“CPLP does not have a boss and that makes a difference in relation to the Commonwealth”
The Portuguese diplomat has been executive secretary of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries since January 2019. DN Francisco Ribeiro Telles speaks of the interest of more and more countries in being associated observers and of the future, with an emphasis on mobility plans.
The Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries [CPLP] has almost 300 million inhabitants. Portugal and Brazil speak Portuguese without any doubt and there are countries, such as Angola, in which Portuguese is also increasingly the national language, but there are others, such as Guinea-Bissau, where Creole is clearly dominant. When you think about the strength of the Portuguese language in these member countries, is it a growing force?
I even speak of my experience of five years as an ambassador in Luanda, where I saw, in fact, an impressive transformation in relation to the Portuguese in Angola. Currently, more Portuguese is spoken in Angola than was used in colonial times. It is unthinkable to see two Angolans in Luanda who are not speaking Portuguese. According to recent data from the Angolan authorities, about 60% to 75% of the population already speaks basic Portuguese. This is also a consequence of the war – with the displacement of populations to large cities, it was necessary to find a language that was understood by everyone. At the time, Portuguese functioned as a lingua franca, a factor of unity and social cohesion, and this is very important. In Mozambique, I am also told that Portuguese is growing. I am talking, say, about the two “aircraft carriers” of the Portuguese language in Africa. United Nations projections suggest that by the end of the century there will be 500 million Portuguese speakers, of which 150 million will be in Angola and 140 million in Mozambique. So, perhaps, Portuguese will increasingly be an African language.
In terms of language expansion, are you optimistic?
It gives me reason to be optimistic that Portuguese is already a working language in three international organizations; also the fact that, possibly, Timor-Leste may come to join ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] next year and also Portuguese works as a working language in that organization. CPLP is an organization that is on four continents, with countries that belong to different regional organizations – Brazil is in Mercosur; Portugal in the European Union; Angola and Mozambique in SADC [Southern African Development Community]; Guinea and Cape Verde in ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States]. This causes Portuguese to be spoken in these international organizations. Thus, I am optimistic about the importance of Portuguese and its projection in the world.
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