Portuguese: Adeus!

Ok. I have to say, without any doubts, I had such an incredible time with Portuguese! I’m so pained to leave it behind! I’m also happy to report I was pleasantly surprised, as I predicted I would listen to a few videos, dismiss it and move on, like I had with Spanish. How wrong I was, and gladly so.

SUMMARY: Like Spanish, Portuguese gets its roots from Vulgar Latin, a colloquial form of Latin spoken in the Roman Empire. The language was absorbed by the people living in the Iberian peninsula and mixed with the local vernacular. After a while, an early form of Portuguese known as Galician-Portuguese appeared and was used throughout the area, specifically for lyric poetry (Galician-Portuguese is also the mother of Galician, which is still spoken in northern Portugal).

In the 13th century, Castillian, or European Spanish, had spread all over modern-day Spain. King Alfonso X of Spain made everyone use it for official use. Around the same time, King Denis of Portugal declared Galician-Portuguese to be the official language of the kingdom. Later, Galician-Portuguese split into two when Galicia and Portugal divided into separate kingdoms. Galician took it’s own route with influence from Castillian, while Portuguese went its separate ways.

Also, my friend Rui, who is Portuguese, was able to provide more detail about some of the vowels. O is apparently the most common one, but the others can have different sounds:

Aa – a as in father; also a as in lantern
Ee – e as in bet; also e as in ego, e as in mere
Oo – o as in okay; o as in do, o as in optical
Uu – oo as in moo; aspirated after words that begin with Q and follow an a or o (e.g., ‘quanto’ sounds like the qu in quantity)

FINAL IMPRESSIONS: First, before I go into my own inferences, I think it’s best to mention the major differences between Portuguese and Spanish, a lot of them being phonological. Let’s do it by list:

Portuguese has more vowel sounds than Spanish. Spanish has five basic sounds that always sound the same, while Portuguese vowels can vary. Portuguese also has nasal vowels.

Spanish has more Arabic/Moorish words.

Days of the week. Spanish uses the Roman system (like us), while Portuguese uses a different cardinal-number like style except for Saturday and Sunday (for example, Tuesday: Martes in Spanish, terça-feira in Portuguese.

Latin words translated to Spanish have diphthongs (two consecutive vowels in a word), while Portuguese ones don’t. Take for example the Latin word for time, or “tempus.” In Spanish, it’s tiempo, while in Portuguese, it’s just tempo.

Some words are just plain different. This is probably the most obvious. While there are a lot of cognates (help = ayuda (Spanish)/ajuda (Portuguese), some just aren’t the same (I = yo (Spanish)/eu (Portuguese). Also, there are a quite a few “false cognates.”

And then there are many more phonetic differences (the aspirated “j” in Spanish vs. the voiced “j” in Portuguese, the “dzu” and “zu” sound in Portuguese for words with de/di and “ch” sound in Portuguese for words with te/ti), but I won’t go on.

Oh! And then there’s the issue of Brazilian Portuguese vs. European Portuguese. The major differences I noticed was that European Portuguese seemed to have syllables “squished” together when spoken or not pronounced at all. It kinda sounded a bit more formal. Also, it seems the “r” sounds like an “h” in European Portuguese, while in its Brazilian counterpart, it’s more of a “er” sound. Brazilian Portuguese is said to be easier to learn and I preferred it; it sounded a bit more rhythmic and easier to catch on to.

(It is said people from Portugal can understand Brazilian Portuguese with no problem, but not vice-versa. This could be due to the “squished” sounds of the European variant and because people in Portugal are exposed to a lot of Brazilian TV and music.)

As for grammar, this is where Portuguese and Spanish seem to match each other. Both have -ar, -er and -ir verbs with similar conjugation patterns and both are SVO, although this really doesn’t matter because verbs are inflected a lot. Because of this, the subject can often be dropped in sentences because the verb already explains what it is by default (one can say Não estou com medo, which means “I mean not afraid” without the “Eu,” which means “I”).

Even with the similarities, overall I really enjoyed it, much more so than Spanish. I was swept off my feet, but will Portuguese carry me into the sunset? Stay tuned.

Because I couldn’t do an video recap, I just embedded one of my favorite songs to dance around to – “Music is My Boyfriend” from Cansei de Ser Sexy (and also because I LOVE the part when the lead singer sings in Portuguese the last third of the song).


Intelligibility: 4
Complexity: 3
Resonance: 5
Continuation: 5


Learning Portuguese

Wikipedia (Differences between Spanish/Portuguese, Galician-Portuguese, Spanish language)

COMING UP: Armenian

5 thoughts on “Portuguese: Adeus!

  1. Great Post! It is amazing to learn new languages and it is fun too. There are so many online learning programs which helps people in learning different languages. Sounds good when you are getting the facility at your place.

  2. Hi,

    I am Brazilian. And it is really hard for me to understand a Portuguese speaking Portuguese Language.

    Times ago, I was in Copacabana beach, and a foreign couple asked me some information about a museum they intended to visit. I gave them instruction and asked where they came from. I thought they came from anyone country that has Spanish as mother tongue. I asked them if they were Spaniards or Argentinian. They were surprised. They said “we are Portuguese and we are speaking Portuguese as you”.

    I confess I did not understand them easily. European Portuguese seems Spanish language.

    Blogger, if you need some help about Portuguese language, I would like to help you.

    1. Wow, what an amazing story. The differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese were quite strong and it was a pleasant surprise to learn about them. However, I still think it is a very beautiful language and may consider still learning it. Thank you for sharing your experience with me!

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