What Language Do They Speak in Brazil? [Hint: It’s Not Spanish]
Do you know what language Brazilians speak?
Although Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, the people there don’t speak Spanish! Rather, Portuguese is the most widely spoken language in Brazil. However, as the world’s 5th largest country, Brazil has more than enough room for additional languages!
Many indigenous languages still exist in Brazil, along with several immigrant languages. And, although Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country in the Americas, the surrounding Spanish language still sneaks in along its borders.
This giant country is bursting with foreign words and unique cultures! It’s time to dive into the question: What does Brazil speak?
Brazil Official Language: Portuguese
What language do they speak in Brazil? Primarily, Brazil speaks Portuguese along with seven other countries in the world.
Countries that speak Portuguese include Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, and Portugal.
Despite Brazil being a part of Latin America, Portuguese, not Spanish, is its official language.
Brazilian Portuguese is different from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. Brazilian Portuguese has hints of African and indigineous languages mixed in, giving it a unique sound.
Since it’s Brazil’s official language, all of the country’s government documents, public education, and media communications are in Portuguese.
How Many Brazilians Speak Portuguese
Nearly 99% of the Brazilian population speaks Portuguese!
Brazil has a huge population of approximately 207 million people. Brazilians alone make up nearly half of South America’s population!
This means that there are a lot of Portuguese speakers in Brazil. It’s estimated that over 205 million Brazilians speak this language! For perspective, Portugal, the original Portuguese-speaking country, has around 11 million speakers.
The History of What Brazilians Speak
Why does Brazil speak Portuguese and not Spanish? What made Brazil a single island of Portuguese among a sea of Spanish?
The short answer is that Portugal, not Spain, colonized Brazil. Naturally, however, the whole history is slightly more complicated.
Ultimately, the Treaty of Tordesilla is the reason why Brazilians speak Portuguese. Spain and Portugal were the major players in the 15th century. Each country sought to conquer new territory.
Eventually, disagreements broke out about how to divide the new land. The Treaty of Tordesilla neatly divided these new areas among the arguing nations by using meridian lines. As a result of the treaty, Portugal received Brazil on its half of the invisible line.
While Portuguese clearly dominates Brazil, this wasn’t always the case!
Before the colonists arrived, hundreds of indigenous languages thrived in early Brazil. These numbers have dramatically dwindled down since then. Nevertheless, indigenous languages still exist in some parts of the country.
What Are the Indigenous Languages of Brazil?
While indigenous languages are much less commonly spoken than the dominant Portuguese, they are no less important. They tell the story of Brazil’s history and culture of the indigenous peoples who once lived here.
Before colonial times, there were around six to 10 million indigenous peoples living in current day Brazil. More than 1,000 indigenous languages existed in this area alone!
Sadly, this is no longer the case. Now, there are less than one million indigenous people left and fewer than 300 languages among them.
Which Brazilians Speak Indigenous Languages?
Despite history working against them, several indigenous languages refused to be squashed.
Some of Brazil’s most widely spoken indigenous languages include Arára, Canela, Carib, Buroro, Tucano, Tupiniquim, Caraja, Nadeb, Nheengatu, Guarani, Apalaí, Piraha, Terena, and Kaingang.
While Portuguese is the country’s only official language, some cities have adopted additional languages. The city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, for example, has three indigenous languages among its official languages. Meanwhile, there are around 19,000 native Nheengatu speakers living in the Rio Negro region.
It’s important for Brazil to not forget these important languages as they continue to be in danger of dying out. If more cities, schools, and government agencies adopt these languages, then there is hope of them living to be spoken for another day.
Do Brazilians Speak Spanish?
You already know that Brazilians speak Portuguese and not Spanish. But do any Brazilians speak Spanish?
Which Brazilians Speak Spanish?
About 4% of Brazilians speak Spanish. This is equal to about 8.4 million Spanish speakers.
However, people often confuse Spanish and Portuguese since these languages are closely related. These detailed guides help you distinguish the two:
- Portuguese vs Spanish: Similarities and Differences
- The History and Origin of the Spanish Language
- 10 Differences Between Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish
Other Languages Spoken in Brazil
It’s clear that Brazil is more than just Portuguese speakers. But, how many languages are spoken in Brazil? What do Brazilians speak besides Portuguese?
Brazil is no stranger to immigrants. As these arrivals from Europe and Asia came into the country they brought their own languages with them. As a result, you can find Catalan, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, German, Italian, Polish, and Ukrainian here.
German and Italian are the most popular of these languages. Immigrants from these countries are concentrated in southern and southeastern Brazil. They even created their own unique dialects, like Brazilian German!
Surprisingly, there are a large number of Japanese speakers in Brazil, as well. In fact, Brazil has one of the largest concentrations of Japanese descendants! Most of them reside in São Paulo, while Korean and Chinese speakers are located in Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Amazonas.
Brazilian Sign Language—LIBRAS—is another language you might come across in Brazil.
Prepare For Your Trip to Latin America
Now that you know what Brazilians speak, it’s time to prepare for a visit!
While Brazil’s language is Portuguese, it’s still part of Latin America. Most Latin American countries speak Spanish instead of Portuguese. If you’re traveling all the way to Brazil, it makes sense to stop in some of the beautiful countries along the way.
From Peru to Uruguay, Brazil is surrounded by gorgeous Spanish-speaking countries. Prepare for your trip to Latin America with a free trial class with Homeschool Spanish Academy. Learning Spanish opens the door to thousands of amazing travel opportunities! There are more than 20 Spanish-speaking countries and over 572 million Spanish speakers in the world. According to CNN, there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the U.S. alone!
Join one of the 40,000 classes that we teach each month and you can experience results like these
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