Can Brazilian and European Portuguese Speakers Understand Each Other?


Absolutely! It’s true that there are some differences between the way Brazilians speak and Portuguese people speak. However, they still speak the same language. The people of those two nations have never stopped communicating since Brazil’s discovery in 1500. The level of differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese is comparable to the level of differences between American and British English. And as we all know, American and English people have been communicating without any trouble for years, haven’t they? And, so have we! 

Some differences between the Brazilian and European Portuguese

Those differences are mostly in vocabulary usage, phonetics, and some sentence structure. For example, Portuguese people have the habit of eliminating the unstressed vowels between consonants when they speak, such as the /e/ in the word menina (girl). They pronounce it ~ m’nina instead of ~ menina as Brazilians do.

Most educated Brazilians and those who have had some kind of contact with European Portuguese speakers do not have any trouble understanding them. And if at first, they do have some trouble, as they get used to their speaking rhythm, they start to get it. It’s just a question of getting used to listening to their beautiful accent.

My personal experience with European Portuguese speakers

As a Brazilian, I had the opportunity to meet several European Portuguese people while living in Rio de Janeiro during my childhood. And we didn’t have any trouble understanding or communicating with each other. Later, I moved to California and worked as a tele-Portuguese Interpreter for five years. I actually interpreted phone calls from Portuguese speakers to Banks, Hospitals, Insurances, Schools, and other institutions. I was able to help both Brazilians and Portuguese people.

However, I did notice that the older Portuguese generation who had moved from Portugal to the US many years prior to that time, didn’t understand me very well. They actually thought that I was speaking Spanish. The fact is that they had created a totally new Portuguese dialect for themselves which I call –Portenglish, a mixture of Portuguese and English. Needless to say, I also had a bit of trouble understanding their new dialect. So, whenever that happened, I would just offer to transfer their call to a European Portuguese interpreter.

In recent years, my husband and I spent a week traveling in Portugal, and I had no problems communicating with anyone. From the tour guide to a restaurant servant to a sales assistant and even to a beggar in the street, my Portuguese was perfectly sufficient to communicate without any problems. And we had a wonderful time enjoying the sites, the food, and our beloved Portuguese brothers and sisters.

Make your learning Portuguese an enjoyable experience. Please, check out our All About Portuguese page for more information about this beautiful Romance language.

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