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Learning European Portuguese vs. Brazilian Portuguese: What You Need to Know

Portuguese is a beautiful and diverse language spoken by millions of people around the world. 

If you’ve decided to learn Portuguese, you may have stumbled upon the question of whether to pick European or Brazilian Portuguese. 

While the two variants are to a great extent mutually intelligible among native speakers, there are nonetheless differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and even grammar. 

In this blog post, I will point out a few differences between the two standards of Portuguese as well as explore key factors to consider when deciding between them. Read on.

Differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese

Pronunciation and Accent

The most noticeable difference between European and Brazilian Portuguese is by far pronunciation and accent. 

Brazilian Portuguese tends to have a softer and more melodious sound. In contrast, European Portuguese is known for its closed vowel sounds and harsh tone, which can be challenging for language learners.

If you haven’t noticed that yet, go ahead and browse TV shows, podcasts, or YouTube channels in either standard to hear the differences.

Vocabulary 

While the core vocabulary of both variants is largely the same, there are lexical differences reflecting different cultures (not least colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions) that learners should be aware of. Here are a few examples:

PortugalBrazil
hi everyone!olá pessoal!oi galera!
bathroomquarto de banhobanheiro
breakfastpequeno-almoçocafé da manhã
juicesumosuco
fridgefrigoríficogeladeira
traincomboiotrem
busautocarroônibus
hot dogcachorro cachorro quente
ice creamgeladosorvete
to chat (informal)pôr-se à tretabater um papo
somethinguma coisaum negócio
awesome/nicefixelegal
dogcãocachorro
mobile phonetelemóvelcelular
draught beerimperialchope
brandyaguardentecachaça
screenecrãtela
computer mouseratomouse
football teamequipa de futeboltime de futebol
goalkeeperguarda-redesgoleiro
goalgologol
tramelétricobonde
grassrelvagrama
block
(neighbourhood)
quarteirãoquadra
. . . . . . 

Also, you’ll come across false friends, that is, words that look the same but mean different things. Here are a few examples:

PTBR
propina tuition feebrive
apelido last namenickname
raparigagirlprostitute
fato suitfact
pele leatherskin
bichaqueue gay
peão pedestrianpawn
. . .. . .

Grammar

Though nothing really substantial, there are grammar nuances between Brazilian and European Portuguese.  

For instance, European Portuguese tends to call for definite articles in front of proper nouns and possessive pronouns. In Brazilian Portuguese, though, those articles are most often left out:

(pt) O meu irmão chama-se Paulo.
(br) Meu irmão se chama Paulo.
My brother is called Paulo.

In the example above, you can also observe that the reflexive pronoun se takes different positions in the sentence in European and Brazilian Portuguese. The same would apply to object pronouns.

Another noticeable difference is the way each variant forms the equivalent of the Present Continuous in English:

(pt) Eu estou a falar agora.
(br) Eu estou falando agora.
I am speaking now.

Factors to Consider when Deciding between European and Brazilian Portuguese

Your Goals

The choice between European and Brazilian Portuguese should align with your specific goals. If you plan to visit or work in Portugal, European Portuguese is your pick. Conversely, if your focus is on travel or doing business in Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese is the obvious choice.

Resources and Accessibility

Consider the availability of learning resources for each standard. Brazilian Portuguese resources are more abundant due to Brazil’s larger population and global presence. However, if you have access to European Portuguese materials and instructors, that may sway your decision.

Personal Preference

Ultimately, your personal preferences play a significant role in your language learning journey. 

For instance, some learners are drawn to the musicality of Brazilian Portuguese, while others appreciate the austere tonality of European Portuguese. Try listening to both accents and see which one resonates with you. 

Also, try to figure out as soon as possible which of the standards feels easier on your ears and tongue. Keep in mind that language learners tend to find the accent of the European standard a tad more challenging and that could tip the balance in favor of the Brazilian variant.

On the other hand, those embracing European Portuguese find it easier to understand and adapt to the Brazilian standard than the other way around. If you want to become fluent in both standards, consider starting with European Portuguese. 

Conclusion

While there are differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar between European and Brazilian Portuguese, pronunciation is by and large where those differences are most conspicuous.

If you are on the fence trying to decide between European or Brazilian Portuguese, take your goals, available resources, and personal preferences into consideration. 

Whatever your final pick is, keep in mind that you can always embrace the other standard at a later stage. Usually, for those of you planning to become fluent in both variants, European Portuguese may be the most sensible choice to get started.

Finally, if you want a detailed comparison between Brazilian and European Portuguese concerning pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, go ahead and read this one: European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – How Different Are They Really?

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Olá! This is Pedro and I'm the founder of Portuguesepedia, a platform created to support and accelerate your Portuguese learning journey. Até já, p

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