Similarities to Spanish

Portuguese and Spanish can be called “sister languages” due to their intrinsic similarities. After all, they both derive from spoken Latin. The following table shows the similarities in orthography between these languages.

Comparing Portuguese to Spanish: Part I

Portuguese

Spanish

English

classe

clase

class

casa

casa

house

livro

libro

book

caderno

cuaderno

notebook

However, these similarities should not fool the serious Portuguese student. When using your knowledge of Spanish to help with your Portuguese, be mindful that these are different languages, and similarity in orthography does not always mean similarity in pronunciation. Always learn how to pronounce the “sounds” of Portuguese instead of relying on your Spanish. What about differences in words and meanings? The following list shows how these languages can vary significantly:

Comparing Portuguese to Spanish: Part II

Portuguese

Spanish

English

cedo

temprano

early

desenvolvimento

desarrollo

development

envelope

sobre

envelope

irmã

hermana

sister

If that wasn't enough, there are some tricky words which are commonly referred to as “false cognates.” These words sound similar to English or Spanish but mean something completely different in your target language, in this case, Portuguese. The novice student needs to watch out for these “false friends.”

False Cognates

Portuguese

Spanish

cuchilo (nap)

cuchillo (knife)

tirar (to take)

tirar (to throw away)

escritório (office)

escritorio (desk)

embaraçada (confused, ashamed)

embarazada (pregnant)

The trick here is to use a good Portuguese-English dictionary and always make sure you are saying the correct word, depending on the social situation. Some awkward moments may occur, but most of the time native speakers will understand and help you out.

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