MELAKA: It is indeed a miracle to hand down every single word and phrase of ancient Portuguese generation by generation through oral means for nearly five centuries.

In general terms, language and culture are part and parcel of an ethnic group. However, authentic Portuguese people feel shocked that ancient Portuguese could be preserved so well at the Portuguese settlement in Melaka. It seems that the Portuguese language has never ceased being used until this day.

Native Portuguese affected by regional differences

Barbara, 26, a young lady from Portugal was amazed at the complete preservation of ancient Portuguese at the Portuguese settlement here and has decided to travel all by herself to the settlement and stay there for almost eight months just to experience the miracle.

She stayed with a local resident and shared all her knowledge about modern Portuguese culture with the locals in a bid to enrich the culture of local Portuguese descendents.

Barbara told Sin Chew Daily there were some differences in the pronunciation of native Portuguese and the authentic Portuguese due to regional differences. For instance, authentic Portuguese was influenced by western cultures and the pronunciation tends to lean towards British pronunciation, while the pronunciation of native Portuguese was somewhat influenced by the Malay language. In addition, the Portuguese spoken in Macau was also influenced by the Chinese pronunciation.

As a matter of fact, there is no absoluteness in judging the orthodoxy of the Portuguese language, as the variants spoken in different places boast their own unique characteristics.

Barbara cited several examples to support her argument. For instance ROSTO (“face”) in Portuguese becomes ROSTU in native Portuguese; BOCA (“mouth”) in Portuguese becomes BOKA in native Portuguese, while BARRIGA (“stomach”) in Portuguese is BARIGA in the native language.

Intend to publish book on native Portuguese

Having studied the native Portuguese here for eight months, Barbara admits that she has fallen in love with the Portuguese settlement in Melaka, and is now putting the effort to record the native Portuguese with the hope of publishing a book on it in the near future. This could probably facilitate the learning of the language by Portuguese descendents here.

Meanwhile, Barbara has also designed a website ( for local Portuguese descendents in both native and authentic Portuguese as well as English so that more people can get to know about the local Portuguese culture.

Although there are many similarities from the aspects of appearance, fashion and cuisine between the locals and the Portuguese, the fluent ancient Portuguese is impossible to be replaced by other nations as it has been passed down by their ancestors word by word.

Many Portuguese descendents who have migrated to other countries find it difficult to adapt to the life in other countries and have slowly lost their ability of practising the ancient Portuguese language.

In conclusion, the mother tongue of local Portuguese descendents is an incredible unbroken root! (Translated by LIM LIY EE/Sin Chew Daily)

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