Brazilian vs. European Portuguese

By David Fetterolf, Stratus Video President

According to the Linguistic Society of America, there are upwards of 6,000 languages spoken the world over (source). This mind-blowing number does not even account for dialects, which can make even the most familiar languages sound completely foreign. Earlier this week, our Language Operations department chose to separate one of our video languages into two distinct dialects: Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. Because even though these two dialects are derived from the same language, they are different enough that a distinction became necessary.

Let’s take a look at the difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese.

First, it is important to understand that Portuguese is a major world language. It is the only official language of seven different countries: Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It is a part of the Ibero-Romance language group and has about 223 million speakers worldwide (source).

But regardless of the pervasiveness of Portuguese, a Portuguese speaker from Brazil and a Portuguese speaker from Europe may not be able to understand one another at all. Below is a list of the most glaring differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese:


  • Pronunciation: Portuguese people tend to speak with their mouth more closed, and Brazilians tend to speak with their mouths more open. This results in wildly different pronunciations of the same words (source).


  • Grammar: In Portuguese, there are two different ways to say “you” – a formal, and an informal way. In Portugal, the informal “you” is reserved for friends and family. In Brazil, the formal “you” is used almost exclusively. The version of “you” used actually changes the conjugation of the verb. For example, a sentence as simple “do you like movies?” can be expressed “Tu gostas de filmes?” in Portugal, and “Você gosta de filmes?” in Brazil. (source).


  • Vocabulary: Even vocabulary can differ between Brazilian and European Portuguese, due in no small part to the influence of indigenous languages in South America. For example, in Brazil, “Trem” means Train. In Portugal, the word for train is “Comboio”. (source).


Between the differences in pronunciation, grammatical structure, and various vocabularies, it is easy to understand why Portuguese speakers from different areas may struggle to understand one another.

In an effort to bring our clients the best language services possible, we have made it easy for healthcare providers to provide the right Portuguese interpreter for their patients.

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