Portugal is a land to make you dream. The Portuguese language, fado, saudade, port wine… a whole identity centred around Portuguese language and culture. Many consider it the most welcoming country in the world.
From Rio de Janeiro in Brasil to the Alentejo region of Portugal, from the Azores Islands to Oporto, from Macau to the Douro Valley, from Madeira to Mozambique – the Portuguese language spans the world. Let’s take a peek and explore the different aspects of Portuguese culture – from music to the cinema to famous Portuguese people.
Portuguese cinema is an excellent way to learn the Portuguese language. Photo credit: Oscar F. Hevia on Visualhunt
Culture is an important tool when learning to speak Portuguese – or indeed any foreign language. If you’re seeking to become a true lusophone, what better way to improve your understanding than with Portuguese-speaking cinema? There you will find situations from everyday life, dialogue that is spoken naturally (not like the stilted way they speak in your Portuguese lesson audio files) – a perfect introduction to Portuguese or Brazilian culture.
Among the most famous Portuguese films are Franco-Portuguese productions such as The Gilded Cage (2013), featuring an immigrant couple living in France who inherit a very large sum of money. The film traces their journey back to Portugal to claim their wealth and takes on the question of identity that any national having lived abroad for a long time has to face.
You might also enjoy Lines of Wellington, a drama told through the lens of individuals caught up in the events of the Napoleonic Wars on the Iberian Peninsula. You can learn your Portuguese vocabulary and find out more about the history of Portugal in a single film!
The Ornithologist (2016) is a fair example of the new Portuguese cinema, following the trials and tribulations of a young ornithologist who goes alone on an expedition and gets thrown out of his canoe. Rescued by two young Chinese Catholic women, he soon finds out that their intentions are not what they seem… A critical success, this film is a true celebration of the cinematic genre.
In addition, you might want to look into Tabu (2012), a story of a decades-old romance in one of Portugal’s colonies that echoes back into modern-day Lisbon, or To Die Like a Man (2009) which offers a new and refreshing look into Portuguese filmmaking – and a wonderful way to learn to speak Portuguese!
Traditional Portuguese music has influenced many modern musicians of Portugal. Photo credit: jaime.silva on VisualHunt.com
Whether Portuguese fado or the Latin music of Brazil, Portuguese music has its own rhythms and styles.
They say that music will soothe a savage breast, but if it also helps you learn Portuguese in a pleasant and exciting way! The nicest Portuguese songs are hard to choose – Portuguese is a lyrical language that adapts well to song. Whether in Coimbra or Faro, Lisboa or Cape Verde – music is the true Portuguese language!
It’s impossible to talk about Portuguese music without mentioning the Queen of Fado, Amalia Rodrigues. A true icon of Portuguese traditional songs, she has become the reference for anything musical throughout the Iberian peninsula. Her song Fado Portugues is a practically a world heritage treasure in of itself!
More recently, the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest was Portuguese! Salvador Vilar Braamcamp Sobral’s voice resonated through television speakers throughout the European countries with the song Amar pelos dois.
On another level, Amalia Hoje is another symbol of Portugal’s musical heritage. With her Gaivota, Hoje takes on Amalia Rodrigues with a dash of pop, modernising it and setting it to different instruments, but keeping the melody and emotion that remain at the core of the song’s resonance. A wonderful way to learn about Portugal’s musical tradition even if you prefer contemporary music!
A few other monuments of Portuguese music are:
As in any other country, there are a number of famous Portuguese people known in and outside of the country. Famous historical figures and cultural icons help to introduce foreigners to the Portuguese culture and interest them in learning Portuguese. Sports, and especially football, are an integral part of Portuguese culture and has brought forth many international celebrities.
When you think of Portuguese stars, who else comes to mind but Ronaldo? An international personality, this football player has frequently been named Best Player and has won several Ballons d’Or. He has raised every club he has played for in the rankings.
Maria de Medeiros, a Portuguese actress, has found her place among Portugal’s celebrities. She can be admired, among other films, in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, but also in TV films and plays. With her grace and charm, she is the best ambassador for Portuguese culture abroad.
When Amalia Rodrigues died in 1999, all of Portugal went into mourning. Photo credit: Piano Piano! on VisualHunt
In addition to well-known musicians such as Amalia Rodrigues, Portugal has its own share of famous historical figures. The Age of Discovery from the 15th century onward brought forth a slew of explorers and cartographers who pioneered naval exploration and helped establish Portugal’s colonial empire:
All languages are propagated overseas by their native culture, whether it be films, music or celebrities. But expressions and quotes fill another need – providing those already interested and ready to learn Portuguese with some quick-and-easy ways to express themselves and have the feeling they are talking like a native. A great motivation to continue learning Portuguese and daring to have conversations with native speakers!
Some idiomatic expressions that frequently come up in casual conversation is a good place to start:
The Portuguese idiom “half-brick, half stone” means “neither fish nor fowl.” Photo credit: timabbott on Visualhunt
Other citations are more lyrical and philosophical – aphorisms covering themes such as hope, love or friendship:
These quotes show that Portuguese is more than simply the national language of Portugal, Brazil and several other nations, but also a language rich in history and steeped in culture, with idiomatic expressions that allow the Portuguese mentality to come to life.