Plus I feel the teaching of the language to the children of these immigrants should be made more widely available from the embassy, councils and schools.

Cristina Escudeiro from Heywood
Hello. I am brazilian and i am married with a english man. And I agree with Douglas that British accent is more understandable for brazilians. And british people are more sensible and nicer with foreigns who live here. And the british sense of humour is the greatest. Portuguese is a very beatiful languages but more difficult to learn because the verbs conjugations. In this issue english language is easier.

Ana Powell from Reading
Just a little note to say:Olá to all the Portuguese that live in the UK. I am Portuguese, I love speaking my own language, and eating pastéis de nata (custard tarts ) that only the Portuguese can bake so well.My husband is English and I would love him to be able to speak to me in my own language.

Sally Fisher from london
I think that portuguese is a beautiful language.i have only recently started learning it. im half-african, and half-portuguese, and im 15 years old. and i think its only fair that i learn it. its also a very fun language to study.

Saulo Oliveira, from Cheltenham
Being a Portuguese speaker it surprised me to notice that the language is on the list of the most spoken tongues in the United Kingdom. So far I haven't met any significant number of Portuguese speakers out of big cities, such as London. I also think that in terms of representation Brazilian people outnumber the Portuguese in this country - but I can't say I am correct because I do not have any figures. What about Spanish? I always thought that Spanish were more widespread. I hear Spanish a lot recently, much more than Portuguese. Actually I seldom speak Portuguese in the UK.

Douglas Henrique de Menezes from Brazil
Hello. I study English for 20 years now and have lived in US. Yet I think the British accent is a lot easier for Brazilians to speak. All English-speakers I know can only be understood when they speak with the British accent. That's it! Bye bye





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