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Speech delivered by the President of the Portuguese Republic at the opening of the Conference “Portuguese, a Global Language”

Honourable Minister for Education and Culture, Dr. Aires Ali,
Honourable Chancellor of Mondlane University,
Honourable Chancellor of the Pedagogic University

I warmly congratulate the Chancellors of the Mondlane University and of the Pedagogic University, as well as the Camões Institute, for their joint organization of this Conference.

I also wish to greet all the participants in this meeting. I am certain that the relevance of the theme under debate, the quality and diversity of the lecturers and the common objective that brings us here are guarantees for the success of this great cultural initiative.

Carrying out a conference between writers, intellectuals and artists of Portuguese speaking countries, to debate the reach and the projection of this bond that links us together, results from an imperative of citizenry. This is the reason why I am particularly pleased to be here today, opening this Conference, included in the programme of my State Visit to Mozambique.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In our days, it is recognized that the sources of wealth of a country are not just its natural resources or its productive capacity. In effect, development is based on many other factors which, not being material, have not eased the understanding of their real importance. In this context, language deserves special emphasis, not just as a means of communication, but also as a vehicle of progress.

The fact that it is a common language to different countries and cultures provides Portuguese with an intrinsic added value. It is a component of a union, but also a mirror of the cultural diversity of the distinct historical paths of our birth and growth, as sovereign independent nations.

Through free choice of its people, Portuguese is nowadays the official language of several African states, as well as that of East Timor. With these countries, and with Portugal and Brazil, we were able to create a vast area, where we converse with Camões or Pessoa, with Craveirinha and Pepetela, with Drummond de Andrade, Baltazar Lopes or Alda Espírito Santo.

To these we could add many, really many dozens of new writers and poets, plastic artists and painters, all of whom assert the Portuguese language in various areas of culture, enriching its matrix with the tones of their own cultural and territorial diversity.

With over 220 million native speakers, Portuguese is the fifth most spoken language in the whole world and the third most spoken in the western world, apart from its official statute in the European Union, Mercosur and the African Union. It is equally largely spoken in the numerous emigrant communities spread around the world. There are today dozens of Creole dialects based on Portuguese.

In the face of such a vast world and such a grandiose heritage, we have a duty as political, economic, social and cultural agents. The safeguard of the Portuguese language is a collective responsibility.

The fact that a language is shared by many millions of people, on a planetary scale, is something we should all take advantage of. Immediately, since it is a duty to the memory and fidelity of our roots. But equally as a means to assert our presence and our strategic capacity to interfere in the international sphere.

The concept of «global language» means that a certain idiom occupies a privileged position in a large number of countries and that this position may determine that many others give it prominence, promoting its teaching as a foreign language. The better we cultivate the use of our language the more respected we shall be in the world and greater will be the recognition of the universal value of the Portuguese language.

In the global world we live in a language must be valued as a competitive advantage, a distinctive trait that singles out those that use it as well as those that are familiar with it, in an era more and more featured by uniformity and by the standardization of cultures.

It is thus time to reflect upon the better strategy to give value to this wealth which is our own, assuming the potential that the Portuguese language represents to the people who use it as their mother tongue, as their second language, or as their first foreign language.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Through the common understanding of an idiom, distances become shorter, borders abate and relations amongst people are made easier.

Language is, equally, a tool to fight social inequalities, a means of communication in business relationships and also the primary condition to allow people an open mobility.

To provide it with impulse and dynamism is the responsibility of all the countries that have an interest in a greater projection of a common language. They must thus insist that it is present in all the means that in these days reflect interaction and knowledge, including digital.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all know that the Portuguese language has beauteous words. But, however beautiful these are, it is time to proceed from words to acts. The word is not enough to ensure its defence. The need is for material actions, palpable initiatives, so that, in the internal systems of each of the countries in which it is the maternal or official language, the correct usage and knowledge of spoken and written Portuguese is effectively promoted.

One of the higher stages of my visit to Mozambique in 1989, as Prime Minister, was the donation of a juridical library to the Minister for Justice and of some tens of thousands of books to the then Minister for Culture of Mozambique, my good friend present here, Luis Bernardo Honwana, included in the project for the creation of a Bibliographic Fund of Portuguese language, a Fund which is managed today, with a professionalism to which I pay tribute, by the Chancellor of the Polytechnic University, Professor Doctor Lourenço da Costa Rosário.

It is thus with great satisfaction that I ascertain the contribution that this project has provided, in Portuguese, to public access to information, science and culture.

This was a material initiative that CPLP extended to all Portuguese speaking countries. Just as I stated, language is made of words, but is defended with material actions.

Material actions which require, many times, an agreement between States that share a common interest. This is the case with the use of our language in the international institutions in which we are inserted.
We are thus facing a challenge which corresponds to a joint strategic interest, the result of which depends upon material actions that will only be successful should we act in agreement. Let us thus embrace it with enthusiasm and persistence.

Carrying out this Conference is, in itself, one of those moments when the word becomes materialized. For this reason I once again salute this initiative and wish you a day of productive labour.

Thank you very much.


© 2008 Presidency of the Portuguese Republic