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Learning Spanish and Portuguese

Time of past OR future Camino
French Way + Invierno April May 2024
I am planning or have been planning my Camino since before Covid. I am looking at changing from a Spanish Camino to the Portuguese Lisbon - Santiago. I have been trying to learn Spanish from Australia where we are predominantly only English. Do people who have walked the Caminos need to have a basic understanding of both Portuguese and Spanish to do the Portuguese camino? What is the general understanding of English and Spanish like in Portugal along the camino if I don't know Portuguese?
 
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You will be fine with English on the CP. The level of English spoken in Portugal is unexpectedly high - it is the European country that bucks the trend of English levels being higher in wealthier and geographically northern countries. According to the 2021 English Proficiency Index, Portugal's score is 'very high proficiency' and its country rank is No. 7 (among non-native speaking countries), one spot above Sweden. For comparison, France (No. 31) is one rung down at 'high proficiency', while Spain (No. 33) and Italy (No. 35) are one rung further down at 'moderate proficiency'.

Please don't try to speak Spanish to Portuguese people, as they do not like this. While the two countries are allies now, they have been rivals for most of the last 1000 years, including a period from 1580-1640 when Spain (Castile and León) took over the Portuguese crown. The fact that Portuguese people have their own, distinctly non-Spanish identity is one reason why Portugal ultimately regained and retained its independence while every other kingdom on the Iberian peninsula was eventually swallowed by Spain / Castile and León.

This was once written on the social media of Practice Portuguese (a podcast / learning platform for European Portuguese): ‘When you get to Portugal, you will notice that we love to show off our English skills. And of course, we love to help foreigners in need. So whenever you are having trouble finding a word, do not jump to Spanish please. Portugal and Spain are friends and neighbours but our languages are different, and we do not learn Spanish at school.’
 
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Everything that @jungleboy said.
I was amazed at how easy it was to get by in English and, when my friend tried to use Spanish she was politely answered in perfect English!

The attached might be a fun thing to pop inside your credential (the second attachment gives advice on how to print and fold the first)
 

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You will be fine with English on the CP. The level of English spoken in Portugal is unexpectedly high - it is the European country that bucks the trend of English levels being higher in wealthier and geographically northern countries. According to the 2021 English Proficiency Index, Portugal's score is 'very high proficiency' and its country rank is No. 7 (among non-native speaking countries), one spot above Sweden. For comparison, France (No. 31) is one rung down at 'high proficiency', while Spain (No. 33) and Italy (No. 35) are one rung further down at 'moderate proficiency'.

Please don't try to speak Spanish to Portuguese people, as they do not like this. While the two countries are allies now, they have been rivals for most of the last 1000 years, including a period from 1580-1640 when Spain (Castile and León) took over the Portuguese crown. The fact that Portuguese people have their own, distinctly non-Spanish identity is one reason why Portugal ultimately regained and retained its independence while every other kingdom on the Iberian peninsula was eventually swallowed by Spain / Castile and León.

This was once written on the social media of Practice Portuguese (a podcast / learning platform for European Portuguese): ‘When you get to Portugal, you will notice that we love to show off our English skills. And of course, we love to help foreigners in need. So whenever you are having trouble finding a word, do not jump to Spanish please. Portugal and Spain are friends and neighbours but our languages are different, and we do not learn Spanish at school.’
Thank you very much for your advice and guidance.
 
Everything that @jungleboy said.
I was amazed at how easy it was to get by in English and, when my friend tried to use Spanish she was politely answered in perfect English!

The attached might be a fun thing to pop inside your credential (the second attachment gives advice on how to print and fold the first)
Thanks .
 
Please don't try to speak Spanish to Portuguese people, as they do not like this.
I heard the same thing from some Portuguese people during my CP in June 2022, and I can attest to the excellent English proficiency I experienced there. The one exception was a cab driver we rode with who was originally from Moldava and spoke no English. We had a very nice conversation during a 30 minute ride with him speaking Portuguese and me speaking Spanish - the languages are close enough that we could understand each other, and since he was not Portuguese (his family immigrated 20 years earlier when he was a teen) he was not irritated or offended by being spoken to in Spanish.
 
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It's always best to learn some words or phrases in the local language. It shows respect for the people and the country that you are visiting. Remember that the local people are doing you a favor by speaking English.

As an American or Australian, who would you be inclined the help in your own country?

If someone started babbling to me in Spanish or Portuguese, I'd probably just shrug my shoulders and walk away.

If someone asked politely in broken English, I'd probably do my best to provide help. Maybe I'd even remember a word or two of Spanish or Portuguese.


-Paul
 
I am planning or have been planning my Camino since before Covid. I am looking at changing from a Spanish Camino to the Portuguese Lisbon - Santiago. I have been trying to learn Spanish from Australia where we are predominantly only English. Do people who have walked the Caminos need to have a basic understanding of both Portuguese and Spanish to do the Portuguese camino? What is the general understanding of English and Spanish like in Portugal along the camino if I don't know Portuguese?
When are you walking? I'm doing the Portugése from Lisbon, starting 22 or 23 September 🙋‍♀️
 
I do accept what @jungleboy said above, but I was on a walk in Madeira earlier this year and we reached a very rural cafe where no-one spoke english. I tried Spanish and it was very welcome.

In this case, Spanish seemed to be better than nothing.

Of course, the island may well have a different philosophy to the mainland.

Maybe when I eventually do one of the Portuguese Camino's the advice above will stand me in good stead. I have noted to speak English in Portugal as my first choice though 👍
 
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Everything that @jungleboy said.
I was amazed at how easy it was to get by in English and, when my friend tried to use Spanish she was politely answered in perfect English!

The attached might be a fun thing to pop inside your credential (the second attachment gives advice on how to print and fold the first)
The only problem with that, is that it doesn't tell you how to pronounce the words.
 
I've never found that a problem - speak loudly and slowly enough and Johnny Foreigner will understand soon enough, what, what? ;)
I'm used to the Spanish pronunciation of words, but learned during my time in Portugal that the same/similar words are pronounced very differently in Portuguese!
 
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I'm used to the Spanish pronunciation of words, but learned during my time in Portugal that the same/similar words are pronounced very differently in Portuguese!
(Like the way you side stepped me being silly)

Yes it's more . . . throaty (?) A German pilgrim I spoke to said she found it easier (as a German) to mimic than she did with "lispy" Spanish.
 
You can pretty much ‘get by’ in any country in the world nowadays without speaking the language but of course speaking it really enhances the experience! A friend of mine used to say ‘if you don’t understand the language, you won’t understand the culture!’. He was a UK national who spoke Japanese.
 
Everything that @jungleboy said.
I was amazed at how easy it was to get by in English and, when my friend tried to use Spanish she was politely answered in perfect English!

The attached might be a fun thing to pop inside your credential (the second attachment gives advice on how to print and fold the first)
Thank you so much. Very helpful.
 
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I've been asked if you can get the little wallet phrase books in other languages and where the Portuguese one came from since the web address on it is no longer valid.

Single Serving Phrasebooks is the place to go. He does several languages, some with pronunciation guides and they are printable in either International A4 size or US Letter. So if you want Albanian or Czech you're in luck.
 
I am planning or have been planning my Camino since before Covid. I am looking at changing from a Spanish Camino to the Portuguese Lisbon - Santiago. I have been trying to learn Spanish from Australia where we are predominantly only English. Do people who have walked the Caminos need to have a basic understanding of both Portuguese and Spanish to do the Portuguese camino? What is the general understanding of English and Spanish like in Portugal along the camino if I don't know Portuguese?
You will be fine with English on the CP.
100% agree. I speak enough Spanish not to ever have a problem but I have seen lots of people with no Spanish ability walk without issues.
 
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If you are going to learn some Portuguese make sure you are studying the homeland original and not Brazilian Portuguese. I lived in Brazil for some years but always struggled for the first few days in Portugal to adapt to the pronunciation. They understood me fine though as Brazilian TV soaps have been popular for decades
 
I lived in Brazil for some years but always struggled for the first few days in Portugal to adapt to the pronunciation.
For the first few days only? Lucky you! I also learned Brazilian Portuguese first and am still struggling to adapt to the pronunciation in Portugal after living here for 5.5 years (partly or perhaps largely because I prefer the Brazilian version of the language by a long way).
 
I'm considering walking the CP from Faro next year but I'm sure I've seen somewhere on the forum that English is not spoken very much in the south, is this true?
I'm trying to learn Portuguese from YouTube but I'm failing miserably. I'm finding the pronunciation difficult and it sounds like nothing I can tune my ears to, unlike French, Spanish Norwegian for example.
Now I'm thinking I might start from Lisbon for my first visit to Portugal and see if I can pick up some of the language before I do the walk from Faro.
 
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I'm considering walking the CP from Faro next year but I'm sure I've seen somewhere on the forum that English is not spoken very much in the south, is this true?
I'm trying to learn Portuguese from YouTube but I'm failing miserably. I'm finding the pronunciation difficult and it sounds like nothing I can tune my ears to, unlike French, Spanish Norwegian for example.
Now I'm thinking I might start from Lisbon for my first visit to Portugal and see if I can pick up some of the language before I do the walk from Faro.
It depends. You will find English spoken in tourist areas, but probably less in rural areas away from tourism. I would just try to learn a few phrases. You can always point at things in cafes and shops!
 
I'm considering walking the CP from Faro next year but I'm sure I've seen somewhere on the forum that English is not spoken very much in the south, is this true?
I wouldn't say that, no. As I said upthread, English is widely spoken in Portugal in general. As you would expect, the level is generally higher among younger people and in urban areas. The south (i.e. the Algarve) is a heavily touristed area which also brings with it elevated levels of English among locals. If there is any geographical divide regarding English levels in Portugal, I would guess that it would be east-west more than north-south (i.e. less English spoken in the more depopulated eastern parts, which correspond with the Caminho Nascente rather than the Central that you are considering).
 

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