During the conference, the official language is
English. However, at the airport, restaurants, hotels, shops and on the
streets, most Brazilian people can only speak and understand Portuguese.
At every Brazilian schools girls and boys are
supposed to learn English; however, as a matter of fact, most Brazilians, after
finishing their elementary education, cannot understand or speak even simple
... just a little bit.
Learning some Brazilian Portuguese before you go to
Brazil is an extremely good idea. If you know Spanish you are halfway there:
there are obvious similarities in the grammar and vocabulary, so you should be
able to make yourself understood if you speak slowly, and reading won’t present
you with too many problems. However, Portuguese pronunciation is utterly
different and much less straightforward than Spanish. So, unless you take the
trouble to learn a bit about it, you won’t have a clue what Brazilians are
talking about. And contrary to what you might expect, very few Brazilians speak
Main Amerindian languages spoken in Brazil
Portuguese is the official language of Brazil. Minority
languages are spoken throughout the nation. One hundred and eighty Amerindian
languages are spoken in remote areas and a significant number of other
languages are spoken by immigrants and their descendants.
Brazilian Portuguese has had its own development,
with a few influences from the Amerindian and African languages, restricted to
the vocabulary only. As a result, the language is somewhat different, mostly in
phonology, from the language of Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking
countries. These differences are comparable to those between Australian, American and
Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in
the Americas, making the language an important part of Brazilian national
identity and giving it a national culture distinct from those of its neighbors.
Written Portuguese and Spanish are quite similar,
and most educated Brazilians will be able to understand simple written Spanish
– and conversely. However, the spoken languages are quite different. Because of
neighbor Spanish speaking countries, Brazilian people of the South Region can
usually understand Spanish and they can also speak a mixture of Portuguese and
Spanish, humorously called “portunhol” (a combination of the words Português
and Espanhol). In São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, many Brazilians are able to
understand Spanish, just about, but Spanish-speakers won’t understand
Portuguese – especially because of deep phonetic differences.
Of course, it is not necessary to spend several
months studying Portuguese before you travel to Brazil. You will be able to
survive with no Portuguese at all. But some knowledge of basic Portuguese will
certainly make your stay in Brazil easier.
There are many phrasebooks that provide the most
usual sentences and expressions you might be willing to use in Brazil. They also
present the way of pronouncing the words. It is not too difficult to learn how
to say “Thank you” (obrigado), “Good morning” (bom dia) and other similar
phrase. It is possible to acquire this basic knowledge of Portuguese studying a
few hours, before your trip. We suggest phrasebooks such as these:
Larousse Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook,
Berlitz Brazilian Portuguese Phrase Book &
Lonely Planet Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook &
Say It in Portuguese (Brazilian usage)
You will find that Brazilians will greatly
appreciate even your most rudimentary efforts, and every small improvement in
your Portuguese will make your stay in Brazil ten times more enjoyable. The
same rule works in any country, of course.