Spanish and Portuguese- Twins Separated at Birth?

spanish and Portuguese

Spanish and Portuguese are both Romance languages, and have substantial similarities. Both evolved from Vulgar Latin, which was the more casual form of Classical Latin prevalent in the region during the 500 year reign of the Roman Empire. After the Roman empire fell, influences such as the languages previously spoken in what is today Portugal and Spain, began to emerge from the Latin that had been enforced for so long, thereby shaping each language into their own. By the 13th century, the Vulgar Latin that united Spanish and Portuguese had given way and both emerged as the distinct languages we know today.

In this article, we will discuss the following topics:

  • The Shared History of Spanish and Portuguese
  • The Similarities Between Spanish and Portuguese
  • The Differences Between Spanish and Portuguese

The Shared History of Spanish and Portuguese

Spanish and Portuguese are both part of the Ibero-Romance language family, which refers to the Romance languages specific to the Iberian Peninsula: Spanish, Portuguese, and lesser known languages such as Catalan, Aragonese and Gascon.

Before the arrival of the Romans, both modern-day Spain and modern-day Portuguese were home to speakers of many local dialects, some of which influence can still be seen today. For example, Portugal was home to a large population of speakers of Celtic languages, whose influence can be seen specifically in Portuguese pronunciation. Pre-Roman languages in modern-day Spain, on the other hand, have largely been forgotten. As such, the influence of pure Latin on Spanish is more significant.

The Similarities between Spanish and Portuguese

Today, Spanish and Portuguese are two of the Romance languages with the most similarities, lexically speaking. This is particularly true of the written forms where spelling is at times identical, or only very slightly altered. Their lexical similarity, which refers to the genetic relationship between two languages as well as the overlap in vocabulary, is listed at 89%. Many speakers of either Spanish or Portuguese are able to understand a large portion of the other language.

The Differences between Spanish and Portuguese

The most substantial difference between Spanish and Portuguese comes in the form of pronunciation. It is in this area where we can see the effects of pre-Roman as well as Roman influences and their differing effects on each languages. Pronunciation in Portuguese tends to be more similar to modern-day French, which was also heavily influenced by Celtic languages in pre-Roman times. Spanish pronunciation, however, follows more of an Italian style, which is one of the more closely related modern-day languages to Latin itself.

Further differences emerge between Spanish and Portuguese when their respective dialects are taken into account, such as Brazilian Portuguese, or the multiple versions of Spanish we see throughout Latin America. Because of these nuanced differences between not just these two languages, but their internal differences, it is important to use a professional Spanish language translation service when attempting cross-linguistic communication. Professional translation services such as Spanish with Style, are staffed with Spanish language experts who can navigate the pitfalls of translation posed by subtle differences, communicating your message clearly and concisely.