Rise in Foreign Investments Is Making Brazil a True Multilingual Country

Everybody knows that the national Language of Brazil is Portuguese.

This is in contrast to the rest of Latin America, by the way, where the vast majority speak Spanish and have that language as an official one. In fact, it’s usually (but not always) THE official one in the various Latin American countries. Actually, there are a few small exceptions to this, namely Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana where the official languages are English, Dutch and French respectively, as a follow-on to previous colonial years. According to census and survey data, well over ninety-five percent of Brazil’s 200 million people say that Portuguese is their first or ‘mother’ tongue. Obviously, it’s not the same language as it is spoken in Portugal. However, the differences of intonation and vocabulary mean only the same sort of difference as between say, the way English is spoken or written in Britain or the USA.

In Brazil, the Portuguese language has developed and spread over the last three hundred years or so, influenced by the local ‘Amerindian’ and imported African languages to some extent. However this shading has lessened as time goes by, especially since the onset of mass broadcasting and the spread of standardising Education throughout the country. In addition, some of the influences on Portuguese in Europe have of course not operated in Brazil. All this tends to add to the divergence between the two forms, but then again increased contact and trade in the last fifty years has also had an opposite effect. Since earliest colonial times and reaching up to the present day there have been other non-indigenous languages used in Brazil, nearly always as a second or ‘in the home’ language. In most cases they have featured in immigrant communities, especially on or near the Atlantic coast but also in a significant number of other areas. Over the years many Italians and Portuguese (of course!) settled in Brasil, together with large numbers of Spanish and not a few black people, dating way back to old slavery times and since. As regards others, for instance there is a district in Sao Paolo called Liberdade. It has the heaviest concentration of Japanese speakers and people of Japanese descent anywhere outside Japan. Also, over 90% of the people in ‘Presidente Lucena’ in Rio Grande do Sul speak German. Also, in Sao Paolo there is a widely-read German newspaper, the ‘Brasil-Post’.

According to Government data, around 200 languages are spoken today in Brazil. Obviously the ‘giant’ is Brazilian-Portuguese but there are still over eighty different Amerindian tongues in use plus well over a hundred European and Asian ones. However, most of these have only a relatively few speakers and even then the overwhelming majority use them as very much ‘secondary’ languages. There’s an exception to all this, though; the use of English is growing fast, mainly influenced by Brazil’s growing economic (and therefore political) ‘clout’ now that it is the world’s sixth largest GDP Economy, and has so much to do with the USA and the other Anglophone nations. This is particularly evident in the world of IT of course, but in so many other areas too.

All in all, the situation in the Country is complex, but the developing trends are broadly clear. There are important language implications for trade, including investment in Brazil, and the launch of the popular Minha Casa Minha Vida Social housing programme attracted numerous investors from the UK, Canada and North America keen to Invest In Brazil making English a language that is growing fast in the country.

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