Important Details About Learning Portuguese

by erin on December 29, 2010

Portuguese is a language that is spoken by almost 300 million people across 11 different countries and is the 5th most popular language in the world in terms of the number of speakers. It is amazing that in spite of this, many people in the United States are unaware that Portuguese is very different from Spanish. If you want to learn Portuguese, there are a few things you should learn about the language and its speakers.

Brazil is the country that is home to the most speakers of Portuguese. It is common for people to assume that Spanish is the official language of Brazil because it is surrounded by Spanish speaking countries such as Argentina and Paraguay. Brazil was colonized by Portugal and has long since established its independence but Portuguese remains the official language.

One important thing to know about Portuguese is that there are two different standards of Portuguese. The Portuguese spoken in Portugal and the Portuguese spoken in Brazil are drastically different. Not only do the two standards sound different in terms of pronunciation, their grammatical structure and vocabulary differ greatly as well.

They are so different, in fact, that Brazilians often have to use Brazilian Portuguese subtitles when watching movies made in Portugal. Learning one of the standards does not mean that you will automatically understand the other. Brazilian Portuguese has been strongly affected by African influence (from the time of slavery) and indigenous languages (native of the Brazilian Amazon).

Portuguese is not just the official language of Brazil and Portugal but 9 other countries as well. Portuguese is spoken in several areas of Africa such as Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde. In addition, it is one of the official languages of East Timor and Macau, in Asia. That means that Portuguese is spoken in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. Not to mention the expansive immigrant populations in the United States.

Learning Portuguese is a great idea because it is such a beautiful language. Not to mention, once you learn the language you can travel to any of the many countries where it is spoken. If you are learning the language in order to travel, you should probably first decide where you want to go.

Most classes will offer European Portuguese because it is the standard. If you really search, you might be able to find courses that teach Brazilian Portuguese. Try to take a course that teaches the dialect of Portuguese that is spoken in the region you want to travel to. This is important because accents and vocabulary differ even within different areas of the same country.

Do not assume that just because you speak Spanish, you will have an easier time when you start Portuguese language courses. Although the two languages are both Latin based and have similar vowels, they differ in many ways. The most notable way the two languages differ is in their pronunciation. Portuguese sounds almost nothing like Spanish and to someone who has never heard is spoken before, it has been described as sounding like a mix between French, Arabic and Swedish.

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