Oh, seriously?

Come on now:

This summer I will be visiting Portugal for the fifth year in a row,


The one thing I haven’t done, much to my chagrin, is to learn any Portuguese whatsoever.

Fair enough.

The truth is that there is no real need, as everybody is used to tourists and speaks impeccable English

In the big tourist cities, true. 3 miles outside them it ain’t.

I speak a little bit of Spanish,

And now you’ve got to stop being a twat. The languages are, sorta, derivatives of each other. Or, if you prefer, only a little further apart than accents of each other.

Cerveja – pronounced cervezha – and cerveza – pronounced cervetha , roughly and -ish -ish

Lombo, lomo. Manteiga, mantequilla. Vino, vino.

We’re really not that far away. And, oddly enough, Portuguese is often closer to Catalan than to Castilian (Bom Dia, Bon Dia, Buen Dia).

If you have some Spanish then you’ve some Portuguese. Trot it out, stick on a cod-Russian accent and you’re about there actually.

19 thoughts on “Oh, seriously?”

  1. Very true about the Russian accent. When I was in Portugal in the early 90’s the first week I was sure I was hearing Russian around me. Having watched loads of Soviet documentaries in the 70’s and 80’s – at school and at home – Russian language was very familiar albeit grating to my ears.

  2. The most recent figure I’ve seen for projected numbers (of deaths) in 3 per cent of the over 80s. Hardly something to keep us awake at night (unless we are over 80).

  3. The Meissen Bison

    I speak a little bit of Spanish

    The article makes it clear that it’s a very, very little bit of Spanish. His Tamil might be fluent on the other hand.

  4. OT, but I’d really like to hear Iain Dale speak German. He is always banging on about having lived in Germany and being fluent in the language. I don’t believe the latter one bit! I studied German 5 years at school and the only sentence I can remember and say is “aber wo bleibt unser bier?”

  5. Castellano is well understood by Portuguese, but they may pretend not to. 🙂
    (Similarly, speaking French in Flemish areas of Belgium.)

    For myself, I always like to learn the standard greetings and “thank you” in the local lingo, wherever I go. There’s a lot of Hungarians working in hospitality across Europe, and they’re always pleased to hear a word or two in Magyar (even though two words is my absolute limit, and my accent is doubtless atrocious).

  6. Chris – my observation is that Spanish (Castilian)speakers are treated far more tolerantly in Portugal than vice versa. The closest Spanish language to Portuguese is Galician and naturally both peoples seem closer to each other than the other parts of the peninsula

  7. I always like to learn the standard greetings and “thank you” in the local lingo

    Def. Being able to show (or sham) willing in the local language is all the English-speaking tourist generally needs.

  8. The best phrase being “Sorry, I don’t speak (Gabble) language very well but…..” in that local Gabble.

    At which point there will be protestations of “Sure, you speak it perfectly” and then someone will ask in English “What is it you want?”

  9. Armed with a degree in Spanish, I can understand, more or less, written Portuguese but spoken Portuguese is almost unintelligible. It’s rather more than a few subtle differences in accent

  10. My greatest accomplishment – I try to not look foreign/tourist – during my time in Madeira & Sweden was being mistaken for a local, I’d nod along and smile as they spoke then say “Fala inglês?” / “Pratar du engelska?”

    Having said that, locals in both wanted to practise/improve their English, not encourage me to speak their language

    Hello/hi, please, thank you, bye and 1,2,3 coffee/water etc handy


    Russians were holidaying in Madeira too from ~mid 90s, but vastly outnumbered by Brits, Germans and Nordics

    @Chris Miller +1

    @BraveFart +10

  11. I endorse the ‘basic politeness and greetings’ approach and have tried this in about 30 countries. One phrase that will get you a long way anywhere is ” Thank you, you’re very kind”

    After many trips to Portugal, I reckon Portuguese sounds like a drunken Frenchman trying to speak Spanish. The many slurs are reminiscent of Russian.

  12. Pcar

    In Greece, Anglo Saxon, early morning, looking for a newspaper, walk into a local shop (in a touristy area) – and the chap without batting an eyelid (genuinely) starts talking to me in Greek.

    Err… Actually, it’s the clothes, I look absolutely nothing like a tourist – more like a local, despite the obvious hue differences…

  13. Bloke in North Dorset

    When I was first posted to Germany I made a big effort to learn the language. I bought a couple of books and regularly made a bit of a fool of myself. (I wanted some blue tack to “introduce a poster” I was buying “to my room” which raised quite a few giggles in the shop, but I got what I wanted).

    Eventually I found that as soon as they realised I’d made an effort most Germans switched to English to practice their own skills, to the chagrin of my colleagues who’d been their longer but hadn’t made any effort. It was most frustrating.

    When I was travelling internationally after leaving the army it was always in an environment where all the consultants spoke fluent English. I always made a point of learning! yes, no, hello, goodbye, please, thank you and excuse me / sorry for use with secretaries and in bars and restaurants.

  14. @Obligato, BiND

    +1 Small things/words often make a big difference

    @PF – Yes, clothes and body language

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