What language do they speak in Brazil?
Brazil is the largest country in South America and outreaches all of its neighbouring countries by far in terms of territory and population.
South America is famous for the conquistadors, steak and the Spanish language. This is all thanks to the history the Spanish explorers left behind when they arrived in the New World.
However, Brazil has a very different history. The Portuguese explored this territory, bringing with them their own culture, cuisine and of course language.
Brazil before the Portuguese
Brazil is a vast territory. Originally it was inhabited by indigenous tribes. Parts of the Amazon rainforest are still inhabited by these tribes today.
Of course, the indigenous population of Brazil didn’t speak Portuguese. They spoke their own indigenous language. Languages like Tucano and Mawé make up some of the many hundreds of indigenous languages that still live on today in Brazil.
However, the number of speakers is small in number. Only around 40,000 people in Brazil actually speak an indigenous language. With 207 million people living in Brazil, it’s safe to say the main language is definitely Portuguese.
If you’re learning Portuguese, you’ll be happy to know you can use it in Brazil! But this does come with a warning: the Portuguese spoken in Brazil is quite different to that spoken in Portugal.
The main difference is the pronunciation and accent. Brazilians tend to speak with a more open mouth, often enunciating sounds clearly from the front of the mouth. Portuguese speakers from Portugal speak with their mouths more closed and have a lot more deep sounds.
A good example is the word for Portuguese, which is ‘português’, and it’s pronounced as it’s written in Brazil but in Portugal that final S comes out more like a /sh/ sound or the S in the English word ‘pleasure’.
If you’d like to hear more examples of the differences in pronunciation between these two varieties, check out this video.
Another key difference is the word for ‘you’. In Portugal, they use the word ‘tu’ but in Brazil they use the word ‘você’. Você exists in Portugal but it’s a very formal way of speaking to someone. But in Brazil it’s just the normal way to say.
Of course, there’s also many differences in vocabulary, but we would need an entire new blog to list all of them, but here are 3 to give you an idea:
- Your identity card in Brazil is called your cédula de identidade but in Portugal it’s called your bilhete de identidade
- The bathroom in Brazil is the banheiro but in Portugal it’s the sala de banhos
- And a truck in Brazil is a caminhão but in Portugal it’s a camião
What about Spanish?
With so many Spanish speaking countries surrounding Brazil, it will come as no surprise that many Brazilians learn Spanish at school. Travelling to other nearby Spanish countries for holidays and on business, many Brazilians speak Spanish to a high level.
And of course English is widely taught thanks to the close economic ties with the USA and the popularity of certain TV shows in Brazil.
So if you speak either Spanish or English but not Portuguese, you’ll probably get by in Brazil.
That said, learning a little Portuguese before visiting wouldn’t hurt. So why not give learning (Brazilian) Portuguese a go today?
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A polyglot and international traveller. Anthony speaks 6 languages and loves sharing his passion of language learning through his writing.
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