It’s true that the Portuguese that is spoken in Brazil originated from Portugal, however, centuries passed and the language evolved since then in different ways depending on the country and its culture. You can rest assure that, if you learn a variant of Portuguese and become fluent in it you can still understand the other variants, but there are factors with which you need to get used. That’s why we’re going to explore the main differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese so you can become a pro at understanding both.
This may be the first thing that comes to mind to people who are learning Portuguese as the Brazilian accent is widely known as more open in terms of vowels and with a pronunciation of almost every sound which makes it easier to understand to a non-native Portuguese speaker. On the other hand, European Portuguese is often compared to the sound of Slavic languages as many sounds are omitted. This can be explained by the fact that Brazilians tend to speak with their mouths more open than the Portuguese. An interesting fact is that the Brazilians themselves, once they are emerged in the other country need some time to adapt to the way the words are pronounced and have some difficulties in understanding the European Portuguese accent at first.
There have always been some differences in the spelling of these two variants. With the new spelling agreement has been implemented in Portugal, some of the consonants have been removed from European Portuguese such as “Recepção” in Brazil and “Receção” in Portugal.
Naturally, the vocabulary used, specially in informal conversation tends to differ a bit. Some of this is due to the fact that some words that have fallen out of favour in Portuguese, due to new changes, are still used in Brazil and the different cultural influences that each country has. Some of the most common examples are the words “Ônibus” (Brazil) and “Autocarro” (Portuguese) for bus, “Sorvete” (Brazil) and “gelado”(Portugal) for ice-cream and “Terno” (Brazil) and “Fato” (Portugal) for the word suit. Since the informal speech is the one which is more susceptible to changes, slang words in Brazil and in Portugal are very different, each variant with words that aren’t used in the other.
This is another difference that is quickly identifiable by even the non-native Portuguese speakers. The gerund applies to verbs that express motion or an action such as the verbs “cooking”, “running” or “eating”, for instance. When translating the gerund to Portuguese the suffix used for “-ing” is “-ndo”. This way, the verbs mentioned earlier would turn into “cozinhando”, “correndo” and “comendo”. This is how a Brazilian would express themselves, whereas a Portuguese person doesn’t use the gerund and opt for the verb in the infinitive with the preposition “a” before the verb instead. So, if you were trying to speak European Portuguese the verbs would be “estou a cozinhar”, “estou a correr” and “estou a comer”. The use of the gerund in Brazillian Portuguese tends to facilitate the understanding and speaking of the language by those who are learning it. However, the gerund is still used in some expressions in European Portuguese, but not so often as in Brazilian Portuguese.
Assimilation of foreign words
The assimilation of foreign words into Portuguese is much more common in the Brazilian variant probably because of the bigger cultural mix that occurs in the country and thus, Brazillian Portuguese tends to borrow words from the English language such as the word media, which turned into “mídia”. On the other hand, the assimilation of foreign words doesn’t occur very often in European Portuguese as it is known as more resistant to change. European Portuguese is still faithful to its Latin root. The reason for this difference is that the Portuguese language first originated in Portugal directly from Latin and the language evolved from it for many centuries before the colonization of Brazil. Because of this the Portuguese tend to identify with a Portuguese that is closer to Latin rather than with English as is the case of the Brazilian. Using the same example, the word for “media” in European Portuguese remains the same as is the Latin word.
Formal and informal speech
Something that differs from European and Brazilian Portuguese are the pronouns used in the formal and informal contexts. For instance, the pronoun “você” is used in formal situations in European Portuguese (although it’s omitted) and the pronoun “tu” for the 2nd person is used in informal contexts. The word “tu” can be omitted in European Portuguese which isn’t regarded as polite in Brazilian Portuguese. In Brazilian Portuguese using the word “você” is perfectly normal and polite in both formal and informal contexts, but, if you are speaking with Portuguese people, not omitting the pronoun can sound quite jarring. These differences not only lead to misunderstandings between foreigners and native speakers, as it can seem confusing, but also between native Portuguese speakers from different variants. So, don’t bit yourself up if you use the wrong pronoun as people will understand the situation. This exposition was elaborated in order for you, as Portuguese language learner, know the main differences of the most widely used Portuguese variants so you could easily decide which Portuguese variant to learn. Although Brazilian Portuguese is perceived as easier to learn, understand and speak, maybe it would be a better choice to learn European Portuguese, as since it tends to be more complex you would gain a better and more profound knowledge of the language and could still perfectly understand Brazilian Portuguese. It has been shown that students that learn Portuguese through the Brazilian variant have great difficulty in understanding Brazilian Portuguese. Even though there are considerable differences, once you reach a good level of Portuguese speaking you will be able to decipher those differences. Of course that, the choice of which variant to learn is many times limited by your needs. If you’re going to visit, study or live in one of those countries, you should opt for learning the variant that is spoken there.