The Future of Portuguese: Is it dying out?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Bienvenidos, Feb 17, 2007.

  1. Bienvenidos

    Bienvenidos Senior Member

    USA
    Afghanistan/USA
    I was talking to a language professor who told me that Portuguese no longer serves any purpose, that it is an "archaic" language, and it is destined to serve no purpose in the future. She also said that it is not in a person's best interest to learn it since it is hardly used, except in Brazil and Portugal. Realistically, she mentioned that Portuguese has no distinct advantage that will make it a language that will survive for years to come.

    What is your opinion on this topic? Is Portuguese one of the world's leading language, or could it be forgotten with little impact on the globe?
     
  2. belén

    belén Ex-Moderator

    Spain
    Spanish, Spain, Catalan, Mallorca
    I think if many people thought like your teacher, the world would be a sad place.

    I don't understand how someone can say that Portuguese is not a language worth learning, not only due to the large quantity of people who speak it (not only in Brazil and Portugal, let's not forget Madeira, Cabo Verde, Angola, Mozambique...) but because if she thinks this way about Portuguese, what does she think of languages such as Dutch or Rumantsch (to say two random languages spoken by minor populations?.)


    I can't understand the logics behind your teacher's diatribe.
     
  3. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    Brazilians are one the fastest growing communities here in Florida. While I'd say that they all are somewhat conversant in Spanish, Portuguese is definitely very important for them.

    I have never heard that Portuguese is useless. I also don't understand the usage of the word "archaic." How can the 6th most spoken language in the word be considered both archaic and useless. Have they noted a change in the number of speakers? Have people started shifting over the Spanish and regional African tongues?

    I find no reason to agree with your professor.
     
  4. Sorcha Senior Member

    Ireland, English
    Please excuse my terrible ignorance, but i never knew that portguese was spoken in Africa (aside from cape verde). In what countries is it spoken?
     
  5. faranji Senior Member

    Bahia (Brasil)
    portuñol
    Ok, then, why should anyone bother to learn German, Italian or French, each one of which has significantly less speakers than Portuguese?
     
  6. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    Wikipedia:
     
  7. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil
    Ah, it will certainly die when the 188.227.393 Brazilian inhabitants who insist in breeding 321 babies an hour (5,36 per minute, one each 11,2 second) die! And we are not including the Portuguese, the Angolan, the people from Mozambique, Cabo Verde, Guiné-Bissau, São Tomé e Príncipe and Timor Leste.;)
     
  8. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    Perhaps it's a question of prestige? I am unaware of any influence prestige may have on Portuguese in regards to Spanish as I do not know Portuguese, but numbers sometimes do not count if prestige the reason. Ethnolgue.com shows that Pakistan has a significantly higher number of Panjabi speakers than Urdu, but people continue to throw their linguistic loyalties to Urdu.
     
  9. Joca

    Joca Senior Member

    Florianópolis, Brazil
    Brazilian Portuguese
     
  10. etornudo Junior Member

    United States English

    No and no. Portugues is a global language with a very bright future for a plethora of reasons the most important one being Brazil.
     
  11. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    Can Portuguese be forgotten with little impact on the globe? Certainly not at this stage. And hopefully -- never.
    I often travel to Brazil on business and I understood at once that speaking Spanish, even speaking Spanish well, wasn't enough. So I began to study Portuguese and my Brazilian counterparts are grateful to me for it, though I don't speak perfect Portuguese but I try hard!!! They say they are glad I show respect to them by using their language. So based on my experience Portuguese is not doomed to die yet!
     
  12. faranji Senior Member

    Bahia (Brasil)
    portuñol
    I'm afraid I cannot comment on your analogy as I don't know the details of the situation regarding the Punjab. Do Punjabis somehow have the choice to opt between Panjabi and Urdu? I thought the usual dilemma in northern India was between Urdu and Hindi, anyway. Surely I'm at a loss here.

    I think numbers do count in this particular case. We're talking language survival. Please check Vanda's figures. Add to their sheer scale the fact that Brazil's is an incredibly vibrant and resourceful society, one of whose most creative and adaptable features is precisely the use of the language. I don't see prestige playing any role in all this, but should it eventually play any, my feeling is it'd tilt the balance in Portuguese's favour, as Brazil is bound to become the dominant, looked-up-to country in the region.

    I can picture Portuguese eventually mingling with Spanish and becoming a single language in South America. But wholly dying out? No way. Particularly not in the lifetime of anyone wondering whether to pay heed to a Cassandraish misinforming professor or to study one of the most beautiful Romance languages.
     
  13. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Where to begin? There is such copious ignorance and idiocy in the professor's statements.
    My opinion on this topic, speaking bluntly, is that the "language professor" is an ignorant jerk.
     
  14. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    Where do you see signs of that happening, faranji? It's a well known fact that a considerable percentage of Paraguay's population already use Portuguese as their first language due to the huge economical influence of Brazil in that country, but, apart from that, I don't think Spanish and Portuguese will ever 'mingle'.

    As for Portugueses being called 'archaic' is probably because it still retains some verbal tenses that are disappearing in other romance languages ( future subjunctive, for example ), and the personal infinitive, which only exists in Portuguese, and that makes it particularly complicated to learn. The teacher who said Portuguese is not worth learning must have had a bad experience trying to learn it, and due to frustration he/ she must have chosen to give up and say it's something not worth anybody else doing.

    There are economic reasons why Portuguese will survive, but, anyway, even if Brazil were not a fast developing economy (well, okay, it could be faster...), Latin America's largest economy and an important global player, there are demographic reasons why Portuguese is definitely not a threatened language, so the teacher mentioned was just talking nonsense.
     
  15. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    Kent
    English (UK)
    Whilst I agree with all the quantitative arguments above, I'd like to add a qualitative one. IMHO Portuguese is the most beautiful spoken (and especially sung) language in the world.

    And before, my dear fellow foreros, you hasten to disagree, please listen to at least two of the soundclips here.

    guitar.gif

    Then rush to disagree...!
     
  16. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Maria Bethânia, Cesaria Evora and Milton Nascimento, among others, help explain Winklepicker's irrational, but totally justified, enthusiasm.
     
  17. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    Yes, it would be a pity to see the language in which THIS was sung disappear, but the language that expresses the history, culture and feelings of approximately 230 million people is surely not bound to vanish.

    This link might interest you: the Portuguese language on Wikipedia.

    .
     
  18. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    This is a link to an Indian site in Portuguese / English based in Goa:

    http://www.supergoa.com/pt/

    Also, we should not forget the 4-5 million speakers of Galician, which for some is an independent language, but for others is "Português de Galiza". For more details, see the Portuguese language forum.

    Adeus
     
  19. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Bienvenidos,

    In the spirit of fair play, why don't you invite the profe to participate in this thread. It doesn't seem fair for
    us to castigate her so strongly without hearing the other side of the argument.
     
  20. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I would very much disagree. Portugese is the most spoken language in South America and with Brazil having a population of approaching 200 million it will be a major language in years to come (if it isn't already). It also has a rich literary tradition, and to me is a very nice language, definitely worth learning.
     
  21. Londoner06

    Londoner06 Senior Member

    London, UK
    US/English, Spanish
    ;)
     
  22. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    Any language will continue as long as its speakers want it to be. Number of speakers are not really so important unless it is really small (< 1000). I don't know much about Portuguese but is it really in such a bad shape that native speakers tend to avoid Portuguese and prefer speaking in Spanish or other languages instead? Hard to believe that it is the case.

    Actually when I first read the title I thought that it is about the future tense that is disappearing from Portuguese language. Because I know that Spanish future tense is considered not to be a real tense by linguists but there could be a real future tense in parent languages.
     
  23. Bienvenidos

    Bienvenidos Senior Member

    USA
    Afghanistan/USA
    Sorry for not responding, guys; I didn't mean to offend anyone, and these certainly aren't my opinions. The woman was an associate professor of Indo-European studies, and she does a lot of research about the growth of languages. She cited the fact that American schools do not teach Portuguese as a reason why Portuguese as a secondary language will not survive.

    I will send her a link to WR and see what she says. Until next time, my friends.
     
  24. Joca

    Joca Senior Member

    Florianópolis, Brazil
    Brazilian Portuguese
     
  25. Joca

    Joca Senior Member

    Florianópolis, Brazil
    Brazilian Portuguese
     
  26. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Not so very long ago, American schools taught mostly French and German, and Spanish was hard to find in the curriculum of most public schools. Just look at the astonishing results.

    Please warn your teacher that her logic will be as closely scrutinized as whatever facts she may bring. :)
     
  27. jess oh seven

    jess oh seven Senior Member

    Scotland
    UK/US, English
    Hehehe :D

    Perhaps his logic is based on the fact that it is not as widely-taught as some other languages? I would like to see it being taught in more institutions. Our Portuguese "department" consists of only two people! It's a sad state of affairs and we don't receive a very high quality of teaching because of it.

    Edited to add: I hadn't read through all the posts, so I didn't notice that my little theory was already mentioned! :)
     
  28. boardslide315 Senior Member

    English, USA
    Maybe the professor has a point...After all, most people in the world are not of the same opinion as those that inhabit this forum, many of whom harbor a passion for languages. The sad truth is that the average person out there will only learn a language if he/she absolutely has to, or if there is a strong promise that it will give him/her an advantage for success in the future.

    That being said, if someone is going to go through the time, effort, and money to learn a language, why not choose one with more practical uses, such as Spanish? (Or whichever second language would be of greatest use in your country.) It seems the professor was likely just of this opinion, albeit she might have expressed it a little too strongly (especially in the setting of a group of language enthusiasts, although remember it seems that she was quoted without her permission.)

    By the way, I myself love Portuguese and think it is well worth the effort of studying...I just hate one-sided arguments :eek:
     
  29. Bienvenidos

    Bienvenidos Senior Member

    USA
    Afghanistan/USA
    She has spoken about this topic before at lectures in New York City, etc, so I don't think she minds that I have quoted her. :)
     
  30. modus.irrealis Senior Member

    Toronto
    English, Canada
    This is the part of the comments that gets to me the most, since I don't understand what "purpose" could mean here. Like others have said, is being the everyday means of communication for almost two hundred million people not enough? And if it's not enough, what does that say about the what, 98% of languages that have fewer native speakers? It seems to me that she is judging purpose on the basis of whether non-Portuguese speakers would want to learn it as second language, but for me, I'd rank that criterion fairly low when deciding whether a language "serves any purposes."
     
  31. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    Kent
    English (UK)
    Thank you thank you Macunaíma - this is fab. notworthy.gif

    - and if that's the criterion for survival, 6,799 of the world's 6,800 languages are in BIG trouble!

    (I can say that: the only people as bad as the Americans at learning foreign languages are the Brits!)

    EDIT: I also want to mention Camoes and Marisa. Catholic tastes...!
     
  32. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    Far from dying out, I think Portuguese has a number of opportunities for expansion, at least as a SECOND LANGUAGE. I can think of at least 3 examples:

    1) In India, as a second language in the ex Portuguese areas, where as you can see from the link I posted above, there is a revival of interest 50 years after their incorporation in the state of India.
    2) In Paraguay, as was already mentioned in this thread, and also in Uruguay, for the same reasons.
    3) In Spain, where Castillian is certainly not menaced by Portuguese.
    In the video that I have sinced attached to the part of my message that has been moved to the Portuguese language forum, it is mentioned that, in the Spanish Autonomous Community of Extremadura, there are 6,000 students of Portuguese as a SECOND LANGUAGE. [This A.C. also contains groups of native speakers of “galego-portugués" as well as the city of Olivenza, where Portuguese is still spoken to some extent after centuries of incorporation into Spain]. It is also explained that there is great room for expansion of the teaching of STANDARD PORTUGUESE, as a SECOND LANGUAGE, in Galicia [regardless of the status of the Galician language, for which see the message moved to the PT language forum, but facilitated in any case by the closeness of the two “linguistic entities” (the PC term for “languages”)].

    Hoping that, this time, I have not strayed too far away from the straight narrow theme.

    regards and adeus
     
  33. olivinha Senior Member

    Los Madriles
    Português, Brasil
    Boardslide, these are typical statements/attitudes one hears/sees in the US: speaking English is enough (why learn another language when English is the international lingua franca?) and doing something only when it involves some sort of advantage or success in the future. There is more to learning a language than advantage or success (see other posts), and you know that.
    I think when you say the average person you mean the average American.


    Having said that, I also do not like one-sided arguments, and as much as I love Portuguese, I did read somewhere that the future of all the languages in the world is to be reduced to about 300, and, by then, Portuguese will have been absorbed by Spanish.
    So maybe that is what the professor was refering to: if Portuguese is indeed to be swallowed by Spanish, why should one invest their time learning a language which is doomed to disappear? I am not justifying what the teacher said, I am just trying to understand why a professor would say something of this sort.

    Long live, Portuguese! :)

    O
     
  34. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    But, if in some remote future, Portuguese is absorbed by Spanish, in the meantime that Spanish will have been heavily influenced by Portuguese ...

    regards and Adeus
     
  35. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Portugese dosen't have practical uses? Being the fifth-most spoken language in the world I would say it has plenty of uses, and if anything Spanish speakers in South America are learning it, not the other way around.
     
  36. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    Edited version (two branches were opened in the meantime) :)

    That's not quite true, because the Centro Cervantes, which is the official Spanish language institute, is investing heavily in Brazil (Rio, S. Paulo, Brasilia, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Salvador de Bahia) and Portugal. I think both sides are learning each other's language, which is a good thing.

    And as confirmation of this the Instituto Camões, the Portuguese equivalent of CC, has branches in Barcelona, Madrid, Cáceres (Extremadura), Vigo (Galicia), and also in Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela.

    regards
     
  37. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    What if the merchants of doom are correct, and thousands of languages will eventually disappear? Is it likey that the largest (in terms of numbers of current speakers) will go first? Maybe the esteemed professor meant that you should tell your great great great grandchildren to be selective in their choices of languages to study.
    The death of the novel has been widely advertised for over a century.


    You referred to the source of the 'archaic and useless' quote as a professor. Shall we all cast a tear and say a prayer in memorium for the institution where this person teaches? Whatever she may profess to profess, it seems that intellectual curiosity is not it. No doubt her hit list of languages to be ignored includes Ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew, and all modern languages with fewer than a half billion speakers. If she only believes in the value of learning the modern and utilitarian, as she perceives these, she must be a remarkably
    fascinating conversationalist.
     
  38. ernest_

    ernest_ Senior Member

    Barcelona
    Catalan, Spain
    That must be a joke, alright? It is just plain stupid, with due respect to your teacher. What does she mean, no longer serves any purpose? I think it serves the same purpose it's always served: to communicate with other people. As long as there are Portuguese speakers it will be a useful language and serve a purpose.

    Good heavens. I know no language that has a distinct advantage. They all have verbs, nouns, adjectives and the like. So what? As for whether it will survive, of course it will survive as long as its speakers continue to use it. And I can't think of any reason for which they would not do so.

    See you.
     
  39. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil
    I go with Joca. I am sure I am not interested in what this teacher has to say and I wouldn't tell her what I want to in this forum. :)
    If she wants to imply that Portuguese has no prestige this is a whole new story. So far it has never had, and about us, we are living with that fact without any problems.
    And this is the first time I see so many people learning it - oh yes, I had never seen people learning Portuguese before - I can assure that we are way nearer of expading than to dying!
    Maybe she could research our thousands of native indians languages that have already been destroyed/smashed...
     
  40. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Children say the darnest things. Some American schools (universities) do teach Portuguese. Not that we'd all drop dead if all of them suddenly decided to stop teaching it. We do have our own schools, here in the third world (two or three).

    Not necessarily. We could go through a case of language suicide, with everybody switching to Spanish (Bienvenido's teacher would no doubt like that -- one less pesky foreign language to learn). However, I am very skeptical of such scenarios. Here's a funny thing: the same people who claim that Portuguese and Spanish are so alike, so alike, that they're destined to merge in the near future (nevermind their ten centuries of living apart so far) are often the same who claim that Brazilian Portuguese is so different from European Portuguese, so different, that they can't help becoming separate languages in the near future, if they haven't already. Can they say 'cognitive dissonance'? ;)
     
  41. olivinha Senior Member

    Los Madriles
    Português, Brasil
    I studied Portuguese (Literature and Linguistics) in a university in Los Angeles, CA.
    O
     
  42. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    But it didn't happen even when Portugal and Spain were united at the height of Spanish power and prestige under Phillip II of Habsburg (Felipe II de Austria). Portuguese writers like Gil Vicente wrote in Spanish, but used the personal infinitive (!!!), so they were doing what I would hypothesize in some far distant future ...

    Who are the same people who say that if you write "A Corunha" instead of "A Coruña" (or better still "La Coruña") or "filho" instead of "filho" you will go directly to Hell, with no intermediate stop in Purgatory ...

    regards and adeus
     
  43. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Yes, but those were other times. The world today is becoming more and more globalized and centered on nation-states, and there's a strong tendency to drop languages with fewer speakers in favour of languages with more speakers (or more powerful speakers).
    So I wouldn't put the possibility of a suicidal switch to Spanish completely aside. It's a possibility, just as it's also a possibility that everyone in the world will soon choose to switch to English. But I would assign a very low probability to both possibilities. :)
     
  44. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    There are approximately one million Portuguese speakers in the Commonwealth (State) of Massachusetts in the US. The State of Rhode Island has a large Portuguese speaking population also. Portuguese is the second most
    used language in that state, after English.
     
  45. olivinha Senior Member

    Los Madriles
    Português, Brasil
    I just wanted to clarify that I do not subscribe to such theory. Actually, I have no idea whether or not that could happen. (My only reaction when I read that article was that of sadness: "could that really happen to (my) Portuguese?")
    Again, I was being the devil´s advocate in trying to make some sense out of that teacher´s statement about the future of Portuguese.

    Again Long Live, Portuguese!
    O
     
  46. Joca

    Joca Senior Member

    Florianópolis, Brazil
    Brazilian Portuguese
    We no longer believe in the Babel Tower, do we? But in a way, it seems that we are heading towards the scenario that supposedly existed before Babel, that is, a one-language world. It may take a million years before it happens again (if global warming, the Bomb and asteroids etc allow life on earth to go that far). As long as nations will exist and as long as governments will hold the power, I believe the decision to drop a national language and choose another one that is more suitable must a political and legal decision. At the present time, I see no reason why we should drop Portuguese. It is a language still full of promises and blossoming. To drop it now and substitute Spanish or English for it would be totally irrational and anti-patriotic, however outdated patriotism may seem to most people.
     
  47. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    Particularly, if we think that a small country like East Timor has recently re-instated Portuguese as its national language along with Tetum. I think they were pleased to drop Indonesian ...

    regards
     
  48. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    East Timor is a very special case. I wonder how long Portuguese will manage to survive there, assuming they succeed in making it a language of the country.
     
  49. Lombard Beige Senior Member

    English, Italy
    True, but you should read some of the articles on the subject by Prof. Geoffrey Hull, an Australian, who worked with Sergio Vieira de Melo, Xanana Gusmão, etc., to understand why they chose to revert to Portuguese, alongside Tetum, which apparently has a symbiotic relationship with Portuguese. They could have chosen English, but as Timor is very close to Australia "no es todo oro lo que reluce".



    But I don't want to distort Prof. Hull's thinking. You can find the articles (in English) through the PT Wiki or through the Tetum Wiki, which is Portuguese enough to orient yourself (I'm not saying to understand), a bit like Maltese and Italian.

    regards
     
  50. MarX Senior Member

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Ta bea!

    This is my personal opinion, but I think calling Timor Leste a Portuguese speaking country is an exaggeration.
    You can go and visit Timor and see how far you come with Portuguese. In fact, you can get by far easier using Indonesian than Portuguese there.
    The best way to communicate with the people there is of course by speaking Tetum, which is very widespread in Timor Leste.
    Btw, I'm not trying to defend my language, just telling you the reality in Timor.
    Perhaps that'll change in the future, but for now, calling Timor Leste Portuguese speaking is simply an exaggeration.

    To answer the original question, I think Portuguese is important, I don't know which aspects your professor was talking about, but Portuguese is certainly a big, lively, evolving language which is unlikely to disappear in the near future.
    Plus, it is one of the most beautiful languages I know, which has a huge impact upon many languages, especially in Indonesia. Indonesian and the regional languages/dialects are full of Portuguese words.

    Grüsse,


    MarX
     

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