I've briefly read about Portuñol, which is supposedly a code switching method for Spanish and Portuguese.

  • How does it function?
  • I have heard that it acts like a mapping from Spanish to Portuguese (or vice versa) by regularly changing certain sounds. What sounds are switched?
  • Is it an effective method of communication between Spanish and Portuguese speakers?
  • This blog site basically says that Portuñol is basically speaking Portuguese with a Spanish accent (on one side) or adding "inho" to Spanish words (on the other). The Rivernese Portuñol is unique in that it's commonly spoken and an actual, standard dialect.
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 16:10
  • But it's about the usage of Spanish, is it really that off topic? Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 16:26
  • 1
    Good idea on using a meta question to set a precedent for these types of questions. Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 16:46
  • 1
    While this is far from a community consensus, I have been swayed to think that these questions are on-topic. (I'll vote to re-open if it closes.)
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 18:06
  • 1
    I feel this is on topic, that said, it would be more on topic on linguine l Linguistics.SE Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


I always thought Portuñol/Portunhol referred to any mix of Spanish and Portuguese.

I use it myself when talking to Portuguese speakers who don't have English.

Basically I just speak Spanish except:

  • where I happen to know there is a different word in Portuguese (like hablar vs falar)
  • where I know there's a different pronunciation of a same or similar word (like me vs meu)
  • where I happen to know there's a different grammatical structure (like gustar vs gostar)
  • where I know there are equivalent endings for latinate words (like conversación vs conversação)

Of course you can only avoid any embarassing pitfalls like false friends if you know about them. But of course the person being addressed also adjusts how they're listening to allow for such things.

And of course sometimes this isn't enough and you have to hunt for synonyms or circumlocutions, or just give up, smile, and shrug your shoulders (-:

Basically it's not much different to Spanglish except that due to the similarity of the languages the intelligibility and usefulness is orders of magnitude greater.

So basically per my understanding everybody will do this according to their level of understanding of the other language, meaning everybody will speak their own version. (Oh and of course Portuguese speakers will do the opposite.)

If there actually is some official, standard, or formalized Portuñol/Portunhol, I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks to Richard's response on the meta post about whether Portuñol and related topics are within our scope I have learned that there is indeed another Portuñol which actually is its own language, though doesn't have an ISO language code and I assume it hasn't been codified into a standard, but must be the native language of a community. You can read about it in its own Wikipedia article, Riverense Portuñol language.

  • Yes, I believe that there are multiple communities. There are around 100,000 native speakers of Riverense Portuñol, although I imagine the learning curve would be almost non-existant for those who already speak both Portuguese and Spanish.
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 16:45
  • I now have another place I have to visit when I get around to my South America trip (-: Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 16:48
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    "... a polyvalent term (portuñol/portunhol) used to describe a wide range of phenomena, including spontaneous contact vernaculars in border regions, errors produced by speakers attempting to speak the L2 correctly, and idiosyncratic invented speech designed to facilitate communication between the two languages;" - Too Close for Comfort? The Genesis of “Portuñol/Portunhol” (2006)
    – jacobo
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 12:55

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