Brazil language

Brazil's flag

The Federative Republic of Brazil is a country that belongs to South America and the largest in that continent, being the 5th largest in the world (8,515,770 km 2). As for the population ranking, it is in a lower position (6th) with 208.4 million inhabitants. Contrary to what people usually think, its capital is Brasilia, it is neither Rio de Janeiro nor São Paulo. Its human development index is high (79th) and its official currency is the Brazilian real. And what language is spoken in Brazil?

Language spoken in Brazil?

The only official language in Brazil is Portuguese and it is spoken throughout the country by all Brazilians.

However, despite having only one official language, the number of minority languages ​​spoken in the country is extensive, since Brazil is one of the 8 linguistically mega-diverse countries on the planet. Up to 210 languages ​​make up this list, of which 180 are indigenous languages. Less than 40,000 people speak these 180 indigenous languages ​​in the Brazilian territory.

The most common immigrant languages ​​are German (with approximately 1.9% of the population), followed by Italian, Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, English and Chinese. Certain municipalities have adopted co-official languages ​​alongside Portuguese. In schools, English replaced French as the second language taught in schools. With this, 5% of the population speaks English.

what language do they speak in brazil infographic

Map of indigenous languages ​​of Brazil

In the following map you can see how the following families and their most important languages ​​stand out in Brazil:

  • Tupí: arikem, mondé, mundurukú, ramarama, tuparí, yuruna, guaraní, kaiwá, mbyá, chiripá, cocama-cocamilla, omagua, ñe’engatú…
  • Macro-ye: kayapó, xavante, xerente, guató, rikbaktsá…
  • Arawak: kurripako, wapishana, palikur, enawenê nawê, paresí-waurá, piro…
  • Caribbean: Pemón, Machusí, Akawaio-Kapong, Hixkaryana…
map of indigenous languages ​​of brazil

Indigenous languages

During the initial stage of colonization, a mixed general language based on Portuguese and Tupi was adopted, which was known as língua geral paulista and was spoken by almost all the inhabitants of Brazil. In the 18th century, the Portuguese language was proclaimed official, which caused the disappearance of this common language. Likewise, with the extermination of the Indians or their acculturation by the settlers, hundreds of native languages ​​became extinct.

It is estimated that when the Europeans colonized the new continent, up to 400~500 languages ​​were spoken throughout the region. Today, only 180 of these indigenous languages ​​survive. A large part of these languages ​​are at serious risk of extinction. If we group them by the number of speakers:

  • 24 have more than 1,000 speakers (13%).
  • 108 have between 100 and 1,000 speakers (60%).
  • 25 have between 50 and 100 speakers (13%).
  • 25 have less than 50 speakers (13%).

A large part of the known languages ​​are poorly attested and, due to this, their classification related to the ethnic groups of some already extinct groups is of doubtful certainty.

The Portuguese language

Portuguese (português) is the only official language, widely used in education, the media, administrative matters, and in commerce. It is the country with the largest Portuguese-speaking population, with a little over 200 million, and the only one in the Americas.

Due to numerous linguistic borrowings from the Tupi and African languages, differences in the lexicon developed from the 18th century, with special incision in the vocabulary of flora and fauna.

Is Spanish spoken in Brazil?

More than 6.6 million people speak Spanish in Brazil, which breaks down into 460,000 natives and 6.1 million Brazilian students. Among the natives, the majority are Spanish (~125 thousand), Bolivians (~50 thousand) and Argentines (~42 thousand). Apart from students, it is also of great interest to merchants in border areas with Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. Especially on the border of these last two states, Portuñol has been formed, a language that mixes Portuguese with Spanish and has two variants: Amazonian and Gaúcho.

Due to the high interest, on the part of Brazilians, in learning Spanish due to its proximity to the border with Spanish-speaking countries, since 2005 Spanish is compulsory during the 3 years of secondary education, both in private and public schools.

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