Portuguese in Asia

Portuguese is an important language in certain parts of Asia and the Pacific Rim. The language gained influence because of trade and various colonial outposts. These commercial centers were a central component of Portugal’s economy. Over time, Portuguese citizens relocated to these countries and introduced the language to the native population. These countries include Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, The People’s Republic of China, East Timor, Japan, Australia, and both North and South Korea. In some of these countries, only a small portion of the population speaks Portuguese.

In other regions of Asia, Portuguese remains a popular language for commerce and education. Since the commercial empire of Portugal extended to Asia, the language had a chance to develop roots. Today, some of these countries are part of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (the CPLP). The state of Malacca, the SAR of Macau and the State of Goa are awaiting approval from their governments to join this group. East Timor is currently a member, and Indonesia would like to join.

Portuguese in Asian Countries

Starting with Sri Lanka, Portuguese became a spoken language in several Asian countries. In Sri Lanka, Portuguese was introduced by European settlers who gave the island its name of Ceylon (Ceilo in Portuguese).

In Japan, there are as many as 300,000 Brazilians of Japanese background who speak Portuguese. With the exception of the Chinese and Korean communities in Japan, this group is the largest immigrant community in Japan. This group is now the largest Portuguese-speaking community in Asia.

In India, the state of Goa was a part of the Portuguese Empire right up to the 1950s. Goa is yet another group that wants to join the CPLP. And yet, most of the Portuguese speakers in Goa are older residents. The Union Territory of Daman and Diu was also part of the Portuguese Empire. The Portuguese language remains popular with more of the area’s older residents in this region, too.

In the People’s Republic of China, Portuguese is labeled a co-official language in the Special Administrative Region of Macau. This area is a center for Portuguese education, business and culture in Asia. Macau is also a member of the CPLP and a source for diplomacy with other members of this organization. Still, the number of Portuguese speakers has declined since China took control of this territory in 1999.

East Timor made Portuguese its official language in 2002. Nearly 25% of the population speaks Portuguese, though there are various dialects among the people

Finally, Australia has almost 65,000 people who speak Portuguese. This community traces its roots back to immigration from Europe and commercial trade.

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