Brazil is a melting pot of a country with a history of fierce independence and cultural tolerance.
Language in Brazil
The first thing that attracted me to the lushness of Brazil is the languages spoken there – many more than you might imagine. Portuguese, of course, the official language and spoken by just about everyone. Nearly everyone (about 82%) also speak English, however, and about 11% speak Spanish as well! You’ll also find a smattering of other languages like Italian, German, and even Japanese.
And what’s truly charming about Brazilians is how they eagerly switch to these languages. There’s no fussiness about speaking Portuguese; if another language suits a guest better they simply and pragmatically switch to that language and get on with the conversation.
Brazil was a colony of Portugal in the 16th century, which means there were people already living there, of course. The Guarani and Tupi peoples were indigenous to the region, and still make up a significant proportion of the population today, a population that includes plenty of other ethnicities from the middle 19th century to the middle 20th century, more than 5 million Europeans moved to Brazil and made their home there, most settling in Parana, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo also boasts the largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan in the world.
Despite this melting pot of a population, the people of Brazil maintain a high level of national pride and identity – they are Brazilians first.
The strong independent nature of Brazil showed early. Portugal ruled Brazil until 1822; in 1808 the Portuguese royal family fled Napoleon’s invading army and ruled from Rio de Janeiro until 1821, when they returned to Lisbon, leaving behind Dom Pedro I, the royal prince, who declared independence from Portugal in 1822, declaring himself Emperor of Brazil. The empire lasted 67 years, turning into a constitutional democracy in 1889 with an elected President. In 1930, a military coup ended this government and Brazil spent 15 years as a dictatorship, when a federal republic was formed. The lesson I have always taken is that Brazilians may be beaten by tyranny for a short time, but always find a way to re-establish their freedom.
As you can see, there is much to admire in Brazil – and not just linguistically!