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ISHPSSB & ABFHiB 2017 Meeting

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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 English.

... 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 Spanish.

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 British English.

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 & Dictionary,

Lonely Planet Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary,

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.

ISHPSSB & ABFHiB 2017 Meeting   
International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB)   
Associação Brasileira de Filosofia e História da Biologia (ABFHiB)   
São Paulo, Brazil, 16 to 21 July, 2017   

São Paulo, Brazil
16 to 21 July, 2017

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