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Portuguese Language Profile
Home > Languages > Portuguese

Difficulty: *

UsefulnessModerate, unless you live in big Brazil or in Portugal. Here  in Portugal people normally talk another language, be it French (old  educated people) or English (everyone under 35 speaks it), or  understands Spanish more or less. Ah, young people normally do not only   not speak French, they also hate it...almost everyone had French at  school as second foreign language.
BeautyThe basic is that Brazilian and European Portuguese are very different to the ear. Saying which one is the most beautiful is a bad idea, but each "accent" has its fans. Brazilian is clearer and has less particular sounds.
Chic factorThis depends on where you live. In western Europe, most of the Portuguese you will hear outside Portugal will be from low-skilled immigrants. Speaking their language will surely make you popular among them and some people will probably find speaking to your femme de ménage in Portuguese the ultimate of chic. Personally, I find the nasal pronunciation of European Portuguese especially fascinating, as it almost totally veils the similarity of the language with Spanish and makes it sound like a south Slavic language.
SpeakersAbout 160 million, mainly in Brazil and Portugal.
CountriesPortugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, cape Verde,  Guinea-Bissau, S. Tomé and Príncipe, East Timor.
Regional VariationsApart from the differences between Portugal and  Brazil, which is the main one, African accent is recognizable, although it is close to the  European one; in Portugal, people of the different regions speak with  slight variations, you will at least recognize the accents of Porto and Alentejo.
TravelThe main motivation for me to learn portuguese would be a travel to Brazil. Being able to dwelve into the immensity of that country and discover its people with the added advantage of being able to talk to all the portuguese migrants in Europe would be a sufficient reason to learn.
CultureBrazilian music and a few great writer (please help me on that topic !)


PhonemesRelatively easy, apart from the nasal diphthongs and their very hard L , which is a little harder than the L pronounced by native people of Fribourg, Switzerland, in French.
SyntaxVery close to Spanish, and thus from other romance languages.
VocabularyVery close to Spanish, and thus from other romance languages.
OrtographNot so easy, says Pedro, especially if compared to Spanish. Portuguese has silent consonants, but once you get their reason you will master it. For  example, in acto (act), A is an open vowel, C is silent, and the U is  almost silent. The C is there so that the vowel is open.
Overall difficultyI rate this language as *, that is,  very easy to learn, at least for speakers of other romance languages. If you speak Spanish, in my opinion all that is needed is about 3 months.
Time needed3 to 12 months.


Learning material
Books and tapesI would use either FSI portuguese in 2 volumes (the only sources I know are NTIS and  Audioforum, but I don't know the difference) :

If you already speak spanish, you can try :

There's also a Pimsleur Speak and Read Essential Portuguese,  more expensive but also more modern. There is only one volume for now,  that you can use in your car without any books. You can buy them from Simon and Schuster who bought Dr Pimsleur's business, but it's cheaper from Amazon :


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