Portuguese Reading Workshop
(for Speakers of Spanish)

Orlando R. Kelm


Native speakers of English who have already acquired Spanish have the groundwork to understand Portuguese. Portuguese and Spanish are similar in their vocabulary, grammar, and to a lesser extent in their pronunciation. The object of this handout is to provide Spanish speakers with some of the basic tools necessary to understand written Portuguese. Since the objective focuses on reading ability, pronunciation is only discussed as related to orthographic changes. The text is divided into 4 major sections:

Systematic Orthographic Changes between Spanish and Portuguese

Grammatical Similarities and Differences

Practice Sentences and Readings

The good news is that Spanish and Portuguese are nearly identical in their verb morphology, gender and agreement, preterite versus imperfect, subjunctive versus indicative, "por" versus "para", "ser" versus "estar", "saber" versus "conhecer" (conocer), and in nearly 70% of their vocabulary. More good news is that many of the differences that do exist are systematic. By learning a few tricks, associations, and rules, you will be able to predict the Portuguese equivalent of many Spanish words.

The bad news is that no matter how detailed the description, it does require effort to sort out the differences between the two languages. The future subjunctive, the personalized infinitive, the absence of direct and indirect pronouns, etc., all add to the fact that Portuguese is indeed a different language and not merely a beautiful dialect of Spanish. Having expressed my bias with such a subtle editorial comment, we may begin our comparison of Spanish and Portuguese!