Posted by Robert Butler, March 7th 2012
The day after we published an article online saying that Brazilian Portuguese is the best language to learn Brazil overtook Britain as the sixth largest economy in the world. The economy was a key reason why Helen Joyce, The Economist's correspondent in São Paulo, had chosen Brazilian Portuguese. In the two days our article has been online the number of comments about Brazilian Portuguese has shot past the 250 mark. Quite a few of these raised the question: why is it called Brazilian Portuguese?
As Lea Romano said, "We speak Portuguese and we are Brazilians!" But this is a two-way street: in Brazil, it's not uncommon to refer to British English and American English. An important reason, pointed out by Adelaide Bouchardet Davis, is that American companies have separate software for Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. One commenter, Laurence, said he once had to proofread a long Brazilian text with access only to a European Portuguese spell checker. "It was a nightmare."
Another commenter, Niels, said the two languages were not 100% the same. "Probably more like 99.9%." But some words are different. Inglêsno Supermercado explained that in Portugal, "rapariga" means "maid", in Brazil, "rapariga" means "bitch". The accent is different too. Tatiana Buzanelli said that Brazilians couldn't understand the Portuguese from Portugal because they have a strong accent and it looks like "they don't open their mouths to speak". But then people in the south find the regional accents in the north-east of Brazil hard to understand (and vice versa, presumably).
Jorge Lopes said there were no reason to take offence. In America, they speak American English. "There is also Swiss German, Canadian French, and a lot more. So, we speak Brazilian Portuguese too, what's wrong with that?"
Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life