Portuguese in Portugal - oosh! How necessary is comfort with the language?
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Feb 18, 2013 3:32 PM Last Post By: getyoung
Feb 15, 2013 11:00 PM
Portuguese in Portugal - oosh! How necessary is comfort with the language?We're planning 3-4 weeks in Portugal's cities and countryside beginning mid-March, and I've finally gotten around to trying to familiarize myself with the language. I had figured that our semi-functional Spanish would serve us well, providing easy passage into the language, but it's not working -- pronunciation, spelling, is all way too different! Okay, duh, but perhaps we'd be better off spending more time in Spain, if language will be a problem. The guidebooks I'm reading suggest that the Portuguese may well be offended by reversion to/dependence on Spanish -- that it's better just to use English. In advance, thanks for any insights.
Feb 15, 2013 11:08 PM
1You can manage with English .. it's good enough for dealings within the confines of tourism infrastructure - certainly in cities - and even when off the main high-tourism trail.
I'm pragmatic about language use in a foreign country -- I don't buy into the contact-with-locals fantasy. Numbers, items on menus, how to ask directions .. words that I need to get things done. A few key functional words go a lot farther than trying to remember phrases or sentences.
Feb 16, 2013 12:01 AM
2Personally..I speak English,pretty good Spanish and pretty bad (Brazilian) Portuguese ;-)...when in Portugal I try to use the local language for easy stuff.....like #1...numbers,food etc....and English for anything else.
Can't remember ever speaking Spanish to anyone there.....and.as you say,the pronunciation is completely different.
Feb 16, 2013 12:36 AM
3what i found when in Portugal is if was struggling to communicate that i asked if they spoke Spanish if they did, they were fine conversing with you in Spanish, after living there for a while a couple of Portuguese friends told me that most people do not mind talking in Spanish but only if asked. What they do not like is when people just presume they speak Spanish.
In saying that, in most places English will be understood and spoken, French can help at times as well.
Feb 16, 2013 12:52 AM
4To this yank, Porrrrtugesa sounds like something, played sideways. When I'm there, if I use Spanish to help explain my English.
I appologies for it and it always receves a smile from 'em. They appreciate it.
I think one reason I'm liked is because I laugh at my mistakes.
But one waitress in Seville said I owe 'em more use of Spanish. As the sweet Spanish folks do, she made a joke out of it.
I've learned a lot about "The Humanity" here in Spain.
Selfless help to strangers. Every time they've done out of their way things to help me, I'd ask their religeon. 90% of the time, they smile and say,"Oh, I'm athiest."
I asked a waiter, in Malaga, why they let beggars inside the place, to work the tables, palm up.
Waiter said,"Hey. It could be me."
Feb 16, 2013 1:00 AM
5You can guess the meaning of many written Portuguese words if you know Spanish or any other Romance language, but as said above, oral Portuguese is nothing like Spanish or French or Italian. However, I found that very many people speak very good English. Especially anyone dealing with tourists.
Movies are shown in the original version, so young Portuguese tend to have a better accent in English than the Spanish or French too.
Feb 16, 2013 1:06 AM
Feb 16, 2013 1:46 AM
Feb 16, 2013 2:41 AM
8there is something very Russian sounding about it,mixed with the Latin influence
When going to Lisbon we had to change planes in Munich. We thought we had been taken a wrong flight when they started to demonstrate the safety directions. Going to Moscow...?That was the first time I heard Portuguese.
Feb 16, 2013 4:00 AM
9On my first trip around Spain and Portugal I too arrived in Portugal thinking my basic Spanish would be useful there, because the languages look similar at first sight (until you hear them being spoken...). I was wrong. Not sure if it is because the Portuguese generally really have trouble understanding spoken Spanish or if it's a matter of pride, but either way I had fewer problems speaking in a combination of a few words of basic Portuguese and English. And if I really couldn't make myself understood, it sometimes helped to "portuguesify" a Spanish equivalent.
Anyway, as has already been pointed out above, English is more widely understood in Portugal than in Spain or France.
there is something very Russian sounding about it
Indeed that's what I thought when I first boarded a train in Lisbon - thought I'd ended up in a Russian tour group ;-)
perhaps we'd be better off spending more time in Spain, if language will be a problem
I could perhaps come up with a few reasons why someone might want to spend time in Spain rather than Portugal, but this is definitely not one of them.
Feb 16, 2013 4:48 AM
Feb 16, 2013 2:19 PM
11My experience coincides with the forgoing. The Portuguese speak much better english than the Spanish. In my opinion this is due to the not dubbing of foreign pictures, but using subtitles. On top I have the idea that many spanish children find it funny speaking a foreign "tongue" and try to avoid it. It gets better though.
Feb 16, 2013 2:38 PM
Feb 16, 2013 2:40 PM
Feb 18, 2013 10:24 AM
14Hey thanks, everyone for your timely, informative responses! I feel better about our Portuguese travels now. We've always been polite, made-the-effort-to-learn-some-of-the-language travelers, and I have found that it's usually well received although so sadly inadequate And I totally agree with the fantasy element of ever connecting with locals without language mastery.
I appreciate you all sharing your thoughts -- thank you!
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