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  • Nozomi Hayashida

What is the unique relationship between Japanese and Portuguese?

There are so many languages in the world, each differing in their own way yet sharing similarities with other languages too. For example, take Portuguese and Japanese - two languages that differ inheir letter (alphabet), structures, and even symbols when writing sentences. Japan's letters are unique since, considering there is no other language group that has a similar alphabet. Despite looking and sounding very different from any language, some Japanese words came from Portuguese.

How is Japanese connected to Portuguese?

It all started in 1543, when a Portuguese ship drifted ashore on Tanegashima. Portugal was, in that manner, the first European country to come to Japan. From there, Portuguese people taught the Japanese about guns, Christianity, and more familiar elements of Portuguese culture. At that time, the Portuguese word was beginning to permeate. Portugal continued to trade and maintain relations with Japan until 1639, when the government closed off to Christians due to religious diversity and controversy between the two nations.

What parts are similar in Portuguese and Japanese?

There are two aspects of the languages that are similar between Portuguese and Japanese. The first is pronunciation. Portuguese and Japanese both use the vowels “a, e, i, o, u”. Also, both languages read the Latin alphabet, making it easier for them to read and understand it.

I speak Japanese and am also still learning Portuguese, but when I see Portuguese sentences for the first time and try to read them, I can read easier because it's the same for Japanese.

The second similarity is the “ne?”. Japanese people and Portuguese speakers use the expression “ne?” for when they are asking for consent. Usually, this expression is used at the end of a phrase. For example, when I want to say ‘this is good, isn’t it?’; in Portuguese I would say ‘Está bom, ?’. In Japanese, I would say ‘Kore totemo iiyone? (これとてもいいよね?)’ and both of them use ‘ne?’ at the last part of a sentence.

The words that are similar to Portuguese and Japanese:

Here are some similar words in Portuguese and Japanese! (Portuguese - Japanese (pronunciation) - English)

  • Pão - パン (pan) - bread

  • Bolo - ボーロ (bolo) - cake (in japanese, it mean sweets)

  • Confeito - 金平糖 (Konpeitou) - small coloured sugar candy covered in bulges

  • Botão - ボタン (botan) - button

  • Copo - コップ (copu) - cup

In this way, it is possible to see that each language has little similarities between each other. When you learn a new language, you can find the similarities to your native language and it might make you feel closer to them and make it easier to study! I hope you'll look for them yourself!


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