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Differences in Portuguese: Brazil vs. Portugal

By Alison at Accredited Language
Posted on Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Category: Languages

speech bubblesThe differences in the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil and Portugal are roughly comparable to the differences between British and American English.

While this may seem small, it’s important to address these differences when translating and interpreting the Portuguese language, for both practical and cultural reasons.

Pronunciation and Vocabulary Differences

As with British and American English, the greatest Portuguese differences stem from pronunciation, vocabulary and spelling.

Although the two styles of Portuguese are mutually intelligible, pronunciation varies. Brazilian Portuguese, for instance, is often noted for its more open pronunciation of vowels.

Vocabulary differences are also evident in the Portuguese spoken in Brazil and Portugal. As is the case with Spanish language differences found between Europe and Latin America, this is largely due to geography contributing to diverse influences.

For instance, the word for “pineapple” in European Portuguese is “ananas,” similar to other European languages: German “Ananas,” French “ananas” and even the Hungarian “ananasz.” In Brazil, on the other hand, the Portuguese word for pineapple is quite different: “abacaxi.” The Brazilian Portuguese in this case was heavily influenced by native Amerindian languages of the region.

Spelling Differences and Steps Toward Uniformity

The spelling differences found in the Portuguese of Brazil and Portugal stem in part from the way words are pronounced in the two countries. Steps are being taken to bring the two types of Portuguese closer together, however — at least in terms of spelling. In fact, an orthographic agreement was established between Portuguese-speaking countries in an attempt to unify spelling of the language on a global level.

Brazil, which houses the largest number of native Portuguese speakers worldwide and was the first country where the reforms took effect, instituted the agreement on January 1, 2009.

The reform consisted of multiple elements, including the addition of three letters (k, w and y) to the alphabet, and the removal of silent consonants so that words are spelled in a more phonetic manner. The word for “great,” for instance, changed from “optimo” to the simpler “otimo.” A number of accent marks were also eliminated from letters, further simplifying spelling.

Differences Still Matter to Translators and Interpreters

Despite the recently-instituted reforms toward greater Portuguese linguistic unity, translators and interpreters still need to differentiate between the Portuguese of Brazil and that of Portugal. One reason is that the orthographic reforms are still in a transitional state and not yet fully accepted: Portugal only accepted the reforms in 2010.

Differences in pronunciation remain and are unlikely to change, since dialects are so heavily influenced by geography. Even within Brazil, an enormous country, many different types of Brazilian Portuguese dialects can be found. Due to the Portuguese differences that continue to exist in Brazil and Portugal, it’s important to determine which variety of Portuguese is needed before hiring a translator or interpreter.

4 Responses to “Differences in Portuguese: Brazil vs. Portugal”

  1. Franco Says:

    People make way too much of the differences. Portuguese is Portuguese, English is English, spanish is Spanish, French is French, etc.

    Brazilians and Portuguese both speak Portuguese in their own beautiful way. Both understand each other perfectly.
    It’s not like one is speaking one language and the other another.

    Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese. The root and foundation of Brazil is Portuguese i.e., the language, cuisine, architecture, religion, government, etc., etc.
    Brazilians speak Portuguese exotically, which is fine because it goes well with their exotic culture and country. Angolans speak Portuguese with their own flair, and the Portuguese from Portugal speak it their way. But, even in these countries, and others where Portuguese is official (9 in total), there are differences in speech even within those countries. Even in the Azores, the speech patterns of these small islands change from one town to another.

  2. David Says:

    Portuguese is a beautiful language. And Brazilian and Portuguese both speak this language in their own way. Its sounds like they both are speaking two different languages. They both have their own Vocabulary and accent. Yeah…but its important for a Portuguese Translator to know and use the correct one.

  3. Portugal4dawin Says:

    FRANCO–> “both understand each one perfectly”???

    I am portuguese. When I went to Brazil people had a hard time understanding what I was saying, so I had to speak brazilian portuguese. I see portuguese youtubers playing video games and in the comment of de videos i see brazilian people (they were using brazilian expressions like “cara” and “legal”) and they were saying that they could understand very well our accent and that was very closed. You’re wrong when you say that both understand each one perfectly.

  4. Ricardo Says:

    I have to agree with Portugal4dawin. I am Brazilian and very often I can’t understand what a Portuguese says. However I don’t think it happens because of vocabulary; it has much more to do with pronunciation. For example, in Brazil, we always speak all vowels of a word (ga.rra.fa), whereas in Portugal, they often suppress some sounds (g’.rra.f(a)); because of this, words sound different and sometimes you simply don’t understand them.

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