If you've ever confused and Spanish speaker with a Portuguese speaker then you wouldn't be the first to do it, and you probably won't be the last. Both cultures are of a Spanish origin, and as a result, they sound incredibly similar.
For the most part, a Spanish speaker could have a conversation with a native Portuguese speaker, and vice versa. They may have a little bit of trouble understanding certain words and phrases, but they would be able to get the main points that were trying to be conveyed.
A Short History
Both Portuguese and Spanish are known as romance languages, and they originate from the original Latin language that was spoken by the Roman Empire. As Rome spread across the world, Latin developed into separate languages such as Spanish, French, and Portuguese. When Latin mixed with the native language of the conquered land, the romance languages developed.
Spain's origins begin with the ancient country of Hispania which was divided into two separate sections, Ulterior and Cliterior. This country was going through constant turmoil and war, and as a result, there were often kings and rulers from certain Arabic countries that mixed their language in with the original Latin Spanish.
This is where the main differences in terminology and words come from, even though the original Latin stems and grammar remain.
In the 14th and 15th Centuries when Portuguese and Spanish were exploring and settling in the New World, they each conquered their prospective regions and then mixed their existing languages further with the native dialects. This is how modern-day Spanish in South America and Portuguese developed!
How Similar Are Spanish And Portuguese?
From the outside, the two languages can seem very similar. The accent is often the same, many of the words are same, and the speed and pace at which the languages are spoken are also similar. The Spanish and Portuguese also share a lot of the same culture. It is often hard to distinguish between a Spanish-speaking event and a Portuguese event.
The similar sounds of the two languages can often be misleading. There are words in Portuguese and Spanish that are pronounced almost the same way, but have different meanings and are used in different situations. Let's take a look at an example:
‘Muito’ And ‘Muy’
This is an interesting one. You see, in Spanish depending on the situation, you can either use the word “muy,” which means “very,” or you can use “mucho,” which means “a lot” or “much.”
In Portuguese, this is a lot more simple. The same meaning is encompassed by the use of one word- "muito." Whether you're trying to say that you like something a lot or you're trying to say that you love somebody very much, this one word will be used in the same sentence.
If You Know One Is It Easy To Learn The Other?
Knowing Spanish or Portuguese can definitely help you to learn the other language. There are many spanish speakers that are fluent in Portuguese, and many Portuguese speakers who come over to America or Mexico, say that they find it relatively easy to learn how to speak Spanish.
One of the most commonly reported problems that they experience between speaking and writing the two languages is accidental confusion. A Portuguese speaker will often break into Spanish by accident, and a Spanish speaker will often cut into Portuguese while speaking or writing.
Is One Easier To Learn Than The Other?
This is a difficult question to answer. Naturally, if you grow up speaking, writing, and reading the language, it will be easier. Children have a massive propensity to be able to learn even the hardest of languages. Both Spanish and Portuguese children learn their language at a relatively young age, and on average become fluent speakers by the age of five.
Now, this is going to be a completely different case if you're an adult and trying to learn Spanish or Portuguese as a second language. The languages are very similar, and the grammatical structure is almost identical, so it really depends upon your exposure.
One language is not easier to learn than the other. The best way to get familiar with the words is to read a vocabulary book, study and surround yourself with it every day. If you follow these two things, you can pick up just about any language.
What’s The Best Way To Learn?
The easiest way to learn a second language is to expose yourself to it every single day. This means that the easiest of the two languages to learn is the one which you’re around the most. If you want to learn how to speak a new language, then the best thing that you can do is to study it and expose yourself to it every single day.
Try to avoid using your native tongue. If you can surround yourself by speakers of that language, ask them to only talk to you in the language that you're trying to learn. This will force your brain to pay close attention to every word it hears and helps to form connections to the other material that you will be studying every day.
Another great way to learn the language is to consume the media. This means listening to Spanish or Portuguese music, reading magazines, and watching movies or television. This is a fun way to get used to the way the speakers talk and gives your brain a fun visual connection to associate with the language.
If you're trying to learn a second language, both make excellent choices. Spanish is more widely-used than Portuguese, and you will probably find it easier to learn because of this. You will be able to speak and hear it more like an outsider. However, if you do live in an area that has a Portuguese population, or you're planning to visit a country where the language is spoken, then it won't be any harder to learn how to speak it.
The important thing to remember when you’re learning any language is that you will get out what you put into it. The more you practice, read, and familiarize yourself with Spanish or Portuguese, the easier it will get and the more you will understand.