Which Languages Do They Speak in Brazil?
Today, we invite you to travel with us and learn everything you can about the languages of Brazil. Are you ready?
You might be thinking, “Well, Brazilians speak Portuguese.”
Well, the answer is not that simple. For example, did you know that during the 19th century, lots of Germans emigrated to Brazil? Or that more than 200 indigenous languages are spoken in this amazing subcontinent? Well, Brazil is full of surprises and languages!
So, pack your suitcase and a light book, because it’s time to board!
A Quick Introduction
Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fifth largest nation in the world. It’s located on the eastern side of the continent, and it’s 3,286,470 square miles.
It borders every South American country except Chile and Ecuador.
According to The World Factbook, the current population is 217,240,060 (2022 est.).
In this article, you will find interesting facts and important information about what the main language of Brazil is, as well as the most commonly used languages, just in time for your next vacation!
Official Language of Brazil
Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and the majority of the population speaks it.
On the Ethnologue website, they detail that 201,000,000 of the Brazilian population speak Portuguese as their first or mother tongue, then 10,200,000 speak it as a second language, and 6,000,000 of the inhabitants do not speak it at all.
Researchers at Britannica say that “Brazilian Portuguese is different from European Portuguese in a number of ways, including some changes in sound and some differences in the way verbs are conjugated and how sentences are put together.”
But how did Portuguese come to Brazil? It didn’t grow on trees like their famous passion fruit!
The Portuguese language arrived in 1500 with the colonization. Tupi was the main language of Brazil’s native people, and Portuguese missionaries and traders used it to communicate with Indians.
According to the Brazil-Help website, in 1757, Tupi was banned by royal decree. However, Portuguese speakers kept words from Tupi and other local languages. Words like abacaxi (pineapple), caju (cashew), tatu (armadillo), piranha (the fish) are originally Tupi words.
In the following years, Brazilian Portuguese received African influence, and at the same time, people in Portugal started adding French to their variation.
These exchanges made the differences between the two languages more notorious.
Brazil gained its independence in 1822, and from that moment on, other European languages kept making changes to it.
Finally, at the beginning of the 21st century, people began to promote the creation of a linguistic norm based on the Brazilian version of the Portuguese language.
That’s quite the ride, huh? Brazilian Portuguese, in fact, keeps changing, mainly due to competition, as we’ll see next!
Build a better future for your child with accredited online Spanish classes at Homeschool Spanish Academy.
Sign up for your no-risk, free-trial Spanish class today. ➡️
Other Widely Spoken Languages in Brazil
At the beginning of the 19th century, the immigration wave from Europe and Asia changed the local landscape of Brazil.
People from Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China, began settling around Brazil, and locals added more foreign words to Portuguese.
Let’s look at the influence these languages had on Brazilian Portuguese!
According to the 2020 National Migratory Registry in Brazil, there are 6,342,000 Spanish speakers in Brazil, but it’s the mother tongue of only 742,000 of them.
By the way, in 2005, Brazilian president Lula Da Silva approved a bill promoted by Congress to make Spanish the country’s second language.
In addition, as we mentioned, Brazil has borders with almost all the countries of South America except Chile and Ecuador.
Understandably, Spanish is so important for the country’s development.
English is another language that Brazilians have adopted as a common language. In 2020, there were 10,921,000 English speakers in Brazil, but only 121,000 Brazilians used it as their first language.
According to a study by the British Council in Brazil, the main objectives for studying English are expanding knowledge and getting a job. The people polled thought English was necessary for entering the job market and that English speakers were better paid.
Tourism is one of Brazil’s most important sources of income. According to a Business Intriper article, in 2022, Brazil got more than 3 million foreign tourists from these countries:
- Argentina (883,008)
- United States (373,382)
- Paraguay (256,598)
- Chile (169,671)
- Uruguay (158,705)
- Portugal (121,542)
- France (115,795)
- Germany (104,640)
- United Kingdom (76,335)
- Colombia (74,732)
We can easily understand why foreign languages are so important in Brazil. But what about local languages? Well, Brazilians have hundreds of indigenous languages.
Indigenous Languages in Brazil
When Europeans first came to Brazil, people there spoke between 600 and 1,000 different languages. Today, a total of 238 languages are spoken in the country. A demographic census conducted in 2010 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics indicates that the largest ethnic group in Brazil is the Tikúna, which represents 6.8% of the indigenous population.
However, despite their wide variety, many of Brazil’s indigenous languages are in danger. In fact, of the 238 languages spoken in the country, 217 are living, 21 are extinct, 200 are indigenous, and 17 are non-indigenous.
One of the main threats to Brazilian languages is the invasion of indigenous territories.
Some native groups have been persecuted throughout history, and the only records we have of their languages are from researchers who went to the country many years ago.
This is inadmissible! As the linguist, Angel Corbera Mori from Unicamp’s Institute for Language Studies explains, “If a language is lost, then medicine, ancestral food, stories, and traditions are lost.”
Brazil: A Country of Immigrants
Brazil is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world!
According to the 2010 World Factbook, Brazil’s ethnic groups are divided into the following percentages:
- White: 47.7%
- Mixed: 43.1%
- Black: 7.6%
- Asian: 1.1%
- Indigenous: 0.4%
Brazil remains a very popular country to visit. Its lush landscapes, colorful parades and carnivals, spellbinding music, and unique culture are like magnets for people around the world!
You definitely want to add this destination to your list!
Let Your Trip to Brazil Begin!
I’m thrilled to have shared this travel guide with you, exploring the vibrant and diverse languages spoken throughout Brazil! As you now know, Portuguese is the official language, and I’ve shared fascinating insights into its rich history, from the African and Tupi influences to its modern-day usage.
Additionally, we’ve explored other widely spoken languages like Spanish and English, highlighting the vital role of foreign languages in Brazil’s thriving tourism industry.
Lastly, we delved into the endangered indigenous languages of Brazil, shedding light on their cultural significance and the need to preserve them.
I hope this guide has left you feeling inspired to explore the fascinating linguistic landscape of Brazil further!
Join one of the 40,000 classes that we teach each month and you can experience results like these…
“This is the best way for your kid to learn Spanish. It’s one-on-one, taught by native Spanish speakers, and uses a curriculum.”
– Sharon K, Parent of 3
“It’s a great way to learn Spanish, from native Spanish speakers in a 1-on-1 environment. It’s been fairly easy to schedule classes around my daughter’s other classes. The best value for us has been ordering multiple classes at a time. All the instructors have been great!”
– Cindy D, Parent of 3
“HSA offers very affordable, quality, one on one classes with a native speaker. My son has greatly benefited from taking classes. We have seen his confidence increase as well as his pronunciation improve, because he learns from a native Spanish speaker. HSA has quick, personal customer service. Our family has been very pleased with our experience so far!”
– Erica P. Parent of 1
Want more about Hispanic culture and Spanish language:
- Mastering Hard Words in Spanish
- Hispanic Heritage: Introducing Hispanic Culture to Kids
- Ways of Saying ‘Of Course’ in Spanish
- No Worries: How to Say “No Problem” in Spanish
- Your Spanish Guide to Outer Space in Spanish
- Is There Homeschooling in Latin America?
- Words and Phrases Related to Transportation in Spanish Part 2
- Top 10 Hispanic Museums to Visit
- Building Blocks: Kid-Friendly Spanish Grammar - September 6, 2023
- Hispanic Heritage: Introducing Hispanic Culture to Kids - August 31, 2023
- No Worries: How to Say “No Problem” in Spanish - August 28, 2023