I came across an interesting report in the New York Times today in which they talk about the recent opening of The Museum of the Portuguese Language (Museu da Língua Portuguesa) in São Paulo, Brazil. The objective of the museum is to create a living representation of the Portuguese language, where visitors may be surprised and educated by unusual and unfamiliar aspects of their own native language. The report also mentions that inspite of having more native speakers than French, German, Italian or Japanese, the Portuguese language is often overlooked by the rest of the world.

On a related matter, I’ve noticed that quite a few of the Brazilians I know think their version of Portuguese is inferior to the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. This quite surprised me as I personally prefer the sounds of Brazilian Portuguese, and it was the singing of Astrud Gilberto on a Stan Getz album that first attracted me to the language.

In case you’re wondering, lusophilia is the love of Portugal or the Portuguese language. The Luso- part comes from the Roman province of Lusitania, which occupied the same area as modern Portugal and part of Spain.

This entry was posted in Chinese, Language, Portuguese, Words and phrases.

11 Responses to Lusophilia

  1. I am lucky enough to live in São Paulo where this museum is located. In fact, I was born some 400km from here, in Curitiba. On the other hand, I haven’t yet gotten around to visiting the museum, a shortcoming I plan to correct as soon as possible. I may be able to report on the exhibits firsthand after I do. In the meanwhile, those who understand Portuguese should visit the link given in Simon’s entry, as the Museu da Língua Portuguesa is reputed to be fascinating. Watch this space! 😉

  2. I was doing research on the NYT article for a possible blog post, but now I don’t have to! Along the way I found this review of the Museum, in English:
    I love the idea of a language museum.

  3. I think that is a good review – but Luz Station is definitely _not_ from colonial times – that would be before 1822 – but from the early 20th century. Built by the British for the “Estrada de Ferro Inglesa” (English Railway), using English cement, bricks, steel girders etc., so the story goes – most likely true.

  4. SamD says:

    Brazilian Portuguese has always appealed to me more than European Portuguese, so it is a shame that Brazilians would have a sense of inferiority about their variety of the language.

    Americans sometimes think of British English as being fancier or tonier than American English, so maybe this is a similar situation.

  5. Josh says:

    I’ve always perferred Brazilian Portuguese to the European variety. The same goes for Latin American Spanish.

  6. Stuart says:

    Strange that Brazilians should think their version of Portuguese is inferior to the Iberian version, but then some Americans (by no means all though) think that their English is inferior to British English (as do a hell of a lot of English people for that matter). Of course, linguistically-speaking (no pun intended!) no one language is superior or inferior, they’re just different. As someone who is English I prefer the sounds of the English this side of the Atlantic but it is purely subjective and based on what you’re familiar with, no more than that.

  7. Polly says:

    Some accents will get you further than others. In the U.S., I’m quite sure a British accent gives you an air of superiority or snootiness depending on the individual. But, in many places having a southern accent may mark you as unsophisticated…or worse.
    And then there’s like the California accent that like totally makes you sound awesome, brah!

  8. The Hungarian author and translator Paulo Rónai (Rónai Pál) wrote a most entertaining book called “Como Aprendi o Português, e Outras Histórias” (“How I Learned Portuguese, and Other Stories”) where he tells of his experience studying Portuguese from books in pre-war Budapest, even translating Brasilian poetry, then escaping from Hungary via Portugal – where he found he could not understand a word of what people said to him! – and finally arriving in Brasil, where, to his great relief (even though part of his luggage was stolen upon arrival), he verified that the language he had learned in Budapest was indeed Portuguese!
    [A long-winded sentence!]
    Some of his remarks on translation may be found at

  9. Sorry, the book is called “… e Outras Aventuras” (“… and Other Adventures). 🙁

  10. Greg says:

    My uncle, who spoke fluently and published articles in seven languages, reported that when it came to Portugese, he had no difficulty in reading or writing it, and that Portugese speakers always assured him that his Portugese was either excellent or flawless. However, he found that he had tremendous difficulty in understanding spoken Portugese, although less so in Brazil than in Portugal itself.

    I have no knowledge of Portugese, so I have no external data points to compare his story to. (He’s since passed away, so I can’t ask him more details.) Does this story make sense to Portugese speakers?

    By the way, his other languages were English, French, Spanish, Italian, Church Latin, and German.

  11. European Portuguese (please note spelling: PortugUese) is very guttural and tends to “swallow” consonants, besides pronouncing many vowels quite differently from what one might expect from the spelling. It is thus especially difficult to understand when spoken, even if you know Spanish and Italian, which have much clearer standard pronunciations – no nasals, to start with. Even we Brasilians have a hard time understanding some Lusitanian speakers, even on TV!
    Brasilian Portuguese is less difficult by the consonant / vowel standard mentioned, but also exhibits a tendency to run words together, especially in colloquial speech (don’t most languages?).
    So the story of Greg’s uncle makes perfect sense!

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