The primary language in Brazil is Portuguese. Many people the world over are already well aware of this fact (although some do still mistake Brazilians for speaking Spanish), but many tourists visiting Brazil still expect Brazilians to know English or other languages.
Naturally, many of these tourists are in for a surprise. As with visiting any foreign country, it is always wise to brush up on some common or useful phrases that are used there— and this is specifically true when that country speaks a different language than your own. So, let’s take a look at some words and phrases that are sure to be helpful when you visit Brazil:
- Desculpe, eu não falo português Sorry, I don’t speak Portuguese
This may just be the most useful phrase you take away from this. If you remember anything, remember this one!
- Tudo bem? “Everything good?”
A highly common, informal greeting. A typical response (provided everything is, in fact, good) is also tudo bem.
- Como vai? “How’s it going?”
Another simple, casual greeting for your new Brazilian friends or if you casually want to get someone’s attention.
- Legal “Cool”
This is general slang, and as “cool” in English, it is used in response to or to describe a wide variety of things. For example, the hotel room you stay at could be very legal if you plan your trip right.
- Não, não posso faze-lo.“No, I can’t do it”
Brazilians tend not to say “no” to anything that often, as it can be considered rude. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t ever say it. When they do have to turn something down, they are generally more elaborate and apologetic about it, hence the full phrase: Não, não posso faze-lo.
- Onde é o banheiro? “Where is the bathroom?”
Everyone should know this phrase, or at the very least learn the word for “bathroom” (banheiro). Sooner or later, you’ll end up needing it, and you may not know where to go!
- Com Licença “Excuse me”
Licença is pronounced like “lisensa”, just to clear up any confusion. Naturally, this phrase can be used for getting someone’s attention or simply excusing oneself.
- Por favor, fale mais devagar. “Please speak more slowly”
Even if you’ve been taking Portuguese classes for years, talking with a native speaker of the language may throw you off guard. Use this helpful phrase to slow things down.
Now, if you happen to speak or be familiar with European Portuguese (from Portugal), you obviously have the upper hand among most foreign visitors. However, keep in mind that there are definitely differences in general pronunciation and overall dialect. To put things in perspective, consider the fact that many people compare the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese to those that exist between American English and British English. Though the same language, native speakers of each may have some difficulty understanding those of the other dialect. So if you known European Portuguese, be sure to brush up on Brazil-specific phrases before you go on your trip! On that note, here are a few more useful phrases:
- Como? Eu não falo brasileiro. “Come again? I don’t speak Brazilian (Portuguese)”
If you happen to speak European Portuguese, you can attempt to explain this to the person you are talking to (go slow though, as your dialect will be even harder to understand when talking quickly). Try asking them to speak more slowly, as this may help you understand. And of course, if you just don’t speak Portuguese at all, this phrase is extremely helpful (though you can also use the one mentioned earlier).
- Como? Não falo português europeu. “Come again? I don’t speak European Portuguese”
Even if you’ve been studying Brazilian Portuguese in preparation for your trip, you may still come across those who only speak European Portuguese. Again though, try asking them to slow down first and attempt to understand them before you say this. Who knows? You may learn something new!
- Por favor, você pode me ajudar? “Please, can you help me?”
Everyone needs help at one point or another. Some of us just end up needing it sooner when we’re on vacation.
- O Brasil é lindo maravilhoso! “Brazil is magnificent!”
You may end up using this phrase a lot by the time your trip is over. You can also use it to try to patch things up with any Brazilian you may happen to offend, be it intentionally or unintentionally. After all, who doesn’t love hearing flattery about where they live?
Remember that when visiting Brazil, or any foreign country, it always helps to carry a pocket dictionary or have one downloaded onto your smartphone or tablet (if you have those). Travel is a learning experience, so take in all you can!