Portuguese is a beautiful romance language known for its poetic and fluid nature. It is part of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European language group (a Romantic language) and is a descendent of the Vulgar Latin family. So for students who have previously studied French or Spanish, Portuguese may seem very similar to these other Romance languages. Portuguese shares vocabulary with Spanish and has similar grammar to Italian. Learning Portuguese will not only benefit your study abroad experience in Portugal by allowing you to communicate effectively, it will also make you a better student of the Romance languages in general.
Portugal also has a rich literary history. Since Portuguese has been identifiable since before the 11th century and since the country has remained fairly well established for so long, it is relatively easy to trace its literary past. Just of couple of prominent figures are Gil Vicente, who captured the humanist spirit of the Renaissance during the era in his plays, and, more recently, Jose Saramago who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1998. If you learn the language, you can then enjoy this rich history in its original and intended language.
At one point in time, Portuguese was one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Although today the language is not as wide spread as it once was, Portuguese remains very predominant on the world stage. Since the Portuguese were a world superpower in the 15th to 17th centuries, the language has been spread throughout several continents. In South America Portuguese is the official language of Brazil. In Africa it remains the official language of the past Portuguese colonies: Angola, Cape Verde Islands, Mozambique and Guinea- Bissau; as well as some former Portuguese colonies in Asia. Portuguese in Portugal is different than Portuguese in other countries, but not overtly. The language remains similar enough that anyone who learns Portuguese will be able to understand speakers from Brazil to Africa. There are around 200 million Portuguese speakers in the world, so understanding it will give you more opportunities than you may have thought.