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Legal framework

The official language of the Republic of Portugal is Portuguese. This is stated in Paragraph 3 of Article 11 of the Constitution of the Republic of Portugal.

The Portuguese State, however, also recognises Mirandese, in Law 7/99 of 29 January, as well as Portuguese sign language, in the 1997 revision of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, Clause h, Paragraph 2, Article 74.

Mirandese, a Romance language from the north of the Iberian Peninsula, is spoken by around 15,000 people in the vicinity of Miranda do Douro. Since 1986-7, Mirandese has been officially taught in the schools of that region, as an optional subject.

It should be noted that the measures taken to protect Mirandese include financial support for the translation of literary works and the establishment of the local toponymy in Mirandese.

Portugal signed the convention framework for the protection of national minorities on 1 February 1995 and this was approved by the Assembly of the Republic and ratified by decree of the President of the Republic in 2001 (cf. Article 5 on protecting the language and culture).


Article 6 of Law No. 78/2015 of July 29 states that television must “disseminate and promote Portuguese culture and language”. Article 9, when referring to the purposes of television activity, postulates that this activity should “disseminate and promote Portuguese culture and language, creators, artists and Portuguese scientists and values that express national identity”.

Article 44 states that broadcasts must be spoken or subtitled in Portuguese, with the exception of programmes for teaching and learning foreign languages or addressed to migrant communities.

National television services must dedicate at least 50% of their broadcasts, excluding the time devoted to advertising, teleshopping and teletext, to the broadcasting of programmes originally in Portuguese. In the same article, it is also stated that programme services must dedicate at least 20% of the time of their broadcasts to the diffusion of original works of creative origin in Portuguese language. These percentages may be filled up to 25% with programmes from other Portuguese-speaking countries.

The law also specifies the obligations of the public service concessionaire (Article 51), which shall “promote the broadcasting of programmes in Portuguese language of diversified genres” and “broadcast programmes for Portuguese residents outside Portugal and for nationals of Portuguese-speaking countries, also resident outside Portugal”.


Consumer protection is ensured by law n.º 24/96 of 31 July. The most recent version (Law n.º 47/2014, of 28 July) specifies that all commercial information must be provided in Portuguese. Legal decree 238/86 of 19 August and legal decree 42/88 of 6 February further specify that all commercial information must be provided in Portuguese and that packaging and manuals for all products must “always either be in Portuguese or translated into Portuguese”.


Advertising must be in Portuguese, but the use of other languages is permitted in situations where the main target audience consists of foreign nationals (cf. advertising code, included in legal decree 66/2015, of 29 April).


The Law of the Educational System (Law 46/86) determines that the teaching and learning of Portuguese language should be organised in such a way that all other curricular components of the basic and secondary education contribute systematically to the development of the student's abilities (oral and written) in Portuguese.

In public further education institutions, most lessons are taught in Portuguese. Some postgraduate courses (master and PhD programmes) may be taught in other languages, namely in English.


Institutional body with responsibility for developing, implementing and controlling linguistic legislation

There is no administrative structure with specific responsibility for matters of linguistic policy. The Portuguese Ministries of Education, Foreign Affairs, Science and Higher Education and Culture develop and implement several programmes with a positive impact in Portuguese language promotion.

Camões, Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, IP, is the only responsible for spreading the Portuguese language abroad, by providing online and face-to-face courses, cultural activities and other instruments of linguistic policy.


Legal provisions concerning the linguistic integration of migrants and public linguistic training facilities available to them

By Law No. 37/81, of 3 October (Law of Nationality) the Government grants Portuguese nationality, by naturalisation, to foreigners who satisfy all the following requirements:

a) have the legal age or are emancipated under the Portuguese law;

b) have been legally resident in Portugal for at least six years;

c) know the Portuguese language sufficiently;

d) have not been convicted, with a final and unappeasable judgement, for the practice of an offence punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 3 years or more, according to Portuguese law;

e) do not constitute a danger or threat to national security or defence, for their involvement in activities related to the practice of terrorism, in accordance with the respective law.

The Government grants nationality by naturalisation, to minors, born in Portuguese territory, children of foreigners, if they meet the requirements of sub-paragraphs c) and d) of the previous number and if they fulfil the following conditions:

a) one of the parents has been legally resident for at least five years;

b) the minor here has completed the 1st cycle of basic education.

The Government may grant nationality by naturalisation to individuals born in Portuguese territory, children of foreigners, who have usually stayed here in the 10 years immediately prior to the request.

The Portuguese Government may grant naturalisation to individuals who, not being stateless, have Portuguese nationality, to those who are descended from Portuguese, to members of communities of Portuguese ancestry and foreigners who have rendered or are called to render services relevant to the Portuguese State or the national community.

The Government may grant nationality by naturalisation to the descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews, by demonstrating the tradition of belonging to a Sephardic community of Portuguese origin, based on proven objective requirements of connection to Portugal, namely nicknames, family language, direct or collateral descent.

In order to confirm the knowledge of the Portuguese language, the candidates have the following possibilities:

-       Certificate of qualification issued by a public, private or cooperative educational institution recognised in accordance with the law, provided that its holder has successfully completed the course/discipline of Portuguese in at least two academic years;

-       Certificate of approval in Portuguese language test held in schools of the public network, when carried out in national territory, or in places accredited by Camões - Institute for Cooperation and Language, IP, when carried out abroad, and the regulation of this test, as well as their control, should be included in the order of the members of the Government responsible for the areas of foreign affairs, internal administration, justice and education;

-       Certificate in Portuguese as a foreign language, issued by means of a test at a Portuguese language assessment centre, as a foreign language, recognised by the Ministry of Education, through protocol (;

- Certificate of qualifications that certifies completion of level A2 or higher, issued by a public educational establishment, employment and training centres and protocol centres of the IEFP - Institute of Employment and Professional Training, I.P. (IEFP, I.P.).

There is also a Test for Acquiring Nationality provided by IAVE, the Portuguese Institute for Educational Assessment, a public institute under the tutelage of the Ministry of Education.

Since the start of the wave of immigration over the last few years, the Portuguese Government has implemented classes in Portuguese as a Foreign Language in most schools, both for school pupils and through evening classes for adults.


Teaching foreign languages within the education system

English is taught in most schools from the first cycle of primary school (from eight years old). Other languages are not financially supported in the context of this programme for starting foreign languages early, which does not, incidentally, form part of the main curriculum.

English is equally popular as the first foreign language to be taught from the second cycle of primary school (from ten years old).

The second foreign language, usually is French, Spanish or Germany, the last one only in some schools.

French is therefore generally the second foreign language but is now in fierce competition with the demand for Spanish, which is growing at a tremendous rate. The second language is however rarely well mastered, since it is only studied for three years, which barely allows pupils to achieve level A2 (elementary) of the Council of Europe’s reference framework.

Finally, at secondary school (from 15-18 years), students usually continue to study English or choose another language (Spanish, French, German and Chinese Mandarin, this one only in a small number of schools). At secondary school, most students only study a foreign language, but some of them may study another one if they choose the Languages and Humanities course. In this course it is possible to study Latin but the number of students is declining.

At the last year of secondary school, students can study a foreign language (the ones identified above) as an optional subject.

At the end of the ‘secondary’ school, in these languages, students achieve the level B1 or B2 of the Council of Europe’s Reference Framework, except for Chinese Mandarin (A1 or A2).

Foreign languages are part of the national exams list at the end of secondary school and some of them are important if students want to attend a language course at the University level.


How linguistic policy is perceived by public opinion and citizens

The national language is an important issue which receives frequent media coverage and is appreciated by Portuguese citizens, who are conscious that they speak a language of international communication (260 million speakers) which has an increasing number of students interested in learning it.



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