Spanish or Portuguese?

As a native English speaker with a good understanding of French and who has an equal motivation to learn both Spanish and Portuguese, which language do you think I should learn first? I guess I am asking which would be the more easier bearing in mind my French?

They are very similar in terms of reading. Listening-wise, I think Spanish is easier, at least compared to European Portuguese. Portuguese also has a few odd things like infinitivo pessoal or future subjunctive, plus the enclise / proclise thing (not a problem in Brazilian Portuguese though). I feel that Portuguese and French have a few more words in common than Spanish and French maybe due to the influence Arabic had on Spanish.

But we’re talking about small things here, learn the one you like most first and then the other will be fairly easy to pick.

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I reckon that if you are serious about learning both you should start with portuguese, that is how I’ve done it,and I’m glad I did.
I’ve noticed that two of my friends who spoke very fluent spanish struggled to convert this into portuguese.
So I thought I should do this opposite.
I’ve done two years of portuguese and about five, maybe six of spanish, even though spanish is taking over from time to time while using portuguese, I still feel confident it’s not too much of “portunol”[sic]
…and european portuguese nasal sounds are absolutely phenomenal:)
This is my 100% subjective opinion, others might disagree…

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i agree with jorgis do which ever one you want knowing french will help with both you might find spanish pronounciation easier than portuguese especially the one from portugal though

I think you are right and this is not only your subjective opinion :slight_smile: I have read many times that Portuguese speaking people understand Spanish much much better than the other way round. So if someone wants to learn both anyway, I would start with Portuguese.

“Portuguese also has a few odd things like infinitivo pessoal or future subjunctive, plus the enclise / proclise thing (not a problem in Brazilian Portuguese though)”

Where did you find this information? I must say it’s wrong.

“I have read many times that Portuguese speaking people understand Spanish much much better than the other way round.”

I will only write from a Brazilian perspective. Possibly the Portuguese have different things to say on the matter. I will propose six lines of reasons for this:

  1. Consonantal articulation

Portuguese consonants tend to be easier to tell apart in most cases, especially in Brazil, where plosive stops are actually “explosive” (you can almost see people spitting when they pronounce a P). In Spanish the pairs of consonants tend to be closer in pronunciation, so much that they are often confused. This makes the Spanish monoglot feel that the Portuguese consonants are different, which is especially true in the case of voiced stops. Most dialects of Spanish feature weakened voiced stops in unstressed syllables, so that “dado” becomes closer to “dao”. When a Brazilian pronounces “dado” with two strong, explosive “d”, the Spanish speaker will have a hard time to recognise the word. However, the Brazilian will probably notice the weak “d”.

  1. Vowel richness

Portuguese has a much richer set of vowels. Depending on dialect, they can be from 14 to 17, counting nasal variants. My regional dialect has 16, by the whay. So, a typical Portuguese speaker knows all five Spanish vowels and associates them with the five letters of the alphabet.

  1. Vowel reduction

Spanish is usually perceived by Brazilians as an “open” language, whose words are pronounced quite transparently (except in Spain, where, in most regions, people seem to speak with an egg inside the mouth). Some dialects of Spanish, like those of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and most of Central America (up to Mexico) are perceived as slow and painstakingly pronounced, we hear them and we feel people are almost speaking like books, very faithful to spelling. This is not the case of Spain (as already mentioned), Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay, where the accents tend to be more closed.

  1. Affrication

Spanish does not have affrication of stop consonants. Portuguese has. Some dialects of Portuguese do not feature affrication prominently, which is why we are “prepared” to recognise words that are normally affricate when they are pronounced without affrication. For instance: “tia” (aunt) is usually pronounced as “chia” in Brazil, but some dialects do pronounce “tia” as it should be. When we hear a Spanish speaker saying “tía” we know what it means, but a Spanish speaker would probably think"wtf!" when he/she hears “chia” from a Brazilian.

  1. Dialectal variation

There is no such a thing as the RAE for Portuguese. For almost 200 years Portugal has had little say in our culture. Portuguese in Brazil deviated from Portuguese in Portugal, but the Brazilian state was not effective to impose a national standard, allowing regional variants to thrive. Internal migration has exposed Brazilians to a wide array of pronunciations, which helps us recognise cognates in Spanish when they are pronounced like in any Portuguese dialect we have had contact with.

  1. Exposure to Spanish

Though we are not as exposed to Spanish as to English or even Italian, I believe the average Brazilian will have had more contact with Spanish than the average Spanish speaker will have had contact with Brazilian Portuguese.

Taking all of it into account, it just comes naturally that a Brazilian will be closer to understand a foreign speaking Spanish than the contrary, especially if this foreigner is Latin American, even more so if he/she is from the northern half of South America or from Central America.


Portuguese also had a lot of arabic influence, it was an iberian thing.

I think the better answer has to be: “The one you want the most”. I doubt that equal motivation even can exists, but well, whatever.
The second best answer will be: Portuguese. Not only because I am Brazilian and find my mother language absolutely beautiful, but also Portuguese has less variation than Spanish from my perspective. The thing is there are so many spanish speaking countries that the variations are numerous. Even though there are different countries that speak portuguese, I think it’s more concentrated in some way.
But at the same time, maybe it will be easier to find good resources to learn spanish than to learn portuguese.
Good luck anyway.

Sure, but castellano had more.

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I would say Portuguese. I don’t have time, or I would be doing it.

Which information? The enclise / proclise?

I haven’t seen / heard any Brazilian say things like “Vi-te ontém” “Fez-me”… At least not my girlfriend nor any of the Brazilians I have met. In European Portuguese you always have to switch between the proclise and the enclise depending on the sentence being affirmative or negative. Fez-me bem / Não me fez bem… It takes a while before getting used to it for a foreigner. Not to mention things like “ser-me-á”, I think it’s called mesoclise. It’s definitely weird. Maybe you do too in some parts of Brazil, but there’s no problem if you don’t.

Brazilian Portuguese is way less formal than European Portuguese.

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You’re right but as georgiachigo said, Spanish has more. The Arabs stayed much more time in (southern) Spain than in Portugal.

As a foreigner speaking both languages, I’d say there are much bigger variations in Portuguese than in Spanish. European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese vary a great deal. Not only in terms of vocabulary but also pronunciation, rhythm of the language, the way sentences are made…

Take someone who doesn’t speak Portuguese and make them listen to Portuguese news, then to Brazilian news. Chances are they’ll think it’s not the same language. I don’t think there is such a gap between any of the Spanish variants.

Let me guess: your girlfriend and friends are mostly from São Paulo and Rio.
Yes, as you said Brazil in some states(mine included) we use proclise and enclise; mesoclise is not common though. And, over all, you’re right br pt is less formal than pt pt.

She is from Nordeste (Piaui / Maranhão) but I also have friends from SP and RJ yes. Where are you from?

Yeah, I do agree that the variation between Brazil and Portugal is big. I am reminded of this difference everytime i have to listen to a speech of a Portuguese. My thing is that these differences are very concentrated between some countries.
Besides, Portugal is usually the most different.

When I listen to Angola Portuguese, for example, I have no problems at all, only rarely with some usage of words. And practically, even though I would like to not use this kind of argument, Brazil, Angola and others countries make up to maybe 250 millions + of speakers? Portugal has like 10M.

Yeah, I do agree that spanish has more. It just seemed to me that the text said Portugal had none influence of Arabic.

Come on, Georgiaichigo, we both know that Brazil still uses enclise and proclise, but in no way it is that present or relevant anymore. But Jorgis, it’s not really that hard of a thing, you get the grip really easily, and if you intend to read, you’ll have to learn it, it’s used a lot in literary writing.

Portuguese from Açores seems alien to me. Reminds me Santa Catarina accent(although it’s not that strong).

I think both are right. Spanish doesn’t have two extreme as portuguese and therefore accents are more intelligible. But, since the spanish speaking world have the double of people, I believe there are more variations.