Many people who begin studying Portuguese already have experience of Spanish and often people who speak Spanish opt to learn Portuguese because it is described often a similar language, but just how similar are they? It is undeniable that they sound the same in a lot of ways and many people who speak Latin American Spanish claim to be able to understand as much as 60% of what Brazilian Portuguese speakers say, there are some significant differently, but first will look at the core similarities.

Portuguese and Spanish: The Similarities

Both Spanish and Portuguese are in the family of romance languages and this means that most of their grammatical structures will be similar, if not identical and many of the words too will be quite close in similarity and easily recognisable. Many speakers of multiple languages confirm that Spanish and Portuguese are amongst the most similar romance languages and it is recommended that Spanish speakers looking to expand their spoken and written languages range first go for Portuguese over Spanish.

Portuguese and Spanish: Lexical Differences

There are many interesting instances of similar words in Portuguese and Spanish having very different meaning as below:

  • Abono – in Spanish this means subscription or fertiliser, in Portuguese it means deposit or allowance
  • Acordar – in Spanish this means to remember or agree, in Portuguese it means to wake up
  • Acreditar – in Spanish this means show, in Portuguese it means believe
  • Barata – in Spanish this means cockroach, in Portuguese it means cheap
  • Cena – in Spanish this means dinner, in Portuguese it means scene

This is just a small example of the many words you will have to learn different to develop a good degree of fluency in both languages.

Portuguese and Spanish: Pronunciation Differences

There are some very big differences in the pronunciation of Spanish and Portuguese which help to significantly differentiate them from each other.

The first key pronunciation trait that is unique to Portuguese is the nasal accent on n/m at the end of symbols but not between vowels. The best way to get used to it is to learn to see each n/m as the English sound  ‘ng’ so common words like ‘bem’ (well/good) would be pronounced beng and ‘parabéns’ (congratulations) would be pronounced pa-ra-bengs. This is different to Spanish.

Portuguese also commonly features the construction –ão at the end of words and this is pronounced in a nasal way once more, and has the English sound ow but said through the nose. All s sounds in Portugese are pronounced z unless at the start of words or when doubled up.

This is just the beginning and in fact once you begin to learn Portuguese or indeed Spanish for the first time, as a speaker of the other language, you’ll soon discover more differences but also be able to utilise your previous knowledge of a similar language to speed up your learning.

 

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