When visiting or living in a foreign country, it’s important to be mindful of the local customs and traditions. In Portugal, one cultural aspect that is particularly sensitive to many Portuguese people is their language. Although it may seem like Spanish and Portuguese are similar languages, there are distinct differences that should be recognized and respected. Here’s why you should avoid speaking Spanish in Portugal and some tips on how to navigate the language barrier.

The History of Spanish and Portuguese Languages

Portuguese and Spanish are both Romance languages, meaning they evolved from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, while Portuguese is the sixth most spoken. Despite their shared roots, the two languages developed separately over time and have their own distinct grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary.

In the 12th century, Portugal emerged as a distinct kingdom and developed its own language, which was influenced by the Celtic, Visigothic, and Arab cultures. The Portuguese language eventually spread to Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and other parts of the world through colonization and trade.

Portuguese vs Spanish in Portugal

In Portugal, the official language is Portuguese, and it’s the primary language spoken by the vast majority of the population. While many Portuguese people may understand Spanish, particularly those who live in border regions or have studied it in school, they may take offense to people assuming they speak or understand Spanish.

This is because Portugal has its own unique history and culture, and the Portuguese people take pride in their language and identity. Therefore, it’s important to respect their language and communicate in Portuguese whenever possible.

Tips for Communicating in Portugal

If you don’t speak Portuguese, don’t worry ā€“ there are ways to communicate without offending the locals. Here are some tips:

  1. Learn some basic Portuguese phrases: Even if you’re not fluent, making an effort to learn some basic phrases like “hello”, “thank you”, and “excuse me” can go a long way in showing that you respect the local language and culture.
  2. Use a translation app: If you need to communicate more complex ideas, consider using a translation app like Google Translate or DeepL. However, be aware that these apps may not always provide the most accurate translations.
  3. Ask for help: If you’re struggling to communicate, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many Portuguese people are happy to assist visitors and expats, and they may appreciate your efforts to learn their language.
  4. Practice active listening: When someone is speaking Portuguese to you, make sure to actively listen and pay attention to their tone and body language. This can help you better understand what they’re trying to communicate, even if you don’t understand every word.
  5. Avoid speaking Spanish: As mentioned earlier, it’s best to avoid speaking Spanish in Portugal, especially if you assume that the locals understand it. This can come across as rude and disrespectful.

In summary, while Spanish and Portuguese share a common history, it’s important to respect the Portuguese language and culture when visiting or living in Portugal. By learning some basic phrases, using translation apps, and practicing active listening, you can communicate effectively and avoid offending the locals.