The Portuguese Enigma: Stop Messing With My Head

What the hell Portuguese?  You have taken my language learning prowess and completely torn it into shreds.  I can honestly say that Portuguese is my kryptonite (green rock that makes superman weak for my international readers).  I can compare the language to what I felt the first time I sent out to explore in Rio De Janeiro, overwhelming.

I have learned to speak many languages, I will be the first to admit that most of them are conversational and not fluent.  This means that I can tell a woman she is pretty and ask her to dance.  What every man would need right?  When I was invited to Israel I made sure I learned Hebrew and even when I lived in Ethiopia I made sure to learn Amharic, a language that hardly anyone speaks.

Brazilian People

One of my favorite pictures of a Brazilian father & his son

I have visited Brazil before and I was able to pick up some Portuguese but now that I was living in Brazil and it was time to meet the Devil again.  Spanish is my first language and I am able to understand some of the language.  When I see Portuguese written I am able to grasp most of it.

But it is a completely different story when people try to speak to me

The way I can describe Portuguese is Spanish and English words pronounced with a French, Spanish, and slight Arabic accent.  The language is most similar to Spanish as many of the words are similar but many times you will find English words as well.  One example is the word to dance, in Portuguese its dançar (took me a while to find that squigly line).

Brazilian can understand Spanish speakers almost perfectly, for Spanish speakers however, Portuguese speaking people sound like a confused person with someone holding their nose.  It’s like Speedos, it doesn’t work both ways.

They look much better on Europeans.

I have never had a problem with pronunciation but there are some words I still can’t pronounce in Portuguese.  The language is incredibly difficult to learn, most Brazilians attest to that difficulty as well.  I even had trouble trying to speak to the police officer that tried to arrest me today near a secluded beach that I visited.

He was so upset that I didn’t understand a word that he said but I did have a native speaker with me that was able to speak to him.  You would think after getting arrested and detained in South Sudan I would have a nice corrupt cop to work with in Brazil? Nope!

I kept repeated “is there AN YTHING ELSE we can do”

Now that I have been living in Brazil for close to a month I have gotten used to the language and have learned the basic expressions like “look at that thong on the beach” or the expressions we all know when we are upset, I like to yell “caralho”!  Look that up on google translate, this blog is PG-13.

I do prefer the Carioca accent to others I have heard so far, Carioca is a person from Rio De Janeiro.  Im off to a secluded beach in the north, ciao!


  1. Haha, funny lesson! I also speak Spanish and I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Rio. When I ‘try’ to speak Portuguese I usually end up speaking Spanish and putting a ‘Portuguese accent’ on the words….haha, I basically butcher the language 😀 but I guess all that matters is that I make myself understood.

    1. hahaha.. that is so true I do the same. You know Portuguese is the only language that I cannot speak like a local.. they always know I am gringo!! lol

    2. Don’t worry because us that speak Portuguese do the same with the Spanish. I can speak a pretty decent Portugnol haha

      The problem is that some words are so similar that we end up speaking Portuguese and when we don’t remember a particular word in Spanish we might use a Portuguese word and pray for the best. I surely do that sometimes 😀

  2. learning languages can be a challenge but fun. I have studied spanish and Japanese but forgot all about them since I got no one to talk with using the language I learned. I shifted to travels to make me understand them the most.

    I like this post, impressive! Cheers 🙂

  3. This isn’t what I wanted to hear. I’ve been learning Spanish for a good few months now in preparation for South America, and that’s hard enough. My last stop will be Brazil. I might have gotten my head around the Spanish language by then, but then I’ll be hit with confused, nasal Portuguese! All I can say to that is, ‘Caralho!’

  4. I’ve tried speaking Spanish to a Portuguese speaker, and they’ve understood me, but when they’ve communicated something back to me in Portuguese, I was lost! Sounds like a great language though. Much easier to read it than speak it!

    1. Its exactly that combination also… It gets easier as you are around it longer but def harder for spanish speakers than it is for portugese speakers

  5. If a well traveled man like you gets stuck with these languages that means I do not stand a chance with these languages. We Indians have got our own song to sing as far as language is concerned.
    Hindi is the language that is written exactly as it is spoken i.e. it is phonetic and thus one of easiest languages to gasp initially but even the ones having masters in Hindi will struggle to use absolute pure Hindi. This is why most of Indians are moving away from it and learning more and more foreign languages.

  6. Indeed, for us Portuguese speakers learning Spanish is easy. In just a year after starting learning the language I could speak it with no accent. But everyone i meet that tries to learn Portuguese struggle. But one hint: always go for the Brazilian version. Even myself struggle to understand the language spoken in Portugal!

  7. I’ve been watching your Brazilian portuges videos and find it HILARIOUS that you have such a hard time with portuges and call it your kyrptonite.

    Cause that’s EXACTLY how I feel about Spanish. Maybe cause im from Boston, and all the letters we skip/dumb down the sound up there (R,D,T, etc), are all the same ones Brazilians skip or change (R, D, T, etc). I love Brazilian portuges and find it a million times easier than Spanish.

    But I have gotten pretty damn good with one phrase in Spanish: No entiendo ni mierda! (when i dont say “Nao en-ten-dge”). 🙂


Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *