There are several reasons why people learn a new language. Usually professional reasons motivate and dictate which languages to learn. It is common sense for those who wish to place well in the labor market to learn English and preferably a third language. If you are Brazilian the chances are that this third language is Spanish. After all, every country in Latin America speaks Spanish except Brazil.
However, not all Brazilians speak Spanish and the number of Brazilians studying Spanish is even lower. In fact it is not difficult to understand the language. With basic studies and with the help of native speakers speaking slowly, we Brazilians can understand it.
In my opinion this is, indeed, the “understandable” that hinders our in-depth studies of the language. Many Brazilians fall into the temptation to simply replace all “ção” with “ción”, and to add the letter “I” in all possible Portuguese words creating the so-called “Portunhol” and committing the worst atrocities between the two languages!
Although Portuguese and Spanish derive from Latin and, therefore, have a similar grammatical structure, they are different languages and must be addressed as such. “Portunhol” can help a weekend-tourist but also create a big misunderstanding. Between the two languages, there are many false friends, similar words in the written form, but with different meanings. A waiter in Argentina, for example, would expect from a nice client a “propina” (bribe) but do not face it as rude. “Propina” in Spanish means “tip” while in Portuguese means “bribe”.
Today I still do not speak good Spanish. I have good reading and listening comprehension, but my tongue still shuts down and mixes Portuguese, Italian and Spanish every time I try to communicate with someone. I recognize I need to practice and study, and the speech of two school teachers has motivated me to speak good Spanish one day: the first one is related to the fact that Brazil is the only Portuguese speaking country in Latin America and the need to properly communicate with our neighbours and partners, the second one is related to the phrase “Puede quedar muy mal si no habla un buen español” (You can get in trouble if you don’t speak good Spanish), namely, to say what you should not because you do not know what does it mean!
I hope to motivate more Brazilians to leave Portunhol aside and start hard learning – this language as beautiful as ours!