Languages of Brazil

Languages of Brazil

Languages of
country = Brazil

caption =
official = Portuguese
unofficial =
main =
regional =
indigenous = Apalaí, Arara, Bororo, Canela, Carajá, Caribe, Guarani, Kaingang, Nadëb, Nheengatu, Terena, Tucano, Tupiniquim
minority =
immigrant =
foreign =
sign = Brazilian Sign Language
keyboard = Portuguese keyboard layout
There are many languages of Brazil, including Portuguese, indigenous languages, and languages of more recent European and Asian immigrants. Portuguese is the dominant language and the only official language.


Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and is spoken by virtually all the population, being virtually the only language used in schools, newspapers, radio and TV, and used for all business and administrative purposes. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas, giving it a national culture distinct from its Spanish-speaking neighbors.

However, many minority languages are spoken daily throughout the vast national territory of Brazil. Some of these are spoken by indigenous peoples. Others are spoken by immigrants and their descendants and at least one of the indigenous languages, Nheengatu became an official language alongside Portuguese in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira. [ [ Language Born of Colonialism Thrives Again in Amazon ] "New York Times". Retrieved 2008-09-22]

Brazilian Portuguese has had its own development, influenced by the Amerindian and African languages. Due to this, the language is somewhat different from that spoken in Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries, mainly for phonological and orthographic differences, similar to the difference between American English and British English.

Indigenous languages

Many Amerindian minority languages are spoken throughout Brazil. Half of these languages are spoken by indigenous peoples, mostly in Northern Brazil. The main indigenous languages are: Apalaí, Arara, Bororo, Canellla, Carajá, Caribe, Guarani (also in Paraguay), Kaingang, Nadëb, Nheengatu, Terena, Tucano, Tupiniquim, and many others. Though in the minority, cultural conflicts between the mainstream culture and these smaller groups cannot be dismissed as insignificant or unimportant because together the minority groups constitute a large percentage of the national population.

One of the two Brazilian "línguas gerais" (general languages), Nheengatu, was until the late 1800s the common language used by a large number of indigenous, European, African, and African-descendant peoples throughout the coast of Brazil — it was spoken by the majority of the population in the land. It was proscribed by the Marquis of Pombal for its association with the Jesuit missions. A recent resurgence in popularity of this language occurred, and it is now an official language in the city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira. Today, in the Amazon Basin, political campaigning is still printed in this Tupian language.

Immigrant languages

European languages of immigrants

Other languages such as German, Italian, Polish and Ukrainian are spoken in rural areas of Southern Brazil, by small communities of descendants of immigrants, who are for the most part bilingual. There are whole regions in southern Brazil where people speak both Portuguese and one or more of these languages. For example, it is reported that more than 90% of the residents of the small city of Presidente Lucena, located in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, speak Riograndenser Hunsrückisch, a Brazilian form of the Hunsrückisch dialect of German. [See [ this website] .]

Some immigrant communities in southern Brazil, chiefly the German and the Italian ones, have lasted long enough to develop distinctive dialects from their original European sources. For example, Brazilian German, Riograndenser Hunsrückisch or Hunsrückisch. In the Serra Gaúcha region, we can find Italian dialects such as Talian or "italiano riograndense", based on the Venetian Language.

Other German dialects were transplanted to this part of Brazil. For example, the Austrian dialect spoken in Dreizehnlinden or Treze Tílias in the state of Santa Catarina; or the dialect of the Donauschwaben spoken in Entre Rios, in the state of Parana; or the Pomeranian (Pommersch) dialect spoken in many different parts of southern Brazil (in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Espírito Santo, São Paulo, etc.). Plautdietsch is spoken by the descendants of Russian Mennonites.

Although they have been rapidly replaced by Portuguese in the last few decades — partly by a government decision to integrate immigrant populations —, today states like Rio Grande do Sul are trying to reverse that trend and immigrant languages such as German and Italian are being reintroduced into the curriculum again in communities where they originally thrived. Meanwhile, on the Argentinian and Uruguayan border regions, Brazilian students are being introduced (formally) to the Spanish language.

Asian languages

In the city of São Paulo, Korean, Chinese and Japanese can be heard in the immigrants districts, like Liberdade.A Japanese-language newspaper, the "São Paulo Shinbun", is published in the city of São Paulo since 1946. [See [ this website] .] There is a significant community of Japanese speakers in Paraná and Amazonas. Much smaller groups exist in Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and other parts of Brazil.

Many Chinese, especially from Macau, speak a Portuguese creole called Macanese ("patuá" or "macaísta"), aside from Portuguese, Mandarin, and Cantonese.


More people are realizing in Brazil that a person can master and carry more than one language throughout their lives. In other words, integration into mainstream society does not mean that one has to become monolingual. More and more the reasoning is that if languages are a human capital of great value to some, perhaps they should be considered valuable to one all.

English is part of the official high school curriculum, but just a minority achieve any usable degree of fluency. Spanish is also part of the curriculum and is understood to various degrees by most Brazilians, due to the similarities of the languages. Spanish is slightly more common on the border of Brazil with Spanish-speaking countries, and the mixture of Spanish and Portuguese is jokingly known as Portuñol.

In São Paulo, the German-Brazilian newspaper "Brasil-Post" has been published for over fifty years. The Livraria Alemã of Blumenau was a fixture in the city for a long time. There are many other media organizations throughout the land specializing either in church issues, music, language, etc. The German-Brazilian community in Brazil is estimated to be in the millions.

The Italian online newspaper "La Rena" offers Brazilian-Italian or Talian lessons.

There are many other non-Portuguese publications, bilingual web sites, radio and television programs throughout the country. For example, TV Galega from Blumenau shows German-language programming on their channel on a weekly basis.

The English-language daily "Brazil Herald" is directed mostly to tourists, foreign executives and expatriates.

Most major foreign newspapers can be obtained in larger Brazilian cities ("Frankfurter Allgemeine", "Le Monde", "The New York Times", etc.)


ee also

* Je-Tupi-Carib
* List of Brazil state name etymologies
* [ Swadesh Listas of Brazilian Native Languages]

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