Portuguese in Indonesia, and Diário de Notícias, the American version

Monday, May 25, 2009

There are two more pieces of news on the subject of Portuguese that are worth mentioning.

The first one is a letter to the editor in the Jakarta Post on the Portuguese language in Indonesia, where there is a fair amount of resistance to the idea since East Timor has Portuguese as an official language, and Portugal supported the independence of the state as well. The letter makes the point that Portuguese isn't a language spoken by one country alone, that Brazil has a far larger population than Portugal and that languages shouldn't be thought of in such political terms anyway.

An interesting example of a somewhat similar situation can be found in Korea vs. Taiwan, both of which were colonized by Japan and only became independent again after Japan lost in WWII. After the war Korea forbid the Japanese language and it was only in 2002 (or was that 2001?) when Japanese books, tv etc. were legally allowed to be sold in Korea, which resulted in the generations born after the war knowing almost nothing about the language. Japanese is still quite easy to learn compared to other languages but the average person here barely knows a few words of the language, plus perhaps hiragana but almost nothing beyond that. At the same time Taiwan has been much more positive towards Japan even after the war (for obvious geopolitical reasons as well - they need all the friends they can get) and you're much more likely to find a Taiwanese person who speaks Japanese than a Korean. IMO unless a country's language is seriously in danger of dying out, there's no reason in refusing to learn a language out of spite when a useful knowledge of it can be retained fairly easily.

The Baltic countries vis a vis Russia also make a similar comparison.


The second article is here, and it's great news - a journal called Diário de Notícias has been digitized thanks to some generous donations, all 84,000+ pages of it. What's especially interesting about this newspaper is that it was the main Portuguese newspaper in the United States from 1919 to 1973, and so there's a huge wealth of historical information on the US and the immigrant community there for those that can read the language.

Here's one example:

See that part at the end? It's a bit of information on a new language called "Interlingua" being used by the International Cardiology Association, because this newspaper clipping is from 1954 so only three years after the language was first published.

To search the archives, click here. I've been enjoying poring over old newspapers online recently so I may write a few posts based on articles from Diário de Notícias if I find anything of interest.

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