Brasilian Portuguese and European Portuguese

More than in other languages, for instance Spanish and English, that are spoken in different continents, there is a tendency in Portuguese to underline the differences between the European and the Brasilian Portuguese. (And as far the pronunciation is concerned, there is actually a big difference, although this author is not sure whether these differences are bigger than the differences between american English and the English spoken in Scottland, or the Spanish spoken in Argentina and the Spanish spoken in the north of Spainn, or the French spoken in France and the French spoken in Quebec etc. etc..) There are no texbooks on the market that teaches American English, Australian English, Peruvian Spanish, Mexican Spanish etc. etc. But there are books that claim to teach Brasilian Portuguese or even Brasilian.

This author would say that this is nonsense. From a grammatical point of view the differences are minimal, the examples put forward to illustrate these differences, for instance estar + infinitivo in Portugal and estar + gerundio in Brasil to form the continuous form, are always the same and there are only few examples. The differences are furthermore illustrated by differences in the vocabulary. However there we have the same problem. The examples given are always the same and only because there are 500 words used in Portugal and not in Brasil and viceversa we can't speak of big differences. These author would even say, that there are more differences in the vocabulary between the different Spanish speaking countries. For the simple word bus for instance there are in Spanish depending on the region five different words: autobus (Spain), colectivo (Bolivia), guagua (Canarian Islands), camión (Mexico), pulman (Chile).

Concerning the written language there is almost no difference between Brasilian and European Portuguese. Concerning the pronunciation the Brasilian Portuguese is without any doubt easier, in other words more comprehensible. That's why all the sound example in this course have been recorded by native speakers from Brasil. If there are differences in grammatical structures / vocabulary the reader is cautioned that there are differences. Concerning the differences in the pronunciation there is little to do. This is a question of practice. European Portuguese is extremely hearer unfriendly, however if one is accustomed to the Brasilian pronunciation he / she will have little problems to become acquainted with the Portuguese pronunciation.

If Portuguese is a foreign language, the problem are the 99 percent where there is no difference at all between European and Brasilian Portuguese. The remaining 1 percent or less are a minor problem.

That's all what has to be said about this issue. One can skip the rest and continue with the chapter pronunciation or make a stopover in portunhol. The last one is interesting for people who speak Spanish. Those who want to read some further considerations about European and Brasilian Portuguese can continue, but they won't learn anything really important.

One remark about didactic. Until the chapter 15 we provide as well a word by word translation. The result is not very English, but very Portuguese. The problem is, that at the beginning we don't have all the pieces of the jigsaw, but in order to explain something, we need to form more complex sentences that uses grammar structures and vocabulary not already explained. With the help of the didactical motivated translation the Portuguese structure can be guessed until they will be explained in detail. After the 15th chapter we won't do that anymore.

Accents exists in any language. If we stick to the distinction normally made between accents and dialect, Brasilian / European Portuguese are only two different accents because they only differ in the pronunciation. The differences in the vocabulary and the grammar structure are not important enough to speak of a dialect. Very often the boundary between another language or a dialect of the same language is not very clear. Gallego for instance, the language spoken in the north-est of Spain and from which Portuguese steems from can be considered as a dialect of Portuguese or another language. Formerly it has been considered as a dialect, today there is a tendency to consider it as a language. Those who speak Portuguese have in general no problem to understand a text written in gallego, but the difference is obvious even in writing. Catalan at the other side is obviously a new language, because even Spanish native speakers can't understand a text written in catalan. (They can guess sometimes the meaning, but they are not able to read it fluently.)

It may be that there are 500 or 1000 words used in Brasil but not in Portugal, but that doesn't justify to speak of two languages. For any Spanish speaking countries there are dictionaries with a specific vocabulary, sometimes even very thick ones, but nobody would say that peruvian, chilenean, argentenian etc. Spanish are different languages. If one reads Maria Vargas Llosa it is helpful to have a dictionary of peruvian Spanish at hands, but there is no discussion that it is Spanish and not another language.

Furthermore, in opposite to English, where there is no institution worldwide respected and able to fix universally accepted rules, in Portuguese exists such an institution. The Acordo Ortográfico da Língua Portuguesa de 1990 is an agreement between different insitutions of Portuguese speaking countries that fixe normative rules. Therefore it is clear that there is no difference in writing. It is true that in any country everybody can write as he / she wants, nobody is punished when he doesn't respect the rules, but the government can oblige, as any company, its employees to respect certain norms. Most of all he can oblige the teachers to do that and therefore all the students respect the norm, at least in an official context. If the acordo ortográfico da Lingua Portuguesa is accepted in all Portuguese speaking countries, what is the case, the differences can't be very big. Some native speakers perhaps won't find this standard logic and doesn't stick to the standard, but nevertheless the standard is the same in all portuguese speaking countries.

The next problem is the assumption that a an accent or dialect spoken in a certain area is homogenous. That's not the case, at least it is note the case in regions with several hundred millions inhabitants. It may be true that in the United States there is an unanimously accepted american standard, wherin accepted doesn't really mean that everybody is willing or able to comply to this standard, but the USA is one country. In case that there are several countries there is no unanismously accepted standard. Each country has its own standard. To keep it short and simple. The Spanish spoken in the south of Spain has more similarity with the Spanish spoken in South America. Something like a south american Spanish or a peninsular Spanish doesn't exist.

The most prominent example given for the difference between Brasilian and European Portuguese is the disappearance of the second person singular. The second person singular is no longer used in Brasil, however obviously understood without any problems. Concerning the use of você in Portugal see conjugation. In Portugal você is used between persons if there exists a greater familiarity and is considered impolite if this greater familiarity doesn't exist. The problem is not that você is not understood in Portugal, the problem is, that it is often considered impolite.

The next difference mentioned very often is the continuous form, which is formed in European Portuguese with estar + a + infinitivo and in Brasilian Portuguese with ester + gerundio, see 18.1.2. However that is not a big problem for the learner of Portuguese and obviously both version are understood on both sides of the Atlantic. The third difference mentioned very often are the differences in the position of the personal pronouns, see 6.1.2. This is actually a little bit more tricky, since the European Portuguese system differs from the system of any other roman language.

These three differences, more is never mentioned, are minor problems and don't justify to speak of two different languages. Brasilian or European Portuguese are not even dialects of the same language, they are just two differenct accents. The differences exist only in the pronunciation.

If Brasilian Portuguese were an independent language, than argentian Spanish would be a different language as well. The second form singular is not used in argentian Spanish either, the pretérito perfecto is in some partes substituted by the pasado indefinido, direct object and indirect object in personal pronouns is often confused etc. etc.. And we have hundreds of website that lists words only used in Argentina, see for instance Vocabulario argentino y significado.

This author would say that there is no need to prove, that the differences in English spoken in the different parts of the world are much, much, much bigger than the differences between the Brasilian and European Portuguese.

Last not least the term Brasilian Portuguese or European Portuguese suggests that we have two homogeneous accents. That is not the case. Brasilian linguists distinguish 18 different accents spoken in Brasil and Portuguese linguists distinguish 6 different accents spoken in Portugal. The most famous phenomenon put forward to illustrate the difference between Brasilian and European Portuguese, the use of você, for instance is not used all over Brasil.

The rest of the debate has nothing to do with linguistics, it is pure psychology. If we make a google research with "Où est-ce qu' on parle le meilleur français?", to find comments where the best French is spoken, "Dove is parla il migliore itialiano?", to find comments where the best Italian is spoken, "Dónde se habla el mejor español?", to find comments where the best Spanish is spoken, "Wo spricht man das beste Deutsch?", to finde comments where the best german is spoken etc. etc. we get a coherent picture, in any language all over the world. The best language is always spoken in the region where the person who is commenting on this issue lives and obviously the discussion about Portuguese follows the same pattern. (Actually English is a little bit different concerning this issue. In the English world the discussion is more complex, presumably for a lot of historical reasons, several strong enconomic centers, great impact on popular culture steeming from different regions, several dialect in Great Britain, presence of different accents in CNN, BBC etc.. For all these reasons a lot of different english accents were spoken in public at a world wide level.) The analysis of these comments would be interesting from a pychological point of view. From a linguistic point of view they are irrelevant.

A very good article about Portuguese can be found on Wikipedia: Língua portuguesa. There we can find more objective information.

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