I often get asked why I decided to learn Portuguese and what value I get from it (especially by Brazilians). I guess it’s because Portuguese is not considered a ‘popular’ language to learn – it is usually not people’s first option when choosing a foreign language to learn. In New Zealand (as far as I know), there is no opportunity to learn Portuguese in school, or even university. The language options are generally French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese and Maori. Because of this, I had no knowledge of or exposure to Portuguese until I went abroad.
So what enticed me to study Portuguese, and keep studying it for the past three years?
1. Portuguese is similar to Spanish
I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but initially one of the things that made me decide to learn more about Portuguese was its similarity to Spanish. In saying that, I never considered other languages which are closely related to Spanish like Italian or Catalan. But I did think that because of the close relationship, I would be able to learn Portuguese quickly since I was already fluent in Spanish.
Well, I was wrong about that. While it didn’t take me long to get to a conversational level, it was a lot harder to get past that point. I came to find that Spanish and Portuguese actually have a lot more differences than they have similarities (which is a whole other article for another day). Now I have come to appreciate Portuguese as a lovely language in its own right.
With that being said, if you already speak Spanish, Italian, or another related language, getting to know the basics of Portuguese shouldn’t be too hard.
2. Portuguese is beautiful
I know it’s not the case for everyone but to me, Portuguese sounds sweet and harmonic. The phonology is complex which makes it all the more fascinating. The way sentences are said and stressed are unique from anything I have heard. I find English has a lot less pattern to it, and Chinese and Spanish too rigid.
One of the most fun parts about learning a language to me is learning to make entirely new sounds and also put them together in entirely different ways to what I’m used to. Portuguese is full of that!
3. Portuguese is complex
As well as a phonology nerd, I am also a grammar nerd. Compared to the other languages I am familiar with, Portuguese is by far the most complicated in its grammar system. This is mostly due to the use of subjunctive mood. I had so much fun figuring out the intricacies and understanding how it differs from Spanish. Portuguese is also very flexible in its structures. It’s fun to play around with the word order to change the emphasis or slightly modify the meaning.
Portuguese also has a bunch of words or terms which are near impossible to translate into ANY other language. It’s cool because it also gives you a new perspective on things.
4. Portuguese is widely spoken
Despite not being a popular language to study, Portuguese is huge in a worldwide context. You might have noticed I am one for utility when selecting which languages I study, which is why I learn or speak the three most spoken languages in the world (English, Spanish and Chinese). This was definitely a big factor for me in deciding has the seventh highest number of native speakers in the world at 219 million. It is spoken in nine countries which makes it the fifth most widely spoken language in the world (source). This makes it super useful for business, trade and of course, travel!
5. Portuguese is spoken in the places I want to go
As a travelling language learner, my decision on where to go is generally influenced by which languages I’m learning. I like to know the language of the countries I visit. So it’s a huge plus that the language I’m learning is A) spoken in lots of places and B) spoken in countries I want to spend time in. Portuguese definitely fills both of those requirements.
Brazil is one of my favourite countries of all time, and Portugal is also up there on my list. Portuguese is a major lingua franca of Africa, which I intend to explore a lot in the future as well.
6. Brazil doesn’t have too many english speakers
There’s nothing worse than going to all the effort to learn a new language, only to have all the natives reply to you in English. That won’t happen much in Brazil as it is a largely monolingual country. Not only will most people have no option but to speak to you in Portuguese, they will be relieved that you’ve learned their language so they can! Read more about my experience learning Portuguese in Brazil).
Of course, people are drawn to learning different languages for all sorts of reasons. For me, I was drawn to Portuguese for the above reasons, but also because I felt an inexplicable attraction to and fascination for the language. Now I am engaged to a Brazilian and will marry in the country. My future looks like it will involve a lot of Brazil (and therefore Portuguese), and possible Brazilian citizenship. So it might have been something deeper and less known that really pushed me to study Portuguese. We’ll never know.
Anyway, the summary of this post is: I love Portuguese!
>> What’s your favourite language and why? Tell me in the comments!
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