Brazil is responsible not only for a territory of South America, but also for a large part of the continent’s linguistics: but Portuguese is not the only language ​​spoken in Brazil!

Despite being the main language, in Brazil even Spanish and Japanese coexist along with Dutch, Roman dialect and other 274 indigenous languages ​​spoken by 305 ethnic groups, according to the 2010 census.

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With wealth and culture, it is not surprising that São Paulo, for example, a city with a greater number of Portuguese speakers, is also a house of speakers of Arabic, Italian, Chinese, Hebrew, among other languages.

What language does Brazil speak?

What language does brazil speak?

Portuguese. According to historical data, a Portuguese language first touched the Brazilian soil when Pedro Álvares Cabral arrived in Brazil in 1500.

The rest, as they say, is history. When Cabral arrived, there being 6 to 10 million years of living today, we call 1300 different languages. At present, the economy is only 170 000, speak 181 languages. In turn, missionaries may have studied the Tupi languages ​​of cost tribes, their main purpose being to exercise greater influence and control under the Indians. This was a continuation of a series of the indigenous languages ​​of the Marquis of Pombal in 1775.

Brazilian Portuguese is different from European thanks to the remnants of African and Amerindian languages. There are more than 205 million Portuguese speakers in Brazil, compared to 10 million in Portugal.

What is the official language of Brazil?

In any case, Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, the language that the government uses to communicate and the language in newspapers and schools. Even so, despite a medium not yet portrayed, Brazil has countless regional accents, and in some regions even dialects.

Find out the best way to learn Portuguese for free!

Curiosity: by law, the Brazilian Language of Signals – Libras – should always be free in their vehicles.

History of the Portuguese language in Brazil

History of the Portuguese language in Brazil
Disembarkation of Pedro Álvares Cabral in Porto Seguro in the year 1500. Oil on canvas by Oscar Pereira da Silva (1922).

Brazil was “discovered” by Portugal in the year 1500, and since then, with the great presence of the Portuguese in the Brazilian territories, the Portuguese language has taken root, while the indigenous languages ​​have gradually disappeared. One of them, perhaps the one that most influenced the current Portuguese spoken in Brazil, was Tupinambá or Tupi-guarani, spoken by the Indians who inhabited the coast. This language was first used as a general language in the colony, alongside Portuguese, because the Jesuit priests who came to catechize the Indians, studied and ended up spreading the language.

In the year of 1757 a Real Provision prohibited the use of the Tupi, this time, in which the Portuguese already supplanted this language, being him, the Portuguese, with the title of official language. In 1759 the Jesuits were expelled, and from then on the Portuguese language definitively became the official language of Brazil.

Brazilian portuguese: Indigenous and African heritage

Brazilian portuguese: Indigenous and African heritage

The Portuguese language, spoken in Brazil, nevertheless inherited a vast vocabulary of indigenous languages, especially as regards the denominations of fauna, flora, and other words related to nature – as it also happens with brazilian recipes.

The Portuguese brought many slaves captured in Africa to work in the Brazilian lands, and they came speaking several dialects, which contributed to the construction of our language. Much of what we have today was inherited from the African languages ​​as well as cultural items that came with the slaves and settled here.

In this way, the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil, was distancing itself from the Portuguese language spoken in Portugal, because while here the language received the influences of the Indians (natives) and of the African immigrants, in Portugal the language received French influence (mainly due to culture, education, etc., which was then prestigious in France.)

When the royal family came to Brazil between 1808 and 1821, the two languages ​​again “approached”, because due to the large number of Portuguese in the big cities, the language was again suffering their influence and resembling the language- mom.

Brazilian Portuguese was also influenced by Spanish, Dutch and other European countries that invaded Brazil after independence (1822). This explains why some differences in vocabulary and / or accent exist between some regions of Brazil.

With the influence of Romanticism (artistic-literary movement that happened at the beginning of the 19th century), the literature produced in Brazil intensified, and the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil was becoming more and more a new form, differentiating itself even more from the language Portuguese spoken in Portugal. Individualism and nationalism were awakened in the country through literature, in addition to the political reality that drove the country to distance itself and to differentiate even more from Portugal.

The normalization of language was as consecrated by the modernist movement (1922), which brought as criticism the excessive appreciation still given to European culture, and motivated the people to value their own language as “Brazilian.”

Recently we had an orthographic reform, implemented in 2009, based on an agreement made between the countries that have Portuguese as their official language, and some writing rules that differentiated the norm, were modified, leaving it unified. Orality, however, continues to maintain considerable distinctions.

Brazil and its many languages

Brazil and its many languages
Map of the co-official languages existing in Brazil.

In Brazil, one speaks Portuguese, right? Yes, this is the language spoken by most of the people who live here. However, speakers of indigenous languages, immigration, frontiers and signs live in our territory. Because of the relations between their speakers, these languages ​​are influenced and modified.

We are among the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. It is estimated that about 250 languages ​​are spoken in the country, including indigenous languages, immigration, signs and Afro-Brazilian communities.

According to the 2010 Demographic Census survey of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), 274 languages ​​are spoken by Indians from 305 different ethnic groups. However, this result was considered inflated to include names of ethnicities or even languages ​​that are no longer spoken. “We only have an estimate of the number of languages ​​spoken in Brazil. Regarding indigenous languages, Census data are larger than those that researchers often reproduce, which is around 180 indigenous languages. In addition, research shows that there are 56 languages ​​spoken by descendants of immigrants living in Brazil for at least three generations, “says Rosângela Morello, general coordinator of the Institute for Research and Development in Linguistic Policy (Ipol).

With so much diversity, Brazil has its linguistic peculiarities, since the languages ​​are historical objects and are always related to its speakers. The majority of the Brazilian population is monolingual, that is, it speaks only Portuguese, which is their mother tongue and also the lingua franca, official and national language of the country. However, it is not possible to say that we are a monolingual country, since we have multilingual scenarios, that is, population groups that speak different mother tongues, but are able to communicate in another language. There are also groups that, besides their mother tongue, use other languages ​​for communication, such as in São Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM), where speakers of four official languages ​​live together: Portuguese, Nheengatu, Toucan and Baniua.

“The three possibilities – monolingualism, multilingualism and plurilingualism – are intertwined in Brazil, but we can say that Brazil is a multilingual country that includes spaces where there is multilingualism. In turn, the country has a single official and national language, which is the Portuguese language, “analyzes Eduardo Guimarães, professor of Semantics at the Department of Linguistics of the Institute of Language Studies (IEL) at the University of Campinas. that other languages ​​are spoken, but it is usually the Portuguese that always predominates in the language space of the cities. Language teaching mechanisms are decisive elements in the distribution and functioning of languages.

In Spite of the enormous linguistic diversity in Brazil, the relation of the speakers and their languages ​​is unequal in comparison to the Portuguese language. The dominant perception is that only one language is spoken here. Considering the importance of knowing this diversity and preserving so many languages ​​with high risk of disappearance, it was created, through Federal Decree 7.387 / 2010, establishing the National Inventory of Linguistic Diversity (INDL), an instrument for inserting languages ​​as a reference cultural heritage, administered by the Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage (Iphan).

“The population contingent that speaks other languages ​​is numerically little expressive in relation to the number of Portuguese speakers. This imbalance, especially of the indigenous languages ​​and the languages ​​of immigration, makes Portuguese a kind of threat to the preservation of these other languages, since Portuguese is the vehicle for communication excellence in all fields of our society. This leads to discouragement and the gradual abandonment of the use of mother tongues, “says Marcus Vinicius Carvalho Garcia, coordinator of INDL.

Hegemony x diversity

Hegemony x diversity

The history of the country shows that the imposition of the Portuguese language was adopted as a strategy of occupation and unification of a country with such an extensive territory. Even before the arrival of the Portuguese, Brazil was already a multilingual country. Estimates suggest that 1,175 languages ​​were spoken by Indians of different ethnic groups in the Brazilian territory in 1500. For more than two centuries, the most widely spoken language in Brazil was the general Tupi-based nheengatu language used for communication between indigenous, Portuguese and African countries. The Portuguese language was used by a small part of the population, linked to the colonial administration. In 1757, a decree of the Marquis of Pombal prohibited the general language.

“Without a doubt, the Portuguese colonization project had a fundamental effect, which was the production of a territorial unit. And this went through the implantation of Portuguese as an official and national language throughout the entire Brazilian territory, “says Professor Eduardo Guimarães.

Similar process occurred with the African languages. For nearly three centuries, more than 4 million Africans who spoke about 200 different languages, such as Yoruba, Ewe-fon and Kimbundu, were brought into slavery in Brazil. The dismantling of the social and family ties of these people was a strategy to prevent communication in their native languages ​​and, with this, to avoid acts of resistance to slavery. As a consequence, African languages ​​survived, albeit precariously, only in the religious rituals of African matrices and in rural remnant communities of quilombos such as Cafundo, located in Salto de Pirapora (SP).

Also, the immigration languages, spoken by European and Asian immigrants who came to Brazil from the end of the 19th century, were heavily repressed by Getulio Vargas’ nationalist policy during Estado Novo (1937-1945). This picture intensified during World War II (1939-1945), when Brazil stood against the Axis countries, made up of Germany, Italy and Japan. The Brazilian government banned German, Italian, Japanese – and even Polish and Ukrainians – speak their tongues.

“The politics of linguistic homogenization affected the linguistic variety of Brazil. People realized that they could not learn or speak a language other than Portuguese. As a consequence, the majority of the population is unaware of our enormous linguistic diversity, which can generate prejudice. Language is a promoter of bonds, identities, memories, affections and knowledge. It is through the language that the world is known and values ​​are transmitted. Today, we see indigenous groups that have lost their tongues struggling to reestablish them because they are part of their stories, “notes Rosângela.

Pomerano: only in Brazil

The Pomeranian was the official language of Pomerania, a region between present-day Germany and Poland. With the end of World War II, most of the territory of Pomerania was annexed by Poland and, as a consequence, the Pomeranian language practically disappeared in Europe. Brazil is the only country in the world where Pomeranians are still regularly spoken of because of the arrival of thousands of immigrants in the 19th century. Currently, the Pomeranian language is spoken in five Brazilian states: Espírito Santo, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, Rondônia and Minas Gerais.

In Espírito Santo, where nearly half of the 300,000 Pomeranians live, the Pomeranian School Education Program (Proepo) was created in 2005, which serves municipal schools in five municipalities. The pedagogical project of the program values ​​the Pomeranian language as a factor of ethnic identity and preservation of culture, through oral and written language, dances, religion and other traditions, promoting the self-esteem of the language-speaking students. They are literate in Portuguese, but the Pomeranian is a discipline of the curriculum.

Libras: the Brazilian language of signs

The Brazilian language of signs (Libras) was recognized as the second official language of Brazil in 2002. Each country presents

their own sign language, as well as presenting their spoken languages. In Brazil, besides Libras, there is the Urubu-Ka’apor sign language, of the indigenous ethnic group of the same name, in Maranhão.

The deaf child communicates with the world in a visual-gestural way, that is, his experiences are totally visual and his communication is through sign language, which is developed naturally in contact with other deaf people.

“Libras is the language that deaf children fully access visually, making it their primary language. Studies indicate that literacy children in their first language perform better in literacy in a second language. Thus, it is recommended to use letter-writing in sign language followed by literacy in the Portuguese language, “says Ronice Müller de Quadros, a professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) and author of the book Education for the Deaf: Language Acquisition (Artmed, 1997). According to her, Portuguese can not be a factor of exclusion of deaf people, since it is present in the various situations of everyday life, because it is the official language of the country.

Late access to sign language can compromise the development of language and, consequently, all stages of school learning. For this reason, it is advisable for a deaf child to study in a bilingual school, which is structured for the teaching of Libras as the language of instruction, and Portuguese as a second language. “The bilingual school is organized based on the Libras and appropriately to the visual experience. Already the common schools are organized based on the Portuguese language, which compromises the schooling of the deaf child “, says Ronice.

At the National Institute of Deaf Education (Ines), the Brazilian language of signs is the language of instruction, that is, all classes occur with a focus on it. The Portuguese language is taught in written form, as the second language of the students. Located in the city of Rio de Janeiro, the Ines was the first school for the deaf in the country, inaugurated in 1856 by the emperor D. Pedro II. Because it is linked to the Ministry of Education (MEC), it serves free of charge about 500 students, from Early Childhood Education (from newborns to 3 years old) to High School.

“By learning sign language, the child begins to mean the world around him. A baby with a few months already can understand and reproduce the signs of the Libras as long as stimulated for this. In this way, he can have his cognitive development appropriate to the stages of development that any child passes through. With a well-structured language, this child can learn any other language, as long as the pedagogical tools are adequate for them to achieve such learning, “says Amanda do Prado Ribeiro, director of the Basic Education Department of Ines. According to her, the team of Ines teachers is composed of deaf and hearing, who train in the course of Libras to communicate with the students.

Brazilian Border languages

Brazilian Border languages

With a land border that extends for more than 15 thousand kilometers, Brazil is limited to ten countries in South America. Despite its proximity, language is an obstacle, since Spanish is the official language of most South American countries. In order to shorten linguistic distances and promote integration between different cultures, the Intercultural Border Schools Program (Peif), an initiative of the Ministry of Education (MEC), was initiated in 2004.

Because of its strategic location, in Mato Grosso do Sul, almost on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, the João Brembatti Calvoso State School participates in Peif. Only one street separates the cities of Ponta Porã and Pedro Juan Caballero. The school serves 1,950 students from Elementary to High School. Of these, 80% live in Paraguay, where the official languages ​​are Spanish and Guarani.

At least once a week, classes are taught in Spanish and Guarani, with the exchange of Brazilian and Paraguayan teachers. School activities, which also address cultural issues such as music and dance, are conducted in all three languages.

The integration among students increased after joining Peif. “Many students have improved their income. Before, what was identified as learning difficulties in some students was proven to be ashamed to express themselves in their own language, afraid of being labeled as Paraguayan. With the project, these students began to feel valued. We have even left a trilingual dictionary available to everyone for consultation, “says director Eliana Aparecida Araújo Fernandes.

Another difference is that the school had to change its pedagogical project, currently based on research projects. At the beginning of the year, during the diagnostic evaluation, teachers consult students to find out what subjects they want to learn. Students give ideas that will be discussed and chosen by themselves. Thus, students and teachers assemble an interdisciplinary conceptual map indicating the topics of interest, defining a problem that will be addressed throughout the year, with room for adding other questions.

Language as a factor of integration

Language as a factor of integration

Brazil is the destination of many immigrants, which makes it necessary to promote public policies to integrate students into the new linguistic and cultural reality. At the Eduardo Prado State School, located in the center of the city of São Paulo, about 10% of the students are immigrants. 101 are immigrants, 71 Bolivians, 14 Paraguayans, 6 Angolans, 3 Peruvians, 2 Argentines, 2 Haitians, 2 Bangladeshi (Bangladeshi), 1 Portuguese, 1 Chinese and 1 Namibian. In addition, about 70% of Brazilian students are children of Bolivian immigrants.

As the school does not have a specific program for the teaching of the Portuguese language, the immigrant students learn from their Brazilian colleagues. “We have partnered with the Migrant Support Center (Cami), giving space for their teachers to teach Portuguese classes, but the presence of interested students is very timid. The Bolivian community, for example, is very reserved for various issues and there is prejudice on the part of Brazilian students in relation to Bolivians, especially in the second cycle of Elementary School, “says coordinator Jailson Miranda Monte.

In order to increase the integration of students and their families into the school community, in order to value their cultures and languages ​​of origin, the school promotes cultural fairs and parent meetings, but they have low adherence. However, as immigrant learners learn to speak the Portuguese language, they begin to have greater interaction with others. “I realize that many students feel a conflict between the culture they receive from their parents and the Brazilian culture, which often generates conflicts. By learning the Portuguese language, they feel more integrated and participate more in everyday school life, “says Jailson.

Portuguese language teaching for foreigners or descendants by region

Portuguese language teaching for foreigners or descendants by region

Brazilian North

Location: Pacaraima (RR)

Federal University of Roraima (UFRR): Portuguese to Foreigners of the Nucleus of Studies of Foreign Languages (Nucele).

Audience: Venezuelans and others nationalities, such as students Haiti and Africa in exchange.

Contact: +55 (95) 3621-3124

Location: Pacaraima (RR)

State University of Roraima (UERR): Portuguese to Foreigners.

Audience: Venezuelans who live in Pacaraima. And the Portuguese for Foreigners in UFRR/ NUCELE who serves Venezuelans and another nationalities as students Haiti and Africa in exchange.

Contact: +55 (95) 3592-1385

Brazilian Northeast

Location: Jaboatão dos Guararapes (PE)

MOOC Portuguese Language: happens in the platform MiríadaX, coordinated by Prof. João Mattar, Vice-President of the Association Brazilian of Educational Technology (ABT), with tutoring by Roberta Nery.

Audience: several countries, like Portugal, Wales, Colombia and Argentina.

Contactjoaomattar@gmail.com or robertanery_piscis@yahoo.com.br

Brazilian Midwest

Location: Campus Bela Vista (MT)

Federal Institute of Mato Grosso – Bela Vista Campus: Language Teaching Portuguese for foreigners.

Audience: Haitians (adults).

Organizing teacher: Cleide Ester Oliveira.


Location: Brasilia (DF)

Portuguese course for countries, which meets several nationalities.


Brazilian Southeast

Location: Sorocaba (SP)

Quilombinho Cultural Center: promotes the recovery of self-esteem of descendants of enslaved through the valorisation and diffusion of Afro-Brazilian culture.

Audience: Teaching Students Fundamental in the period out-of-school It is necessary to

to institutions formal and regular education. Age range: between 7 and 15 years, subdivided into the following groups: 7 to 9 years, 10 to 11 years, 12 to 13 years, 14 to 15 years.

Contact: +55 (15) 3018-8090 or (15) 3233-7801

Location: São Paulo (SP)

Portuguese course for Foreign Trade Support Center Immigrant (Cami).


Location: Mario Campos (MG)

Specialized (AEE) to students deaf people aged 13 to 16 years. These students are served in the classroom of appeal. When they dominate the Libras, begin to learn the Portuguese as a second language. When they know neither Libras nor Portuguese, the two simultaneously.

Brazilian South

Location: Camboriú (SC)

IFC Camboriú: Portuguese course for Haitian immigrants residing in Camboriú, Balneário Camboriú and region. There are 30 places divided in two groups: 15 students for the class of beginners and 15 for the intermediates. Classes will be held on Tuesdays (beginners) and on Wednesdays (intermediaries) from 7 pm to 9 pm.

The course is free and part of the extension project “Inclusion by the Portuguese: Language course Portuguese for immigrants Haitians from the perspective of interculturality”.


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