You’ve decided to learn Portuguese and you’ve hit your first stumbling block: whether to learn Brazilian or European Portuguese. It isn’t a question people generally have to ask themselves when they’re learning French or Spanish but it’s a question that you need to ask yourself when learning Portuguese.
Is there that big a difference between the Portuguese spoken in Brazil and the Portuguese spoken in Portugal? Yes and no. If you learn Portuguese, particularly European Portuguese, you will come into contact with a lot of Brazilian Portuguese through music, movies, and the many wonderful Brazilian people that you’ll meet in Portugal. You might even end up speaking to more Brazilians than Portuguese people. And even though there are differences in pronunciation, grammar, and some words, particularly slang, you should have few problems understanding what they say, even though you’re focused on learning Portuguese as it’s spoken in Portugal.
Can European Portuguese speakers understand Brazilian Portuguese?
If you learn European Portuguese, you will be able to understand Brazilian Portuguese, although you will need to expose yourself to the way it’s spoken through podcasts, movies, music, and speaking with Brazilian people. If you learn Brazilian Portuguese, you will also be able to understand European Portuguese. However, European Portuguese speakers tend to have a slightly easier time understanding Brazilian Portuguese speakers than the other way around. This is due to the way European Portuguese is spoken, but also because people from Portugal have a lot of exposure to Brazilian TV shows, movies, and music as Brazil produces a lot of content and Portugal much less so.
For the most part, however, European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese are mutually intelligible.
Which is harder? Brazilian or European Portuguese
European Portuguese is often seen as harder, particularly when it comes to pronunciation and hearing it spoken by native speakers, and many non-Portuguese speakers say that Brazilian Portuguese sounds more melodic. In the past, learning European Portuguese was also harder because there were far fewer courses, websites, and apps as most focused on Portuguese from Brazil. Thankfully, that has now changed.
A few courses that cover European Portuguese include:
Unfortunately, there are very few resources that teach Portuguese as a world language with the exception of one textbook, Ponto de Encontro: Portuguese as a World Language.
Are there big differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese?
It’s the same language, but there are notable differences, particularly with pronunciation but also grammar.
There are also some differences in word meanings (rapariga means girl in Brazil, but prostitute or mistress in Portugal) but that’s similar to American and British English (a rubber means an eraser in the UK but a condom in the US).
Should you use the wrong word in Portugal, most people will know what you mean.
Should I learn Brazilian Portuguese if I’m planning to travel there?
If you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese and spending the majority of your time in Brazil, you will mainly hear Brazilian Portuguese spoken. You will undoubtedly come across Portuguese speakers from Portugal, but you’ll probably be less likely to watch Portuguese TV shows and movies or to listen to Portuguese music simply because Portugal produces a lot less content than Brazil. And if you search in Portuguese online, you will come across a lot more Brazilian websites.
Naturally, there are also plenty of great courses that cover Brazilian Portuguese, like:
Popular language learning apps like Babbel and DuoLingo also focus on Brazilian rather than European Portuguese too. Another fun way to learn Portuguese would be to go to Brazil and to learn it there.
What Happens if I learn Brazilian Portuguese in Portugal?
You will be understood, and that’s the most important thing. However, you may find that some people will correct you, particularly if it’s obvious that you’re learning Portuguese as most will assume you want to learn European Portuguese if you’re living in Portugal. If you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese because you expect to spend a lot of time in Brazil, simply say this.
If you already speak Brazilian Portuguese fluently, and it’s clear you’re not learning Portuguese, you’re unlikely to be corrected.
So, which should I learn: European or Brazilian Portuguese?
- If you’re planning to live in Portugal or spend a lot of time here, you should probably learn European Portuguese.
- If you aren’t planning to spend a lot of time in Portugal, you should probably learn Brazilian Portuguese.
Still not sure “which Portuguese” is right for you? Why not spend some time listening to YouTube videos of Brazilian and Portuguese people speaking Portuguese to see which one you prefer. And if Portuguese from Portugal is the winner, be sure to check out this guide to learning European Portuguese!