Language is one of the strongest elements of Brazil's national unity. Portuguese is spoken by nearly 100 percent of the population. The only exceptions are some members of Amerindian groups and pockets of immigrants, primarily from Japan and South Korea, who have not yet learned Portuguese. The principal families of Indian languages are Tupí, Arawak, Carib, and Gê.
There is about as much difference between the Portuguese spoken in Brazil and that spoken in Portugal as between the English spoken in the United States and that spoken in the United Kingdom. Within Brazil, there are no dialects of Portuguese, but only moderate regional variation in accent, vocabulary, and use of personal nouns, pronouns, and verb conjugations. Variations tend to diminish as a result of mass media, especially national television networks that are viewed by the majority of Brazilians.
The written language, which is uniform all over Brazil, follows national rules of spelling and accentuation that are revised from time to time for simplification. They are slightly different from the rules followed in Portugal. Written Brazilian Portuguese differs significantly from the spoken language and is used correctly by only a small, educated minority of the population. The rules of grammar are complex and allow more flexibility than English or Spanish. Many foreigners who speak Portuguese fluently have difficulty writing it properly.
Because of Brazil's size, self-sufficiency, and relative isolation, foreign languages are not widely spoken. English is often studied in school and increasingly in private courses. It has replaced French as the principal second language among educated people. Because Spanish is similar to Portuguese, most Brazilians can understand it and many can communicate in it, although Spanish speakers usually have difficulty understanding spoken Portuguese.
|Country Studies main page | Brazil Country Studies main page|