Which Portuguese should I learn?

So you’ve decided to learn Portugal but now you’ve learnt that different countries speak different variations of Portuguese and you can’t decide which one you want to learn.

I’m assuming your choice is probably between Portuguese from Portugal or from Brazil so these are the two I’ll be comparing but let’s have a look into the language.

which portuguese should you learn

Which countries speak Portuguese?

First of all these are the countries that speak Portuguese as an official language.

  • Angola
  • Brazil
  • Cape Verde
  • East Timor
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Mozambique
  • Portugal
  • São Tomé e Príncipe

It’s not as many as Spanish or French speaking countries, but it’s still a large enough amount to make Portuguese a key language.

However, I’m assuming when you’re wondering which Portuguese to learn, you’re trying to decide between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese from Portugal.

Differences between Portugal and Brazil’s Portuguese

Although they are the same language, they have an ocean separating them and therefore some elements of the language are going to be different.

Accents

The accents between the two types of Portuguese are definitely different and to understand both I would say you need exposure to both.

Having said that, the popular opinion seems to be that Portuguese from Brazil is a lot easier to understand, they have more open vowel sounds and they speak louder, slower and clearer. For someone learning the language this makes it much easier and makes Brazilian Portuguese sound more appealing. Portuguese from Portugal tends to be more mumbled and spoken more quietly.

On the other hand, this also means it’ll be easier to understand Brazilian Portuguese if you learn Portuguese form Portugal first then if you do it the other way round.

Vocabulary

Just like American vs. British English, or Spanish vs. South American Spanish, there are some differences in vocabulary. And interestedly enough, you’ll find some similarities between USA English, South American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, and some similarities between British English, Castellano and Portuguese from Portugal.

English – Brazil – Portugal

  • Train – Trem – Comboio
  • Bus – Ônibus – Autocarro
  • Ice cream – Sorvete – Gelado

Grammar

Brazilians tend to be a bit more formal, and by this I mean they use voceê in both informal and formal context, where as in Portugal they favour tu in informal contexts and você for formal.

The gerund is also a lot more popular in Brazil than it is in Portugal. In Brazil it is used in most speech but in Portugal they tend to use the infinitive instead.

Which one should you choose?

Let’s look at some of the factors that might influence which Portuguese you’re going to choose. These are some of the factors that we think are important but if you think of others, please let us know in the comments below.

Where are you based?

brazilian portuguese

This might be one of the most useful questions to ask when decided on which type of Portuguese to learn. If you’re based in North or South American, then Brazilian Portuguese makes the most sense to learn as it is probably Brazilians you’re most likely to meet, and Brazil is the country you’re more likely to visit.

If you’re based in Europe, then it makes more sense to learn Portuguese from Portugal, as again you’re more likely to visit that country and you’re more likely to meet people from Portugal than from Brazil.

It probably also makes sense for jobs to learn the type of Portuguese nearest you, as the companies in your country are more likely to require that as a skill, unless of course you’re going after a specific country that you know deals with one of the markets.

Why are you learning?

Portugal portuguese

 

First reason may sound obvious but it still needs to be said. If you’re learning Portuguese because it’s the native language of your partner or spouse, then I would recommend just learning their Portuguese. You will still be understood in other Portuguese speaking regions regardless of which one you choose to learn. There are just some vocabulary and grammar differences but nothing that will hinder your communication.

If you’re looking for a job and your current location doesn’t impact your decision then it might be useful to keep in mind that Brazil’s market and economy are rising at an amazing rate while Portugal’s market isn’t doing so well.

How many people speak each type of Portuguese

Brazil: 209 million people live in Brazil

Portugal: 10.3 million people live in Portugal

Obviously if you were going to make your decision based on how many people speak that language alone then you would choose Brazil, but since you’re reading this I’m assuming you’re looking for other factors. Because even though 209 million people live in Brazil and speak Brazilian Portuguese, you’re never going to meet any of them unless you actually go to Portugal.

Having said that, with the internet, these people are becoming more and more accessible. Meaning with more native speakers you’ll have more people to speak Brazilian Portuguese with than Portugal Portuguese. Having said that, with 10 million native speakers, I doubt you’re going to run out of people to practise with from Portugal either.

Let’s look at resources available for each type of Portuguese:

Duolingo

Duolingo teaches Brazilian Portuguese. This makes most sense as it is an American app and therefore Brazilian will be the type of Portuguese that the creators of the app are most likely to encounter, and probably the most popular type of Portuguese learnt in the USA.

Memrise

Memrise is a memorisation app, that shows you options and you have to choose the right answer. The good thing about memrise is that it doesn’t have just one creator and instead anyone can add courses to the app like anyone can add information to wikipedia. The problem with this is that it is’t always quality controlled but the good thing for you is that you will be able to find courses which use both types of Portuguese.

Anki

anki

Anki is a flashcard app, which similarly to Memrise, anyone can upload to. You can even create your own deck of cards of vocab you want to learn or use other people’s. You can also choose to make these cards public or private. This means, just like with memrise, that you’ll probably be able to find cards for Portuguese from both Portugal and Brazil.

Italki

Italki is my favourite platform that isn’t app based. There are several features on this website. Firstly you can find teachers or language partners. The function is the same for both of these, except for the teacher you pay and the partner is free. The good thing about this is that you can select the country you want your teacher or partner to be from. Meaning you can get practise with any dialect of any language you’re learning (assuming they use italki too).

Final thoughts

I don’t think this decision is as big as you might think. Sure you have to pick one at first to learn the words and grammar of one dialect but once you’ve learnt that there’s no reason you can’t learn the words retrospectively then just apply them depending on which country you’re in.

Also most people speak a foreign language in their countries accent. So although yes you probably want to try harder as you get more fluent, I wouldn’t worry too much about that just yet.

The most important thing to do is to choose one and just start learning, and if you change your mind you can change over. Also, it doesn’t really matter which one you learn as you’ll be understood in both countries regardless of which one you choose. The only thing you might have to do is look at some vocabulary differences before you go.

Now you’ve hopefully decided which Portuguese you’re going to learn, why not consider buying a Portuguese textbook to help you on your way.

Good luck and keep learning.

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