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Spanish vs. Portuguese: Which Language Should You Choose?

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Spanish > Is It More Valuable to Learn Spanish or Portuguese?

You’re in college, you’re in high school, or neither of the two, but you are confronted with a dilemma: should you learn Spanish or Portuguese?

What to do to learn everything about the Spanish or Portuguese language?

Which is the most beautiful language, the most useful, the easiest?

What are the respective advantages of the two languages—Spanish and Portuguese?

We weigh the two to help you in your choice between Spanish and Portuguese lessons!

What about Catalan?

Spanish and Portuguese: Two Languages with a Lot of Common Characteristics

When we are interested in two languages—Spanish and Portuguese—we are quickly struck by their common characteristics. That familial resemblance between two languages becomes clear when we compare the vocabulary of the two languages.

Here are a few examples: ancient is “antiguo” in Spanish and “antigo” in Portuguese; year is “año” in Spanish and “ano” in Portuguese; flower is said with the same word in Spanish and Portuguese (flor).

Spanish and Portuguese are similar languages

Is learning Spanish a cinch?

Of course, certain words are different. For example, to speak is “hablar” in Spanish and “falar” in Portuguese. These resemblances are explained by history: Portuguese and Spanish are both romance languages.

On the other hand, if Portuguese and Spanish are very similar on the written level, the pronunciation is distinctly different. If you speak neither Spanish nor Portuguese, it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate the two languages on the page, but when you listen to it the difference is rather easily heard.

Portuguese employs tone or pitch accents that are very different than those of Spanish (and those of Italian, too). Some people find Spanish more elegant, for others Portuguese is more seductive. It’s a matter of taste.

But it’s probably not on the very subjective criterion of “beauty” that you will make your choice. The decision to learn Spanish rather than Portuguese, or Portuguese rather than Spanish, depends on other criteria, other factors.

Cultural criteria especially, or matters of utility (in how many countries is Spanish spoken? And Portuguese?). To help you in your choice, we will list the advantages and the main characteristics of the two languages.

Why Choose Spanish Rather Than Portuguese?

The Spanish language is one of the most popular languages in the world, along with English. Soon, around 500 million people across the globe will speak the language of Cervantes, spread throughout more than 40 countries.

In addition, various European countries have strong geographic and economic relations with Spain, and you will understand why Spanish is the second language of many Europeans. Contrary to Portuguese, Spanish is a language that one can learn in nearly any school in the United States. And as for private Spanish lessons, there are generally more Spanish teachers than there are Portuguese. Learning Spanish in New York is very easy!

value of spanish vs. portuguese A map representing the countries in which Spanish is spoken.

Here are 7 reasons to learn Spanish:

  • Spain is a popular tourist destination. Spain is a country rich in virtues: a hot and dry climate, superb beaches, warm and inviting people, magnificent landscapes, a passionate culture and history, a delicious cuisine (paella, gazpacho, tapas…), a festive atmosphere (festivals, corridas…).
  • Spain is a relatively affordable destination. Going to Spain on vacation is not extremely expensive. This is an important factor to take into account. Mexico is also easy to get to from certain parts of the United States.
  • The Spanish language is the language of the future. The number of Spanish speakers is climbing steeply. And it’s not anywhere near over. In a few decades, the number of Spanish speakers will surpass the number of native English speakers.
  • Learning Spanish is not just useful to travel or work in Spain. Spanish is a language spoken throughout the entire world, and notably in Latin America. Spanish is in fact the official language of Mexico, Costa Rica, Chili, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Guatemala, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and more. Learning Spanish will allow you to travel through all these countries, to work there and familiarize yourself with Spanish accents. These countries in South America are developing rapidly. They are ideal destinations for expats.
  • The Hispanic population makes up the largest ethnic minority in the United States. Nearly 17% of the population. A significant number of Americans speak Spanish. In California alone, 40% of inhabitants know Spanish!
  • Another reason: numerous artists are Spanish or Latinos. In the cinema for example: Penelope Cruz, Pedro Almodovar, Antonio Banderas, Guillermo Del Toro. In music: Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, etc. In painting: Picasso, Velazquez, Goya, Salvador Dali, Miro, etc. In literature: Allende, Cervantes, Garcia Lorca, Garcia Marquez, Pablo Neruda, etc. To expand your culture and learn about the very rich and abundant Hispanic culture, learning Spanish is ideal.
  • A very practical reason to go for Spanish: the Spanish language is a relatively easy language to learn, for there are many similarities to English. One can learn Spanish starting from scratch. Spanish, according to many, is easier to learn than Portuguese.

Clearly, learning Spanish is far from being useless. To the contrary, there are a lot of practical reasons to learn Spanish. And not just practical reasons. If you are not convinced, discover why you should learn Spanish.

From there, it’s a matter of personal taste or goals. And if there are a lot of reasons to take Spanish lessons, there are nearly as many in favor of learning Portuguese!

Why Choose Portuguese Rather Than Spanish?

Portuguese has been seducing more and more people, especially in the last few years. More and more people are visiting and moving to Brazil. And yes, in Brazil, they speak Portuguese.

Brazil has become the most popular international tourism destination in South America and the second most popular in Latin America after Mexico. More than 570,000 Americans traveled to Brazil last year.

Today Brazil symbolizes the South American dream, the new El Dorado. Brazil is now the sixth biggest economic power in the world.

value of portuguese Map representing the countries where Portuguese is spoken.

Apart from this temporary phenomenon, here are 6 reasons to Portuguese:

  • Portuguese, just like Spanish, is a language that is relatively easy to learn. It’s also a romance language.
  • According to many, Portuguese is a magnificent language, much more “exotic” in the true sense of the term than Spanish. It’s surely because we are more used to hearing Spanish. Portuguese remains an uncommon language. If you would like to be original, the choice is clear: learn Portuguese.
  • Portuguese is a language less widespread throughout the world than Spanish. But Portuguese still has 200 million speakers. In the end, Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world. It’s far from being a rare language.
  • Portuguese is spoken in 11 different countries, across 4 continents. Beyond Portugal and Brazil, Portuguese is spoken in Angola, in Cape Verde, in Guinea-Bissau, in Macao (in China), and in Mozambique.
  • Portuguese, like Spanish, is a language on the rise. According to UNESCO, more than 335 million people will speak Portuguese by 2050.
  • The Portuguese language is spoken a lot less commonly in the US. Which means competition is not as high. From a strategic and professional point of view, it could be to your advantage to embark on this language rather than Spanish. Numerous economic sectors, like tourism and business, seek Portuguese-speakers.

If you have read this entire article, you will see that Spanish and Portuguese have numerous advantages in common, whether it’s on the level of the facility of learning the language, the geographic diffusion (Portuguese and Spanish are two “global” languages), economics, and culture.

In the end, should you choose Spanish? Or Portuguese? Both are good choices. It all depends on your personal goals and tastes.  Quotes?

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