Although sharing similarities to Spanish as a Romance language with a plethora of similar words, pronunciation in Portuguese is often completely different. An abundance of nasal vowel sounds prevalent in European Portuguese means that many Spanish people have great difficulty in understanding the Portuguese language. Spanish, in stark contrast, is a language which encompasses more open vowel sounds, thus many Portuguese people are able to understand the just of a Spanish conversation.
Before arriving in Portugal, it is highly advisable to learn at least the basic grammar and vocabulary needed to get by in the country. However, working in Portugal is difficult without a firm grasp of the language. Many Portuguese people living in major cities such as Lisbon and Porto speak a high level of both English and Portuguese and in order to compete with the local labour market, especially to enter major multinational companies, a high competency of both languages is required.
Many expats who choose to retire in the country only acquire the basics in order to get by daily. For anyone living in Portugal permanently, learning Portuguese should be viewed as an utmost priority, in order to maximise cultural awareness and to make life less frustrating due to the language barrier.
Furthermore, bills, telephone and internet contracts are all in Portuguese. Portuguese servicemen such as plumbers, cleaners and gardeners are unlikely to speak a high level of English, so it is essential to know Portuguese well enough to be aware about what contracts you are signing, bills you are paying and domestic tasks you are delegating.
Although Portuguese is viewed as one of the hardest Romance language for native English speakers, hispanophones can acquire this language much faster, due to its similarity in grammar and vocabulary. Rich in phonetics, there are 14 vowel sounds in Portuguese alone, making pronunciation a challenge for the average English speaker.
Although hard and frustrating at first, immersion in the language, whether it be at work or during your social life will be the key to achieving fluency quickly. It is easy to learn a few words to get by, but to understand the complexities of Portuguese grammar will take more than a short vacation to learn.
Portuguese people are known to be open-minded to foreign language learners and with an upsurge in the younger generation learning English in the country, it is easy to get by in major cities. However to open doors not available to the average tourist in professional and social spheres, learning Portuguese is a necessity. Also used in Brazil, a major emerging economy as well as Angola and Mozambique, Portuguese language skills can easily be transposed in the work place, in order to conduct business with other countries efficiently.