Spoken by about 279 million people worldwide, Portuguese is one of the fastest-growing western languages. When translating into Portuguese, it’s important to understand the variants—who speaks what and where? European and Brazilian Portuguese have evolved separately through years of cultural and historical differences. In this article, we examine the different forms of Portuguese, look at the distinctions, and explore where each form is used today.
a brief history of European Portuguese
Portuguese originated more than 2,000 years ago when Roman soldiers arrived on the Iberian Peninsula (today’s Portugal and Spain) and introduced Vulgar Latin—from which all Romance languages derived. Due to its Latin origins, today’s Portuguese is written in the Latin alphabet, and nearly 90% of its lexicon is derived from Latin.
On the Iberian Peninsula, Old Portuguese slowly distinguished itself from other Romance languages and took root along the Atlantic coast. In the eighth century, as Arabic-speaking Moors from North Africa and the Middle East conquered the peninsula, the Portuguese language become intertwined with Arabic. Many words of Arabic origin remain today, such as almofada(cushion),azeitona(olive), and garrafa(bottle), to name a few.
Between the 14th and 16th centuries, Portuguese proliferated far and wide beyond the Iberian Peninsula, spread by soldiers, sailors, and merchants. It developed into a lingua franca in Asia and Africa, where it was used for communication between local officials and Europeans of all nationalities.
Today, European Portuguese is primarily spoken in Portugal and is the country’s official language. There are multiple dialects of the spoken language—notably northern, central, and southern—with the most significant difference being the stresses on the vowels.
While Portuguese originated in Europe, it is now far more widely spoken in South America. In fact, only 5% of current day speakers live in Portugal.
The Europeans brought the Portuguese language to Brazil when they colonized the country in the 16th century. Over time, the language was influenced by the many diverse cultures converging in Brazil at the time—indigenous people of the Americas, European immigrants, and African slaves.
Today, Brazil has the largest number of Portuguese speakers in the world (approximately 215 million people). Due to the proliferation of Brazilian culture (and Brazilian soap operas) around the world, Brazilian Portuguese has become well known online and familiar to the many Portuguese speakers in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese
European and Brazilian Portuguese are mutually intelligible, and those who speak one language can understand the other. While there are many similarities, there are also striking differences in grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
- One of the most significant differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese is the placement and use of object pronouns. In European Portuguese, pronouns come after the verb, while in Brazilian Portuguese the pronoun comes before.
- In Portuguese (like Spanish), pronouns are different depending on formality. Brazilians use the word você for both formal and informal situations, making it akin to the universal “you” in English. In Portugal, however, tu is used for friends and family, and other casual situations, while você is reserved for more formal situations. The ending form of the verb used with tu or você changes accordingly.
- Another difference is in the use of gerunds (a form of a verb that ends in -ing and is used as a noun). While Brazilians use them like we do in English, Europeans avoid the use of gerunds and instead use a preposition followed by the verb in the infinitive. For example, “I’m eating” in Brazil is Estou comendo, while in Portugal one would say Estou a comer.
- There are some differences in spelling. One example is the word “reception,” which is spelled receção in European Portuguese. Brazilian Portuguese adds an audible p to form recepção.
- Capitalization is not consistent. Europeans capitalize the names of months and days of the week, whereas they are not capitalized in Brazil.
- Other words are completely different from one language to the next, because new concepts were introduced into the language separately. For example, “Bus” is Ônibus in Brazil, and Autocarro in Europe. Refrigerator is Geladeira in Brazil and Frigorífico in Europe.
- Brazilian Portuguese continues to add new words. European Portuguese, however, is more resistant to the influx of new vocabulary and the assimilation of foreign words. Therefore, an increasing number of words in the Brazilian variant are not familiar to Europeans.
- In spoken form, Brazilian Portuguese is thought by many to be the more musical form of the language. Thanks to its open vowels, it is considered pleasing to the ear. Brazilians pronounce every single syllable in a word while in Portugal people do not, leading the European variety to sometimes be described as quiet and muffled.
Portuguese in the U.S.
In the U.S., Portuguese is the eleventh most popular non-English language, spoken by approximately 678,000 people. The largest communities of Portuguese speakers are in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, followed by the New York/New Jersey area.
European Portuguese speakers arrived in America through two major waves of immigration. The first settlers came in the early 1800s, drawn by the whaling industry. The second wave arrived in the 1950s, brought by the political climate in Portugal, as well as volcanic activity in the region. Today, Massachusetts has more residents with Portuguese ancestry than any other state in the country, while Rhode Island has the nation’s densest Portuguese population.
Brazilian migration to the United States took place later, driven by poor economic conditions and hyperinflation in Brazil throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In recent years, Brazilians have become one of the country’s fastest-growing immigrant groups, and the greater Boston area today has the highest number of Brazilian-born residents in the country.
Cape Verdean Portuguese in the U.S.
Cape Verde is a country in the central Atlantic with an archipelago of ten volcanic islands. In the mid-nineteenth century, when drought and poverty drove many Cape Verdeans to work on whaling ships, many began settling in the whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Thus began a stream of immigration to southeastern Massachusetts that peaked between 1890-1921. Migration peaked again in the 1980s as new Cape Verdean immigrants found their way to New England, thanks to the area’s historic connection to the islands. Today, the population continues to grow. In Massachusetts alone, the Cape Verdean community has grown 58% since 2000.
Cape Verdeans speak the European form of the language. However, there are enough small differences to make Cape Verdean Portuguese its own unique dialectical variety of the European variant.
Portuguese around the world
The use of Portuguese around the world is on the rise, especially in Africa. By mid-century the majority of the world’s Portuguese speakers are expected to be African. It is estimated that by 2050 Portuguese-speaking African countries will have a combined population of 83 million.
Portuguese is the official language of six African countries that are former colonies of the Portuguese empire: Angola, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It is spoken as a second language by many in countries such as South Africa and Senegal, due to migrants from Portuguese-speaking countries. The language is expected to see its largest growth in sub-Saharan Africa, resulting largely from the expansion of education and rapid population growth. Due to its history, the language spoken in Africa is closer to European Portuguese, however some aspects, like the pronunciation of unstressed vowels, resemble the Brazilian variant.
In Asia, Portuguese is also becoming more popular as diplomatic and financial ties grow stronger between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. East Timor has seen a large increase in Portuguese speakers in recent years, and Macau is becoming a Chinese center for Portuguese-language learning.
Portuguese is an important language for global communication, business, and international relations, and the need for English into Portuguese translation is increasing among U.S.-based organizations.
In translation, it is always important to use specific language that sounds natural to the reader. Although European and Brazilian Portuguese are mutually intelligible, the differences are significant enough that Brazilian text will not sound natural to a European, and vice versa. Therefore, to keep the language smooth and natural-sounding, it is important to be sensitive to the dialects spoken by the target audience.
When translating for a large U.S. audience, Brazilian Portuguese will typically be appropriate. However, be considerate of smaller communities in the U.S. for whom European or Cape Verdean Portuguese would be the best fit.
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One of the most significant differences between European and Brazilian
We all love and use Google Translate. But while it's useful for translating French, German, or Spanish, there's one thing you should know about using it for Portuguese: Google Translate normally uses Brazilian Portuguese and not European Portuguese.Which is better Brazilian Portuguese or European Portuguese? ›
Brazilian Portuguese is considered by many to be the easier strand to learn, with its open vowels and strong cadence (it's also considered to be easier on the ears, for this reason).Is the Portuguese on duolingo European or Brazilian? ›
Duolingo's Portuguese course teaches the Brazilian form of Portuguese. While there are some notable differences between the Brazilian and European varieties — such as pronunciation, spelling and vocabulary — they are best viewed as two sides of the same coin.Is Babbel Portuguese Brazilian or European? ›
The answer is: Babbel teaches Brazilian Portuguese, much like another popular app, Duolingo.Can a Brazilian understand European Portuguese? ›
European and Brazilian Portuguese are mutually intelligible, and those who speak one language can understand the other. While there are many similarities, there are also striking differences in grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and pronunciation.What is the most accurate translator for Portuguese? ›
DeepL Translate: The world's most accurate translator.Is it okay to speak Brazilian Portuguese in Portugal? ›
It doesn't matter! The choice is completely up to you because the language is the same. Even though the accents, vocabulary and expressions, and grammar may be a little different, Portuguese is still the primary language used in Brazil and Portugal.Can Brazilians understand Portuguese people? ›
Brazilian and European Portuguese are considered mutually intelligible. This means that when speaking or writing about general topics, Brazilian and Portuguese people can normally understand each other.Can a Portuguese person understand a Spanish person? ›
While there are some differences between the two languages, most native Spanish and Portuguese speakers can understand each other if each party speaks clearly.
There are two main varieties of Portuguese: European/Continental and Brazilian. Duolingo teaches Brazilian Portuguese, but European Portuguese speakers will also be able to understand you. The Portuguese for English course contains 69 skills, and 420 total lessons.
Portuguese immigration to America is the reason behind the existence of Portuguese in Brazil. In the 16th century, the first Portuguese-speaking settlers arrived in Brazil. At that time, the Portuguese language was not commonly used. In the 18th century, Portuguese became the official language of Brazil.Is Brazilian Portuguese easy to learn if you know Spanish? ›
If you already know Spanish, learning Portuguese will probably be much easier than it was for you to learn Spanish initially. This is because the languages share a lexical similarity of almost 90%, meaning that a very high number of the words in Spanish and Portuguese are similar.Is Rosetta Stone Portuguese Brazilian or European? ›
The dialect that Rosetta Stone teaches is Brazilian Portuguese. It is a neutral, educated accent common to metropolitan areas. The Portuguese language has two main dialects: Brazilian and European. The dialects spoken in African and Asian countries are most similar to the European dialect.Does Rosetta Stone have Brazilian Portuguese? ›
Rosetta Stone specifically focuses on teaching Brazilian Portuguese, also known as Português do Brasil. It's spoken by virtually all of the 200 million inhabitants of Brazil and spoken throughout the Brazilian diaspora, which consists of about two million Brazilians who have emigrated to other countries.Is Rosetta Stone better than Babbel Portuguese? ›
Babbel vs Rosetta Stone: Key Differences
Here are the key differences between Babbel and Rosett Stone. In their teaching method, Babbel uses dialogues, whereas Rosetta Stone uses sentences. The audio quality on Rosetta Stone is much better than on Babbel.
Portuguese is a rich and beautiful language. Many people describe Brazilian Portuguese as having a melodic lilt. There's much to read, listen to, watch and experience through the ears of a Portuguese speaker.Do Brazilians speak Spanish as well as Portuguese? ›
Brazilians speak Portuguese and not Spanish. As the only country in South America to officially speak the language, there's an intriguing story behind that unique piece of cultural heritage. It all begins with the Pope, a treaty, and an undiscovered continent.Do Brazilians have Portuguese DNA? ›
Most Brazilians have some degree of Portuguese ancestry: some descend from colonial settlers, while others have recent immigrant Portuguese origin, dating back to anywhere between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries.What language does Portuguese most resemble? ›
Portuguese and Spanish are very similar languages
Portuguese and Spanish are closely related, as they are both Latin-based languages and share many grammatical structures and patterns.
Galician and Portuguese are very similar in phonology (sound), morphology (spelling), lexicon (dictionary) and syntax (sentence structure). In fact, speakers of Galician and European Portuguese can still understand each other perfectly!What is the best app to translate Brazilian Portuguese to English? ›
- Tandem (iOS, Android)
- FluentU (iOS, Android)
- Dicionário inFormal (Android)
- Letter Zap (iOS, Android)
- Bravolol Portuguese-English Dictionary and Translator (iOS, Android)
- Portuguese Verbs (Android)
- Placar UOL (iOS, Android)
- Curso de Bolso (iOS, Android)
Brazil is bigger and Portugal is a very small country, therefore the majority of people are more familiar with Brazilian Portuguese. People from Portugal can imitate the Brazilian accent more easily than the other way arround. People from Brazil have dificulty reproducing the accent from Portugal.Can I live in Portugal if I don't speak Portuguese? ›
Although recommended, you are not required to learn Portuguese to live in Portugal. Especially among immigrant communities, it is common for foreigners not to speak the local language and yet continue living their lives.Is it tu or voce in Portugal? ›
Both 'tu' and 'você' are second person singular pronouns; the difference is mainly a regional one. Whereas Portugal uses 'tu,' Brazil tends to use 'você. ' However, there are certain regions of Brazil (such as some northern and southern states) where local dialects developed with 'tu' gaining precedence over 'você.Will Brazilian Portuguese be understood in Portugal? ›
Can European Portuguese understand Brazilian Portuguese speakers and vice-versa? The answer is yes — but probably speakers will ask for clarification at times.Is Portuguese more difficult than Spanish? ›
For most native English speakers, Spanish is slightly easier to learn than Portuguese. This is primarily a matter of access. Since Spanish is spoken by over 400 million people worldwide (compared to just over 200 million for Portuguese), it's easier to find Spanish resources and media for learning or practising.Do Brazil and Portugal get along? ›
Relations between the two are intrinsically tied because of the Portuguese Empire. They continue to be bound by a common language and ancestral lines in Portuguese Brazilians, which can be traced back hundreds of years.Is Portuguese closer to Spanish or Italian? ›
Based on lexical similarity, you will find that Portuguese is the closest to Spanish. Just remember that you will need to rethink the way the words are pronounced. You will also want to know which words are different between the languages. Following Portuguese is Italian as the second closest language to Spanish.Can you understand Italian if you speak Portuguese? ›
Italian doesn't have the Arabic influence that affects the pronunciation of many Spanish letters and words, and there are many Portuguese-Italian cognates, so if you learn Portuguese, you might find you understand spoken Italian quite well.
Nuclear DNA analysis shows that Spanish and Portuguese populations are most closely related to other populations of western Europe. There is an axis of significant genetic differentiation along the east–west direction, in contrast to remarkable genetic similarity in the north–south direction.Does Rosetta Stone teach European Portuguese? ›
Unfortunately, Rosetta Stone teaches Brazilian Portuguese as opposed to European Portuguese. This is great news if you're planning on visiting Brazil, but not such good news if you're planning on moving to Portugal.Can you move to Portugal only speaking English? ›
Can I live and work in Portugal if you only speak English? Mostly yes. Especially in hospitality and tourism, there are plenty of job opportunities for English speaking expats. Also English is widely spoken by all people who work in Lisbon and Cascais.How long will it take to learn Portuguese? ›
Typically it is due to the fact that most Brazilian full names are complicated and long, which lead footballers to shorten their names or choose a nickname in order to be more easily recognised by their international fans.Why are there a lot of Japanese in Brazil? ›
Beginning in the early twentieth century, Japanese nationals (Nikkei) arrived in Brazil as contract agricultural workers. Most were younger sons from rural areas of Japan facing the economic upheaval that accompanied Japan's modernization efforts; few intended to emigrate permanently.What language did Brazil speak before Portuguese? ›
Tupian was the principal language of Brazil's native peoples before European contact, and it became the lingua franca between Indians and Portuguese traders, missionaries, adventurers, and administrators; it was widely used in the Amazon region and western Brazil until the 19th century.What Spanish accent is closest to Portuguese? ›
The closest to Portuguese, Spanish language is Galician - which is not a dialect! Galician and Portuguese are close branches of the same languages tree: - Medieval Galician-Portuguese - they're quite mutually intelligible - 90%.How many hours does it take to learn Brazilian Portuguese? ›
Visual Capitalist reports that it takes 24 weeks (575-600 hours) to learn Portuguese, according to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). That earns it a 'category 1' status according to that ranking, showing that Portuguese is one of the fastest languages to learn.How long does it take for a Spanish speaker to learn Brazilian Portuguese? ›
There is no straight answer for how long it will take a Spanish speaker to learn Portuguese. In general, it can take between 3 months and two years for a student to learn a new language.
The Manezinho accent, spoken in the island of Santa Catarina, is the one that phonetically most resembles the Portuguese spoken in Portugal.Is Portuguese a Slavic language? ›
The Portuguese language is not a Slavic language, despite having some similarities with Slavic languages. Portuguese is a Romance language descended from Latin. It is spoken by around 220 million people, mainly in Portugal, Brazil, and Mozambique.Is African Portuguese the same as European Portuguese? ›
The role of Portuguese in Africa
The standard Portuguese used in education, media and legal documents is based on European Portuguese vocabulary used in Lisbon, but African Portuguese dialects differ from standard European Portuguese both in terms of pronunciation and colloquial vocabulary.
The answer is: Babbel teaches Brazilian Portuguese, much like another popular app, Duolingo.Does duolingo teach Brazilian Portuguese or European Portuguese? ›
Duolingo's Portuguese course teaches the Brazilian form of Portuguese. While there are some notable differences between the Brazilian and European varieties — such as pronunciation, spelling and vocabulary — they are best viewed as two sides of the same coin.What is the best way to learn Portuguese fluently? ›
Many language experts recommend immersion as the fastest way to become fluent in Portuguese; move to Portuguese or Brazil, live with a host family and have every interaction in Portuguese.Which Portuguese is best to learn? ›
Brazilian Portuguese is considered by many to be the easier strand to learn, with its open vowels and strong cadence (it's also considered to be easier on the ears, for this reason).What app is good for learning Portuguese? ›
Apps to learn Portuguese like Duolingo, Rocket Languages, FluentU, Babbel, and Pimsleur will give you a well-rounded foundation in the language. Using apps is a great way to learn languages since they make the process fun and entertaining.Can a Brazilian talk to a Portuguese? ›
Brazilian and European Portuguese are considered mutually intelligible. This means that when speaking or writing about general topics, Brazilian and Portuguese people can normally understand each other.Do you say Brazilian or Portuguese? ›
Portuguese is one of the world's most widely spoken languages, placing sixth behind Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, and Arabic. There are two main kinds of Portuguese: Brazilian (spoken in Brazil) and European (spoken in many countries in Europe, including Portugal).
Portuguese is the official and national language of Brazil being widely spoken by most of the population. Brazil is the most populous Portuguese-speaking country in the world, with its lands comprising the majority of Portugal's former colonial holdings in the Americas.Is Brazil the only country that speaks Portuguese in South America? ›
Brazil is home to the vast majority of those speakers (over 205 million) and is the only country in South America where Portuguese is the official language.
As such, many Brazilians are able to understand Spanish, though they may not speak it fluently. As with speakers of all minority languages in Brazil, Spanish speakers pop up in clusters. Many of these occur close to Brazil's borders with other Latin American countries, where Spanish is the primary language.Is it hard to learn Brazilian Portuguese if you know Spanish? ›
If you already know Spanish, learning Portuguese will probably be much easier than it was for you to learn Spanish initially. This is because the languages share a lexical similarity of almost 90%, meaning that a very high number of the words in Spanish and Portuguese are similar.What language is similar to Brazilian Portuguese? ›
Portuguese and Spanish are very similar languages
Portuguese and Spanish are closely related, as they are both Latin-based languages and share many grammatical structures and patterns.
While European Portuguese was initially spoken in Brazil, it became diluted by many indigenous languages. Other immigrants from various parts of Europe, Asia and the slaves from different regions of Africa influenced the Brazilian Portuguese.Is there a big difference between Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese? ›
The pronunciation is one of the biggest differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. Brazilians pronounce words in a very open way; Portuguese people sound a lot more closed. Portuguese people do not pronounce all the words completely as we Brazillian do.What is the largest Portuguese speaking country in the world? ›
Brazil has the largest population of Portuguese speakers in the world: 211.2 million.