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After all, Are Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese Different?

Are Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese Different

Since you have a trip scheduled for Portugal, you want to learn some Portuguese. Then, you stumble upon this website and want to contact me.

I’ll probably tell you I can help, but I think I have to refer you to one of my colleagues who teach European Portuguese. Puzzled, you ask:

“But are Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese different?”

Yes, they are.

In this article, you will learn some differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese.

I condensed the information here so you have the most important aspects of both languages in your head when deciding on learning either one.

Is It European Portuguese or Portugal Portuguese?

Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries [in PT]. And that doesn’t include the territories and Portuguese-speaking communities.

You may have never heard that, but in Brazil, some people think that the term “European Portuguese” is not accurate.

Baloney.

In Portuguese, you can refer to that variant of the Portuguese language as “português europeu, português lusitano, português continental ou português de Portugal” (from Wikipedia).

Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the three main areas where those languages contrast.

What You Say — Vocabulary

Portuguese has about 900 years of documented history.

Throughout the centuries, it has traveled to every corner of this planet… from Asia to America.

It has interacted with more than 100 languages (in Brazil, we have more than 150!). Countless and countless people have used it in their daily life in addition to their own native language.

It stands to reason that the vocabulary gradually grows different everywhere the Portuguese language is spoken.

If you’re reading a technical text, chances are you won’t see many differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese.

It’s in the everyday conversation that Maria has with Renaldo and José has with Carlos that the differences – the real ones — arise.

Below you’ll find some of the common words that differ. And then some.

Portugal Brazil English meaning
Conduzir Dirigir o carro Drive a car.
Banda desenhada quadrinhos Comics.
Pequeno almoço café da manhã Breakfast.
Frigorífico Geladeira Freezer.
Carta de condução Carteira de motorista Driver’s license.
Bilhete de identidade Carteira de identidade ID card.
Casa de banho Banheiro Restroom, toilet.

 

WATCH OUT!

I always giggle when I say the following words aloud.

I just don’t know how the Portuguese have chosen to use those words to talk about people.

I’ll give you both meanings in Brazil and Portugal. If you ever happen to hear one of those words here in Brazil, rest assured the speaker ain’t happy.

Portugal Meaning Brazil Meaning
Canalhada A group of children Canalhada A bunch of motherfuckers
Puto Teenager, young boy Puto Male prostitute
Rapariga Young woman Rapariga Female prostitute
Pica Injection Pica Male genitalia
Bicha Line, queue Bicha Male homosexual

 

How You Say It — Syntax

Syntax determines what word goes in what place. It’s what forces me to say, “look at me” instead of “at me look” if I am to make sense.

In Brazil, not only has there been language interaction, but socioeconomic conditions also determine the level of education and the “control” over the shape that the language takes over time.

We’re more than 200,000 million people spread over twenty-six states. About 52% population hasn’t graduated from high school [in PT]. And 30% of Brazilians have never bought a book in their life [in PT] — those who read finish two books a year on average.

Of course, our language gets very informal and adapts to the way it’s used.

Pronoun Placement

Those little words like “me, te, lhe, o, a…” — the indirect and direct object pronouns — follow different placement rules across the ocean.

Here you’ll see how we say it here in Brazil and how the Portuguese will likely say it.

Portugal Brazil English
Diga-me uma coisa. Me diga uma coisa. Tell me something.
Mostre-me onde está. Me mostre onde está. Show me where it is.
Chamo-me Carla. Me chamo Carla. My name is Carla.

 

Progressive Actions

When describing progressive actions, Brazilians resort to the gerund more often than do the Portuguese.

It doesn’t mean they don’t use it over there. It’s just not as common.

Portugal Brazil English
O que estás a fazer? O que você está fazendo? What are you doing?
O homem está a cantar uma melodia antiga. O homem está cantando uma melodia antiga. The man is singing an old tune.

 

The Pronoun for The Second Person

If you’ve ever met a Brazilian and had a conversation with him or her, you’ve probably heard “tu” and “você”. And, you probably know it but we the Brazilians don’t conjugate the verbs “properly”.

That’s because the conjugation of “você” uses the paradigm of the third person — ele, ela.

And for sheer lack of use, the original conjugation of the second person — tu— has left Brazilian Portuguese altogether.

Not so in Portugal. They do use it “correctly,” and it implies the same difference in register and formality (informal, formal) that you find in the pairs “tu, vous” French, “du, Sie” in German, or even “tu, usted” in Spanish.

I’ve discussed this a bit in the video below.

One more example:

  • Portugal: Tu sabes muito bem que eu estou a trabalhar.
  • Brazil, Colloquial: Tu sabe muito bem que eu tô trabalhando.*
  • Brazil, Regular: Você sabe muito bem que eu estou trabalhando.
  • English translation: You know very well that I’m working.

How You Sound When You Say It — Pronunciation

“I thought it was Russian.”

That’s what many students say when they hear European Portuguese for the first time.

And there’s a reason for that.

Vowels in European Portuguese are way shorter. People tend to gobble them down when speaking every day with their friends.

In Brazil, we elongate them. We streeeeeeeeetch them. Just ask a friend from Rio de Janeiro to say the word “amarelo”.

In Portugal, you would probably here “am’relo.”

But in Brazil — especially in Rio de Janeiro — you’d hear “amareeeelo”.

That happens because in Portugal only the stressed vowel tends to be pronounced fully. The preceding vowels are swallowed.

In Brazil, we like every vowel to be clear — although their pronunciation isn’t so straightforward as those of the Spanish language.

Some other examples you might try are:

  • Pedaço. P’daço. Slice.
  • O menino. O m’nino. The boy.
  • Esp’rar. To wait.

And the Question We Always Hear: Can Brazilians Understand the Portuguese?

Yes, we can.

Brazilian soap operas have become wildly popular in Portugal. They’re used to hearing our accents.

If a Brazilian doesn’t have much familiarity with Portuguese people, he or she might find it hard at first to make sense of what the Portuguese are saying. But this difficulty would go away quickly.

In Conclusion…

Of course, this is a rather introductory article. You can read this page [in PT] if you want to have more information on the differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese.

And tell me in the comments below:

If you speak English as a native language, do you think the variants from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Nigeria… Do you think they are too different? Where does the difference lie for you?

And if you speak any other language, are there “dialects” that you find hard to understand? Let me know in the comments section below.

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