It’s my pleasure to introduce to you my good friend, Débora Fontenelle, as the writer of this post. She attended the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and earned a language teacher diploma for Portuguese and English. Thank you Debbie for writing this great and clarifying post about the two versions of Portuguese.
Foreigners interested in learning Portuguese may wonder if there are a lot of differences between the Portuguese spoken in Brazil that spoken in Portugal, and which one they should choose to study. Undoubtedly, there is a lot to talk about this subject. Despite the existing differences, though, there is no interference in the standard communication between Brazilians and Portuguese people.
However, after the Portuguese Orthographic Reform, which took place in 2009, to unify the spelling in the eight countries whose official language is Portuguese – Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe, the differences can be more easily noticed in conversation, in terms of phonetics, vocabulary and sentence structure. Let us see some examples.
A very easy difference to recognize is that Brazilian people open more their mouths more to pronounce the words, especially the vowels. Portuguese citizens, on the other hand, almost subtract the vowels in the beginning and in the middle of the words, so you always hear the predominance of consonant sounds. As far as the pace of speech is concerned; the Portuguese speak much faster than the Brazilians. It may sound funny, but as the Portuguese are accustomed to listening to Brazilian music and watching Brazilian soap operas on their media, they do not think Brazilian pronunciation is strange. However, Brazilian people generally have a lot more difficulty understanding Portuguese speakers. In some states of Brazil, people have a tendency to speak even slower than the average of their compatriots; it is the case of the citizens of Bahia. So, I have always wondered how interesting it would be to listen to a person born there talking to someone from Portugal… It would certainly be a unique experience!
Another point one cannot forget is that the most used second-person pronoun in the singular form (you) in Brazil is você, but in Portugal, it is tu. Tu is also used very often in the South and in the Northeast of Brazil, but the verb is not usually conjugated correctly. In other states of Brazil, like Rio de Janeiro, people use você a lot, but also alternate with tu using the wrong verb conjugation as well. Speakers conjugate the verbs for both pronouns the same way. For example, Will you go there? is translated as Você vai lá ou Tu vai lá? As you can see, both sentences have the same verb conjugation. However, the correct form for tu would be vais –Tu vais lá? This is the typical case of the use of tu in the Brazilian states. However, there are some exceptions; if you travel to the city of Belém, the capital of Pará, in the Northern Region of Brazil, you will certainly hear people using pronoun tu with its correct conjugation just like the Portuguese people do.
Você, in Brazil, is an informal way of treatment, and it is not appropriate for a young person to use it when addressing an older one, or when someone in a work environment is addressing another of a higher hierarchy. In this case, the preferable form would o senhor (sir) ou a senhora (madam) which are third-person pronouns, but function as second-person ones. In other situations, you can always use você which is a second-person pronoun, but the verb that follows it conjugates as third-person.
No matter which version of Portuguese you choose to learn, either European or Portuguese, you will be able to communicate with local native speakers in both countries, provided you learn about the differences and prepare for them.
In case you would like a little taste of Debora Fontenelle’s writing in Portuguese, please, go to her blog at Crônicas e Cores de Débora Fontenelle.
Make your learning Portuguese an enjoyable experience. Please, check out our All About Portuguese page for more information about this beautiful Romance language.