Surely you have thought about how similar are Spanish and Portuguese. Well, let us tell you something: not everything is what it seems. There are indeed many similarities but there’s also a lot of differences that you’ll discover in the next paragraphs.
Both the Spanish and the Portuguese evolved from the Latin. The Iberian countries had the same language that evolved differently but kept a lot of similarities. That is the main reason why most people in each country can make themselves understand in the other.
Spanish is clearly a language spoken by more people than Portuguese and there’s also more people looking to learn Spanish. Once you know Spanish, Portuguese is easier to learn because you’ll have a lot of vocabulary already. But the other way around is even easier.
Not always Spanish people understand Portuguese but Portuguese people almost always understand what a Spanish person is saying. There is an “idiom” Portuguese people call “Portunhol” that they speak fluently. Portunhol has its name resulting from the agglutination of the words “português” and “espanhol” and was invented by every single Portuguese who doesn’t actually speak Spanish but can make themselves understandable. Basically, Portunhol is a mix of both languages or, even better, it is Portuguese with a Spanish accent. Does this work? 95% of the times it does. How about the other 5% of the times? Somehow, Portuguese people have a talent to always make it work!
Truth is, the main reason why Portunhol doesn’t work all the time is because of the false friends there are. Here are some examples:
While in Portuguese this word is totally not offensive as it means octopus, in Spanish it refers to dust but also has sexual connotations so be careful when asking for octopus in a Spanish speaking country.
Portunhol often means, as said previously, using the same word with a different accent. That’s the case with this example. The problem is that “embaraçada” simply means embarrassed in Portuguese but “embarazada” is the word for pregnant in Spanish. Confusing this words would definitely lead to an embarrassing situation.
Talking about embarrassing situations… Do not call anyone a borracha (masculine: borracho) in a Spanish speaking country. While in Portugal a borracha is an eraser, in Spain it is used to refer to someone who drank too much.
In Portugal an eraser is a borracha and in Spain it is a goma. Turns out goma has a different meaning in Portuguese than it has in Spanish. In Portuguese, a goma is a gum. It’s fine to eat a goma in Portugal but it isn’t fine to eat it in Spain.
Are there other different words? Yes, plenty of them. Here are some more examples (word – meaning in Portuguese – meaning in Spanish):
Salada – Salad – Salty
Rato – Rat – Space of time
Oficina – Workshop – Office
Cena – Scene – Late dinner
Largo – Wide – Longo