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Learning Spanish and Portuguese

StephenBurnett

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
French way (May/June 2020 )
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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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
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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Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
A "Tourigrino" trip once Covid has passed, so 2023
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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StephenBurnett

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
French way (May/June 2020 )
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.
 

StephenBurnett

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
French way (May/June 2020 )
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 .
 
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Rmarkob

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 21 Sep/22 Oct 2021
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.
 

pjacobi

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2015, St. Jean Pied de Port to Burgos
2016, Burgos to Ponferrada
2017, Ponferrada to Atlantic Ocean
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
 

Lindy Loo

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 21 October 2014
Portugese Way October 2018
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 🙋‍♀️
 

David with new Kit!

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2019 SJPP to Logroño
2021 Logroño - SDC
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 👍
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
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.
 
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trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
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!
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
A "Tourigrino" trip once Covid has passed, so 2023
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.
 

TravellingMan2022

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Norte
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.
 

Heather R.

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2021
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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Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
A "Tourigrino" trip once Covid has passed, so 2023
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.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
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.
 

MikeyC

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF - September 2016
CF - April May 2017
Shikoku - October 2017
Kumano Kodo - October 2017
CF - 2019
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
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
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).
 
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