According to the last results from studies and research, around 215-220 million people speak Portuguese as their first language. When second language speakers are taken into account that number increases to 250-260 million. While it is often mistaken for Spanish, there are many countries around the world that use it as their first language.
It is the sixth most popular language in the world and one of the main languages in Europe. Portuguese is the most spoken language in South America, second most spoken in Latin America, and one of the most spoke languages across the whole of the Southern Hemisphere. Portuguese also acts as basis for a number of other languages around the world such as creole languages.
Not surprising, Portuguese is the official language of Portugal. It’s also the official language of Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Sao Tome & Principe, and Guinea-Bissau. Due to the location of Portugal and involvement in the European Union, it is also an official language there, along with the African Union, OAS, Mercosul, and ECOWAS.
It is one of the official languages of Equatorial Guinea, Macau, and East Timor. The language used to be an official language in many other countries, but lost its status due to a wide range of factors. Nevertheless, in those countries, there are plenty of people who still know how to speak Portuguese.
This Indo-European language is subcategorised as a Romance language, linked to Italian with derivation from Latin. More specifically, it is part of the Galician-Portuguese family of languages.
Modern Standard European Portuguese is the version of the language spoken around Lisbon, Coimbra, and other nearby cities. It is also the version used in African countries. This and Brazilian Portuguese are the only two taught in schools around the world for second languages. There are some other dialects, but they are more local and not as popular.
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) believes that English-speaking students can become proficient in Portuguese relatively easily. It will take between 23 to 24 weeks, studying around five hours a day to learn the language. This means around 575 to 600 class hours. These figures are based on current students, who are, on average, 40 years old. Those who find languages easier to pick up or have experience in some other similar languages may find it easier to learn and attain proficiency in less time.