For many, Portuguese is a language spoken in several countries around the world in the exact same way. But for native speakers, the awareness of national differences is acute. Let’s investigate some of the differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese.
Some people find Brazilian Portuguese to be phonetically pleasing to the ear with its open vowels, but think that European Portuguese sounds somewhat mumbled and doughy. Brazilian accents have a lilting and strong cadence to foreign ears, making BP initially easier to learn and understand. Because of these differences in pronunciation, it might take a little more time to get used to the accent on the other side of the Atlantic.
Grammar and spelling
Some words are spelled differently. For instance, reception in EP is “receção”, whereas BP adds an audible p to the spelling of “recepção”. This is applicable to words where the letter p is audible in BP and silent in EP.
Brazilians are also creative with their use of Portuguese, turning some nouns into verbs. To congratulate requires the Portuguese phrase — “dar os parabéns” — but Brazilians sometimes also condense the expression into one verb – “parabenizar”.
Another interesting fact is the assimilation of foreign words into BP written with a phonetic twist. Media (as in mass media) is “mídia” in BP and “media” in EP; BP takes the word from American English and ignores its Latin roots. EP adopts it from Latin and keeps the original spelling. Generally speaking, European Portuguese is mostly resistant to change and precious about assimilating foreign words.
Formal and informal speech
In Brazil, you can address most people with “você” in informal contexts, but it works in some formal situations as well — bringing it closer to the classless universality of you in the English language. In Portugal, however, “tu” is used exclusively for friends, family and in casual situations.
Formal and informal speech can be very confusing for a Brazilian immigrant in Portugal. If you confuse “tu” with “você” in EP, you will fail to get on people’s good graces and will come off as impolite, rude and even aggressive. It’s even more confusing when you understand that the Portuguese don’t utter “você” explicitly: it sounds crude, so they remove the pronoun and conjugate the verb using the third person singular.
Some words are completely different in both languages. Here’s a handy list.
|English||BR Portuguese||EU Portuguese|
Many of these differences are dumbfounding to speakers from different continents and may occasionally lead to a communication breakdown, but if you remain curious and aren’t afraid to ask questions you will quickly resolve any misunderstandings. Portuguese and Brazilians still speak the same language, but it has evolved in slightly different ways over the years due to cultural and historical differences.
So which kind of Portuguese should I choose to learn?
Think about where you will be working, studying or traveling. Do you find certain sounds to be more appealing than others? What do you consider more alluring: Brazilian or Portuguese culture? Where would you prefer to live, if you were given the chance? Do you have friends in any of these countries?
Bear in mind that whatever your choice might be, it is still the same language, so you will be able to read books published in both countries and generally communicate with people with little effort. Don’t let tiny obstacles get in the way of communication between cultures.