Spanish Or Portuguese? A Comparative Guide To Choosing The Right Language For YOU

Spanish or Portuguese

There are plenty of incredible reasons to learn Spanish or Portuguese.

Millions of people speak both languages. So they open you up to opportunities to travel and connect with others. Whether that's in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) or in Latin America. 

If you're tempted to learn both, but wondering which one to choose, then this post is for you.

I'll give you some reasons to learn both languages. And then I'll help you figure out which language will be easier for you.

By the end of the article, you'll know which language to learn. And you'll even discover a compromise that'll let you have your language learning cake and eat it.

The good news is that ultimately, there is no wrong decision about where to learn Spanish or Portuguese.

So let's start by taking a look at six reasons to learn both languages. 

Six Reasons To Learn Spanish

panorama of Barcelona

  1. Spanish is the second most-common native language worldwide. If you learn just one language, Spanish will help you communicate with more people than almost any other
  2. Spanish is relatively easy for English speakers to learn when compared to many other languages, thanks to the consistent structure and shared vocabulary
  3. You can probably find Spanish learning resources, including a language tutor, right where you currently live. Because Spanish is a common language of study, you'll find plenty of classes, clubs, books, and tutors in most major cities
  4. Some of the world's greatest masterpieces of literature and film come from Spanish-speaking authors. You'll be able to enjoy Don Quijote, La vida es sueño, Cien años de soledad, and many more significant works in their original when you can read and understand Spanish
  5. Studying Spanish will make it easier for you to travel the world. There are twenty Spanish-speaking countries in the world, giving you lots of choices if you'd like to travel or live abroad and speak the language
  6. Spanish is incredibly common in many other countries, including quite a few that have official languages other than Spanish. If you live or work in the United States, for example, speaking Spanish is a significant advantage. Visiting the Philippines, Belize, or Brazil can be more enjoyable if you speak Spanish since so many of the residents do as well

Six Reasons To Learn Portuguese

view over Rio de Janeiro

  1. Portuguese is the native language of over 215 million people, including the residents of the largest country in South America by both land mass and population: Brazil
  2. Speaking Portuguese opens up travel opportunities to Brazil (the fifth most populous country in the world) and Portugal allowing you to speak with native speakers in their own language
  3. Portuguese is a beautiful language, combining the best sounds of many Latin-based languages into something completely unique
  4. Not nearly as many people study Portuguese as study its cousins Spanish and French. Portuguese can be your secret weapon and set you apart
  5. The ability to communicate with Portuguese speakers can open up professional and personal opportunities you might not otherwise experience
  6. It will open up an entire world of rich culture through films, books, and plays written in Portuguese

Spanish Or Portuguese? 4 Questions To Ask To Help You Decide Which One To Learn

man choosing between 2 paths in a wood

Looking through those lists, you may be wondering how you could ever choose.

Since your language-learning experience might be entirely different from mine, I'm going to help you figure out whether Spanish or Portuguese is an easier language for you. And I'll share which language I think is “easier”. 

The most accurate answer to your question depends on four factors:

  1. Your motivation
  2. The materials you use
  3. The languages you already speak
  4. How many hours each week you devote to learning the language

Let's take a look at each factor to help you decide which language to learn.

1. Your Motivation

notebook on table below coffee mug

Learning either Spanish or Portuguese will take a serious amount of effort. So first, ask yourself: why do I want to learn another language in the first place?

Make two lists:

  1. one with all the reasons you'd like to learn Spanish
  2. one with all the reasons you'd like to learn Portuguese

The lists of reasons to learn these languages at the beginning of this article can give you some ideas if you need a place to start.

Whichever language appeals to you most will probably be the easiest for you to learn, even if it's technically more difficult.

A personal connection to either language will come in handy during your course of study, especially on days when you don't feel like putting in the work.

2. The Materials You Use

woman reading book in library

The way you go about learning a language can completely change how difficult it is.

This is one area where Spanish is the easier language to learn because Spanish programmes and books are easier to find than in Portuguese. 

That said, don't let availability be the only reason you learn Spanish instead of Portuguese…it's never been easier to learn Portuguese than it is today thanks to the internet.

You may not be able to find many Portuguese materials at your local library or bookshop. But you can always order them online instead. Online Portuguese courses are another way to get high-quality Portuguese instruction anywhere in the world.

Depending on where you live, native Spanish speakers may be easier to find for practice within your community. But websites like Italki.com can connect you with a Portuguese tutor or language partner at the click of a button.

3. The Languages You Already Speak

map of south west of USA and Mexico

According to the Foreign Service Institute's School of Language Studies, learning Spanish or Portuguese takes roughly the same amount of time for native English speakers. Your experience will vary, however, if you've studied or been exposed to another language.

If you've ever studied French, for example, Portuguese will be easier to learn than Spanish because Portuguese pronunciation is similar to French in many ways.

If you live somewhere with a large number of Spanish speakers (such as the southwestern United States), you've probably been exposed to enough Spanish words to make Spanish the easier language to learn.

4. How Many Hours Each Week You Devote To Learning The Language

woman working on macbook holding coffee mug

Ultimately, how easy it is for you to learn Spanish or Portuguese will have a lot to do with how much time and effort you give to learning. This is why I always start by asking language learners about their motivation.

If you're passionate about learning a language, you'll be willing to give it the time and energy you need to learn. Studying Spanish—reading it, listening to it, and speaking it—won't feel so much like work if you're excited to learn. The same is true of Portuguese.

Again, the amount of time you devote to learning the language each week might change with the resources available to you either online or in your community.

So Which Language Is Easier To Learn?

vejer de la frontera in Spain

For most native English speakers, Spanish is slightly easier to learn than Portuguese. This is primarily a matter of access.

Since Spanish is spoken by over 400 million people worldwide (compared to just over 200 million for Portuguese), it's easier to find Spanish resources and media for learning or practising.

Another reason Spanish is easier to learn is that pronunciation in Spanish is simpler than in Portuguese.

Spanish uses five vowel sounds and has very consistent spelling. If you know how to pronounce something in Spanish, you can probably spell it. The reverse is also true—you will know how to pronounce most Spanish words just by seeing them in writing.

Portuguese, on the other hand, has nine vowel sounds. Spelling is also more difficult because Portuguese has more silent letters and accents than Spanish.

That's not to say that Portuguese can't also be simple to learn, especially if you have experience learning languages or earlier exposure to French.

Try Learning Spanish And Portuguese

various language learning books and guides

If you still can't decide between Spanish and Portuguese, why not devote some time to both for a short period?

I've learned more than one language at the same time before, and to be honest, I think it's more effective and efficient to stick to one at a time.

But if you're really unsure which language to study, getting a taster of both of them may be what you need to help you decide!

If you do opt to study both Spanish and Portuguese, either at the same time or back to back, just know that it's normal to get the languages mixed up at first.

In fact, I've dedicated an entire podcast episode to exploring why it happens and how to stop it from happening to you.

Whether you start with Spanish or Portuguese, the other language will be easier to learn once you've mastered the first.

Because Spanish and Portuguese share so much vocabulary and structure, you may be surprised how quickly you can pick up the other language. 

Solving Your Language Learning Paralysis

couple kissing at bottom of staris in Rio

Whether learning Spanish or Portuguese will be easier for you depends on many factors:

Even if Spanish has the edge over Portuguese in terms of access and simplicity in spelling and pronunciation, it doesn't mean you can't learn it.

And of course, if you really can't choose, then go for the compromise – learn both.

Whatever you decide to do, learning Spanish or Portuguese, or both will open you open to exciting new experiences in your personal and professional life.

So whatever you decide, you can't go wrong. Pick the language that appeals to you most right now, and enjoy the journey.

So after all that, what are you going to do? Learn Spanish or Portuguese or both? Let me know in the comments. And if you've already learned both languages, which one did you find easier? 

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