The differences between European & Brazilian Portuguese

European Portuguese differs from Brazilian Portuguese mainly in terms of pronunciation. There are also significant differences in vocabulary, and relatively minor differences in grammar and spelling. The relationship is similar to that between British and American English, though the regional differences in Brazil are greater than those in the USA. Read more

Quebecois French versus ‘France’ French

French Canada, located just beyond New York on the eastern side of Canada, can cater to your needs. But do they speak the same variety of French as in France, you ask? Sacré bleu! Not quite. In Quebec, Québecois is spoken, and yes, there are differences. Before you go, let’s look at some of the history and the variations.

The origin of Quebecois French is from Classical French in the 17th and 18th centuries, brought to “New France” by French colonists. The influence of the area began to play a major role in the evolution of the language – that is, interaction and contact with Native Americans and their languages plus the different foliage and fauna gave way to new words. This, combined with the isolation from Europe and the fact that French settlers retained the older pronunciations, gave way to a new dialect.

One simple analogy would be to say that Quebec French = American/Canadian English and France French = England/UK English, but even that can be misleading because the differences in Québecois and France French are even larger.

Some fun differences:

‘France’ French: parking/parker

Québecois French: stationnement/stationer

FF: le weekend

QF: la fin de semaine

FF: Je t’en prie

QF: bienvenue

Along with different pronunciations, idioms, slang, the speed of the spoken language, swear words and exclusive cultural references are definitely different in Quebec than in France. This, however, does not mean that you won’t be able to engage in the culture when you visit Quebec. As long as you try, the local Canadian will most likely appreciate your efforts.

Of course, English is sometime welcome, too. If someone starts a conversation with “Bonjour hello”, as if it is one word, they are actually inviting you to use whichever language you prefer. So even if you haven’t been on your French language course for long, and you just want to try out a bit of the language, you will be able to speak English in the more urban areas with ease.

Cactus Language offer French courses in the UK, New York, France and Canada, including Quebec!

The Influence of French on the English Language

The Norman invasion of England in 1066 had a major impact not only on the country, but also on the English language. William the Conqueror and his merry band of Normans brought with them Norman French, which became the language of the court, government and the upper class for the next three centuries. English continued to be used by ordinary people, and Latin was the language of the church. Read more

What is Catalan and how widely is it spoken?

Catalan isn’t a dialect of Spanish, it is a separate language which in many respects is as close to French as it is to Spanish. The Catalan government has spent a lot of money trying to increase the number of people who speak Catalan. Not surprisingly, some students have written to us asking whether Catalan could interfere with their Spanish studies. The answer is generally “no”.

Our centres in Barcelona teach Spanish, not Catalan and our host families will also speak Spanish (not Catalan) to them. Students may overhear some conversations in Catalan, but they are equally likely to overhear conversations in English, French, Arabic or Italian – Barcelona is a very cosmopolitan city!

According to a recent survey, over 67% of the people in Barcelona consider Spanish to be their first language. In small towns and villages Catalan is more widely spoken but in Barcelona, because of a long history of immigration from other parts of Spain, the dominant language is very definitely Spanish. Five of the seven television channels currently available broadcast in Spanish, and all the leading newspapers – including those published in Barcelona – are also written in Spanish. What’s more, everyone in Barcelona automatically uses Spanish to speak to foreign students as they don’t expect them to know any Catalan, so there is very little danger of students being asked to understand anything other than Spanish while they are here.

The only issue is that many signs (including street signs and many shop fronts and the occasional menu) are written in Catalan (most menus and advertisements are in Spanish or are bilingual) and students may find this confusing. Reading signs is a valuable part of the learning process (especially for beginners and elementary students) , and those with an intermediate level or above will tend to be able to distinguish between Spanish and Catalan signs. Those with a lower level, though, should be aware that, in this area and only in this area, they will be slightly disadvantaged when comparing Barcelona with other destinations.

Finally, it is also worth bearing in mind that all Catalans are totally bilingual and that they speak Spanish without any noticeable accent. So what the Spanish students will hear in Barcelona is in fact much closer to normal or “correct” Castilian Spanish than the Spanish they would hear in some other regions of Spain where Spanish is often spoken with a very strong regional accent.

More about Spanish courses in Barcelona

Top tips for Americans learning Spanish in Spain

While Americans tend to learn Mexican or Argentine Spanish at school, there will be some differences to look out for if planning on speaking and continuing to learn the language in Spain. 

While there is little difference in grammar between the many Spanish dialects, there are conjugations and accents that differ between the Spanish of the Americas and European Spanish.

While in Spain, firstly, notice that there is a big difference between the northern Castilian dialects and the southern Andalusian dialects of Castilian Spanish. The Andalusian dialect is the one that closer ressembles the Spanish of Latin America. The major difference is the fact that in Spain, the Castilian Spanish replaces any “s” sounds with a “th”.

While Mexican Spanish incorporates “tl” and “tz” in certain words because of a heavy Native American influence in their language, Spain too has localized intonations in their dialects.

When traveling to Spain, keep in mind there are regional languages. For example, if planning on going to Barcelona, then your classical Spanish will get you by, but the local language of Catalan is also used in street signage and sometimes in conversation. In other parts of Spain, Galician and Basque are spoken. Be sure to check which region speaks which local language before you go.

There are differences in vocabulary between Latin American countries and Spain as well, mostly with food products. Again, this is because of the Native American influence in Central and South America. But do not be too stressed if visiting Spain from America because in general, there is a wide cross-understanding of all dialects and most people understand that a large variant of Spanish is spoken throughout the world.

More about Spanish courses in Spain