Portuguese (português or língua portuguesa) is a Romance language that grew from the Latin-descended Galician-Portuguese language that was spoken in the mediaeval Kingdom of Galicia, whose territory is now divided between northern Portugal, Galicia and Asturias. It also absorbed influences from the Romance and Arabic languages spoken in the areas that were conquered by the Portuguese reconquista. It was spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th centuries as Portugal established a colonial empire (1415–1999) that included Brazil in South America, Goa and other parts of India, Macau in China, Timor in South-East Asia and the five African countries that make up the PALOP lusophone area: Cape Verde, Guiné-Bissau, São Tomé e Príncipe, Angola and Mozambique. It was used as the exclusive lingua franca on the island of Sri Lanka for almost 350 years. During that time, many creole languages based on Portuguese also appeared around the world, in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.
With over 260 million speakers, Portuguese is the fifth most spoken language in the world, the most widely spoken in the southern hemisphere, and the third most spoken in the Western world. In addition to Brazil and Portugal, it is used in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor, as well as in the former territories of Portuguese India (Goa, Daman, Isle of Angediva, Simbor, Gogol, Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli) and in small communities that were part of the Portuguese Empire in Asia as Malacca, Malaysia and East Africa as Zanzibar, Tanzania. It has official status in the European Union (EU), Mercosur (Mercosul in Portuguese), the African Union, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Latin Union, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) and the Association of National Olympic Committees of Portuguese Official Language (ACOLOP).
Like other languages, Portuguese has experienced a historical evolution, being influenced by many other languages and dialects, as it reached the form known today. Contemporary Portuguese comprises several dialects and sub-dialects (subfalares), often very distinct, and two internationally recognized standards (European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese).
Today it is one of the world's major languages, ranked seventh according to number of native speakers (between 193 and 230 million). It is the language of about half of South America's population, even though Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. It is also a major lingua franca in Portugal's former colonial possessions in Africa. It is an official language in nine countries (see the table on the right), also being co-official with Cantonese Chinese in Macau and Tetum in East Timor. There are sizeable communities of Portuguese speakers in various regions of North America, notably in the United States (New Jersey, New England, California and south Florida) and in Ontario, Canada (especially Toronto).
In various aspects, the system of sounds in Portuguese is more similar to the phonologies of Catalan or French than, say, those of Spanish or Italian. Nevertheless, the grammar, structure and vocabulary of the Portuguese and Spanish languages are so similar that phonetic differences do not impede intelligibility between them in any significant way. Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes once called Portuguese "the sweet language", Lope de Vega referred to it as "sweet" while Brazilian writer Olavo Bilac poetically described it as a última flor do Lácio, inculta e bela: "the last flower of Latium, wild and beautiful". Portuguese is also termed "the language of Camões", after one of Portugal's best known literary figures, Luís Vaz de Camões.
Portuguese is also the fourth most learned language in the world, since at least 30 million students study this language. The mandatory offering of Portuguese in school curricula is observed in Uruguay, and Argentina, and similar legislation is being considered in Venezuela, Zambia, Congo, Senegal, Namibia, Swaziland, Côte d'Ivoire, and South Africa.Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_language
French (Français, IPA: [fʁɑ̃sɛ]) is a Romance language spoken as a first language by around 236 million people worldwide. A total of 270 million speak it as either a first or as a second language. Moreover, roughly 110 million people learn French as a second or third language. French speaking communities are present in 56 countries and territories. Most native speakers of the language live in France, the rest live essentially in Canada, particularly Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario, as well as Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg, and certain places in the U.S. states of Maine and Louisiana. Most second-language speakers of French live in Francophone Africa, arguably exceeding the number of native speakers.
French is a descendant of the Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are national languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian and Catalan, and minority languages ranging from Occitan to Neapolitan and many more. Its closest relatives however are the other langues d'oïl and French-based creole languages. Its development was also influenced by the native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders.
It is an official language in 30 countries, most of which form what is called, in French, La Francophonie, the community of French-speaking countries. It is an official language of all United Nations agencies and a large number of international organizations. According to the European Union, 129 million (or 26% of the Union's total population), in 27 member states speak French, of which 65 million are native speakers and 69 million claim to speak French either as a second language or as a foreign language, making it the third most spoken second language in the Union, after English and German. Twenty-percent of non-Francophone Europeans know how to speak French, totaling roughly 145.6 million people.
In addition, from the 17th century to the mid 20th century, French served as the pre-eminent international language of diplomacy and international affairs as well as a lingua franca among the educated classes of Europe. The dominant position of French language has only been overshadowed recently by English.Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_language
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