{Coffee with HyperFluent} Learning to Speak Portuguese



  • 1) How many countries in the world speak Portuguese?

Portuguese is the official language of eight countries and one special administrative region (Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Angola, East- Timor, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe and Macau, considered a special administrative region in China.

About 300 million people in the world speak Portuguese and this has made it stand out as the 5th most spoken language.

  • 2) What makes Portuguese very different from Spanish? How is it similar?

Portuguese and Spanish are actually very similar.

If you are a native Spanish speaker you can understand more than 50% of the vocabulary in Portuguese and vice-versa.

The trick comes in when you realize that pronouncing words in Portuguese are nasalized.

Similarly, Spanish only has one accent (acute) where as Portuguese has four (acute, circumflex, grave, tilde).

Both these languages differ in grammar and spelling.

In Spanish, for words such as “todo” meaning, “all” (singular masculine), Portuguese has two different ways of expressing the same idea.

In Portuguese, you have both “tudo” which means “everything” as in “Eu como tudo” meaning “I eat everything” or “todo” in “todos os dias”, meaning “every day” and “todo o dia”, meaning, “the whole day”.

Another similarity between Portuguese and Spanish is that the word “mountain” in Spanish is “montaña” and in Portuguese it is “montanha”.

There are many incidences, but not always, where the letter “enyé” or ñ in Spanish is replaced by nh in Portuguese.

From Assouline Publishing with permission for use

  • 3) Which romance languages are the most similar? The most different?

In terms of pronunciation French and Portuguese resemble each other the most.

I would say that Spanish and French are the most different because of the fact that in Spanish you pronounce everything you write.

Unlike Spanish, French is a language where you do not pronounce many of the words you actually write.

An example of this is the verb conjugation of “parler”, meaning to speak.

The “I”, “You (singular)”, “He/She/It”, and “They” (plural) forms vary in spelling- “je parle”, “tu parles”, “il parle” and ils parlent” but when these forms are pronounced they all sound the same.

Likewise, French has two different types of “R’s”.

In the name “Robert”, French pronounce the beginning “r” completely different from the ending “r”, where as in Spanish both R’s in the name Roberto sound exactly the same.

  • 4) Is it easy for someone who speaks Portuguese first to learn Spanish?

I do think it is easier for a native Portuguese speaker to learn Spanish than another Romance language such as French.

From Assouline Publishing with permission for use

In terms of grammar structure and spelling, there are more similarities between Spanish and Portuguese than between Portuguese and French.

  • 5) What about people who speak French? Can they easily pick up Portuguese?

French native speakers have an easier time picking up Portuguese than Spanish speakers because of the nasalized pronunciation of words such as “céu”, which means “sky.”

  • 6) Are French and Portuguese similar?

Both French and Portuguese are very similar in regards to pronunciation.

They both have four accents and are languages where many of the sounds are nasalized.

Brazilian Portuguese actually borrows many words from French and uses them.

Words like, “Chapéu” are borrowed from French but vary in pronunciation and in spelling.

In French, the word for “hat” is spelled “chapeau”.

Sometimes words like “bathing suit” or “maiô” in Brazilian Portuguese are pronounced similarly to their French counterpart but spelled differently.

In French, the word for “bathing suit” is spelled “maillot”.

Ironically enough if you take out the circumflex, or “small chapéu” in the word maiô, you will be left with the month of May or “maio” in Brazilian Portuguese.

However, grammar in both French and Brazilian Portuguese is different especially when it comes to conjunctions such as “but”.

In French, “mais” means “but” but in Brazilian Portuguese it means “more”.

  • 7) What’s the major difference between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese spoken in Portugal?

The difference between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese is grammar, spelling and the pronunciation of some vowels.

For example the Brazilian Portuguese word, “ótimo” which means “great” is spelled “óptimo” in European Portuguese.

Another example of this is the word for “cancer”.

In Brazilian Portuguese the word is “cancro” where as in Brazilian Portuguese it is “câncer”.

  • 8.) Why Portuguese?

I wanted to learn Portuguese because when I heard it for the first time I thought it was one of the sexiest languages spoken.

After spending New Year’s in Brazil one year, I was fascinated by Candomblé an African religion practiced in the northern state of Bahia.

Stories of the Orixá or deities of the Yoruba religious system come to life on New Year’s Day when Bahianas and cariocas (Brazilians from Rio) dressed in white release small straw baskets with with pieces of pork rinds, melons and white flowers into the ocean.

This ritual is performed so that an Orixá by the name of Yemanjá, known as the “rainha do mar” or “Queen of the ocean” grants the wishes of those who present these offerings.

  • 9) How long did it take you to learn Portuguese? Why did you choose this language to perfect?

I started studying Portuguese when I was at the University of Florida.

I studied Portuguese for about a year and a half and then I moved and lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

  • 10) As a native Portuguese speaker, what is the biggest challenge learning the language formally? Or rather learning another language?

I think the most difficult part about Portuguese revolves around the specificity of certain vocabulary that is completely different in Spanish.

For example, the word “tela” which means screen (TV) in Brazilian Portuguese is “ pantalla” in Spanish.

Another example is the word, “bala” which in Spanish is a bullet and in Brazilian Portuguese it is a piece of candy.

Similarly, certain words in Spanish such as the verb “cenar” to have dinner can be confusing in Brazilian Portuguese because in BP the word is “cear”.

As you can see there is no association between the two words.

Memorization is probably the best way to learn words like “cear” and “cenar”.

  • 11) What are a few common and everyday phrases people use?

Some common daily phrases people use in BP are “bom dia” meaning “Good morning” or “Muito prazer” meaning “Nice to meet you” or the colloquial “valeu” for “thank you” instead of the more formal way of saying “thank you” which is “obrigado” (for males) or “obrigada” (for females).

  • 12) What type of person should take the time to learn Portuguese?

There isn’t a specific type of person that should take the time to learn Portuguese.

I would recommend anyone who is interested in working or living in Brazil or Europe to learn Portuguese.

I highly recommend learning Portuguese to anyone who is interested in the language or if you work within the agriculture sector such as the production of soy.

Brazil is one of the biggest exporters of soy beans in the world.

Interestingly enough,  the number one ingredient in making biodiesel is soy oil.

Anyone who is interested in soccer, Brazilian culture, “carnaval” or carnival, music such as samba, bossa nova, frevo, sertanejo or many other types of Brazilian music should learn Brazilian Portuguese.

While living in Brazil, I also met many French who moved to Brazil to learn more about cinema and directing movies after such big cinema hits like “Cidade de Deus”.

Films like “Cidade de Deus” not only revolve around the concept of criticizing current social, economical or political situations within Brazil but also benefited from the Fernando Henrique Cardoso presidency to form part of Brazilian contemporary cinema.

  • 13) What’s your favorite Brazilian Portuguese movie?

My favorite Brazilian movie is “Central do Brasil”.

This movie is extremely touching and depicts friendship bonds created between an older woman and a little boy.

Throughout the movie these bonds get stronger and show how although not from the same blood, someone you love can become a “mother figure” or you can love someone and treat someone as if they were your real son.

  • 14) What’s your favorite Portuguese book?

My favorite Portuguese book is “O Alienista” by Machado de Assis.

  • 15) What’s your favorite Brazilian Portuguese song?

My favorite Brazilian Portuguese song is “A Velha Infância” by Os Tribalistas.

  • 16) What’s your favorite thing about Brazilian Portuguese?

From Assouline Publishing with permission for use

My favorite thing about Brazilian Portuguese is still the tone of sexiness that every word possesses.

  • 17) What’s the one thing that is the most beautiful about the Brazilian culture?

I love the fact that I can walk anywhere in Brazil and I think that every person I see could be from anywhere in the world.

Interracial marriages/relationships amongst Asians, Africans, Arabs, and Europeans have introduced a mixture of races that I have never seen anywhere else in the world.

I also love the German style cathedrals in Petrópolis, Brazil.

From Assouline Publishing with permission for use

Similarly, one of my favorite hobbies in Brazil is paragliding from the Pico da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro and strolling down the streets of Copacabana while sipping on a suco de açaí (acai drink).

** Logo by Sasha Muradali ** All images from WeHeartIt.com **


Eva Rosales began traveling at the age of four and has not stopped since. She has lived in 13 countries and traveled to 35 (including Iran, Morocco, Brazil, Slovakia, and Tanzania.) She speaks French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic and Bahasa Indonesia. Eva is also is well-known for her ability to mimic accents.

Eva earned her Masters of International Affairs with a regional context in the Middle East and a concentration in International Security from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s of Arts in French, a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science, a Certificate of Merit in International Relations, and a Minor in Portuguese from the University of Florida.

In order to further her international studies, Eva went on to receive further training at the Instituto Brasil-Estados Unidos – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Institut d’Avignon in Avignon, France, the Arabic Language Institute in Fez, Morocco, and received a Darmasiswa Fellowship to study Bahasa Indonesia from the Ministry of Education of Indonesia at the Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Eva has worked with the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid, the Rating Fund for the Inter-American Development Bank, Wide Angle PBS, the International Consulting Consortium and Marcia Teixeira. She is also the founder of Recurso, a non-profit for children’s education and nutrition, started at the University of Florida, where she attained her B.A.

Hyperfluent teaches individuals to embrace diversity through culture immersion activities, traveling, and language acquisition.

For more information on Hyperfluent, join Eva on Twitter @HyperFluent or on her Facebook page, here.

Mention “Little Pink Blog” and receive a consultation with a 30-minute lesson from Eva.


Sasha H. Muradali runs the Little Pink Blog (formerly Little Pink Book PR). She holds a B.S. Public Relations from the University of Florida with a minor in Dance (’07) and an M.A. International Administration with a concentration in Communication from the University of Miami (’08). She loves Twitter (@SashaHalima), Harry Potter and the colour pink. Get a copy of the Little Pink Blog delivered to your Kindle and find us on Facebook.

Little Pink Blog & Little Pink Book PR are federally registered trademarks of Little Pink Book PR, LLC. © 2009-2011 Little Pink Blog & Little Pink Book PR. All


  1. CATHY ALICE says
  2. Good information. Lucky me I ran across your blog by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved it for later!

  3. Useful information. Fortunate me I discovered your website unintentionally, and I am shocked why this coincidence did not came about earlier!
    I bookmarked it.