Spanish vs Portuguese: A Linguistic Comparison

Spanish vs Portuguese: A Linguistic Comparison
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


Two of the most widely spoken languages in the world are Spanish and Portuguese. Although closely related, there are numerous important differences that one should be aware of. Aside from the obvious pronunciation distinctions, written phrases have variances that the spoken language does not. When transcribing these "romance languages," which are also known as Hispano-Iberian or West Iberian, the transcriptionist should be able to contrast words that might be written similarly, but have unique meanings.

Identical Words

Let's disregard the pronunciation differences for a second and look at words that are identical, but have dissimilar meanings. Significant differences should be focused on to avoid transcription confusions. The list is endless, but some common words that come up in general conversation include:

  • Abono - In Spanish, this would mean subscription or fertilizer, whereas in Portuguese it would translate to deposit, compensation or allowance.
  • Engraçado - This word would be used to describe something funny in Spanish, or something greasy in Portuguese.
  • Ganância - Used to describe ambition in Spanish, and profits or gains in Portuguese.
  • Esquisito/Exquisito - Esquisito means strange or odd in Spanish, but exquisito means delicious or excellent in Portuguese.

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Gender Considerations

When you look at a piece of Spanish writing you will notice that many of the feminine words are actually masculine in Portuguese. For example, words that end in –aje are feminine in Spanish whereas Portuguese words that end in –agem are feminine. Despite the fact that some words have various meanings based on gender, they are normally written in the same gender. The way endings are applied depend on how you want to use the word.

Verb Conjugations

The final area that requires your attention when transcribing Spanish or Portuguese is verb conjugations. For example, había cantado is the Spanish translation for Portuguese verb cantara, which means "had sung." This should not be mixed up with cantara/cantase, because this is a past subjunctive in Spanish.

These are just a few examples of words that should not be mixed up and traps you ought to avoid. With basic research, errors can be avoided and the notorious false cognates can be sidestepped.

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc an Orange County, California based company that has been providing accurate and affordable transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed success at GMR for almost ten years now and has helped the company grow. Within two years of Beth managing GMR Transcription, it had doubled in sales and was named one of the OC Business Journal’s fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she likes spending time with her husband and two kids.