Spanish ≠ Portuguese

Many people hold fast to the myth that Spanish and Portuguese are similar enough to be mutually intelligible. They are both Romance languages (based on Latin) and share many grammatical structures and vocabulary. They are indeed closer to one another than English is to its closest brethren, Scots and Frisian. But let me debunk the idea right now that Portuguese is just Spanish with a bunch of Z-sounds; they are two distinct languages. You might be able to get by for a couple weeks of vacation in Rio or Salvador with some Spanish, but living in Brazil means coming to terms with false cognates, misunderstandings, and lots of asking people to repeat themselves slowly—mais devagado in Portuguese, versus the Spanish más despacio. Ou seja, espanhol e português não são iguais.

See, not only is the Portuguese lexicon full of words that are similar but mean different things than their Spanish counterparts, words that exist in both languages but are used more in one than the other, and thousands of contractions versus the two in Spanish (al, del), the Portuguese sound system is a monster on its own. Word-initial R and double-R (rio, carro) get pronounced as an English H, unlike the trill that gives Spanish its snapcracklepop (ergo, HEE-oo, KA-hoo). Oh, and the O at the end of words is pronounced like the Spanish U (see previous example). And there’s lots more, minha vida.

Note: My Spanish was developed first in the Dominican Republic, honed and fine-tuned on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, and peppered with that Floridian-Cubano seasoning of Miami, so ‘scuse me if i’m not thpeaking de Cathtellano of Ethpaña. Like the various Englishes that exist, the many Spanish dialects all have varied vocab and pronunciation. And I’m talking about Brazilian Portuguese. Deal.

These words are pretty easy to recognize and mostly mean the same thing.

street-calle-rua (think ruta)
to leave-salir-sair
to write-escribir-escrever
to listen-escuchar-escutar
to arrive-llegar-chegar
yes-sí-sim (silent M, nasalized I)

These require a little more brain power.

to speak-hablar-falar
to dance-bailar-dançar
to need-necesitar-precisar
to save (money, time)-ahorrar-economizar

No way in hell you can guess these words as a non-native Spanish speaker.

to close-cerrar-fechar
to forget-olvidar-esquecer
to turn on-prender-ligar
to look-mirar-olhar (mirar is used in Portuguese poetry, as in mira lua)
to happen-pasar-acontecer
is there water?-hay agua?-tem agua?
we go-vamos-a gente vai (huh?)

I could go all day.

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