Brazil is home to the finest football stars, colorful and extravagant carnivals and the expansive forests of the Amazon. But Brazil is a country that has something to offer as far as languages are concerned too. Despite the majority of natives speaking Portuguese, the presence of other languages, in small yet sizeable numbers, makes Brazil a diverse and linguistically colorful country.
While looking at the most spoken languages in Brazil, it is easy to narrow them down to Portuguese, migrant languages and indigenous languages.
The economy of Brazil has joined the ranks of India and China, touted to be the fastest-growing economies over the last 5 years; making Brazil an attractive business destination. With the IMF labeling Brazil as one of the countries expected to dominate the global growth rate in 2024, knowing the languages of Brazil can open up an array of opportunities in this developing country.
Read on to know more about the most spoken languages in Brazil.
With 98% of the population speaking Portuguese, the most spoken language in Brazil is Portuguese. Portuguese is also titled as the language of Brazil, as it is quite different from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. The speakers of Portuguese in both countries can understand each other, as the differences between the two variants are minute. The difference in European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese is thought to arise from the influence of African and Amerindian languages. With 207 million speakers of Portuguese in Brazil, out of a total population of 208 million in 2018, Brazil is the only country in the South American continent where Portuguese is the most spoken language and not Spanish. With roots as early as 1500, Brazilian Portuguese is one of the oldest languages in Brazil.
Migrant languages are considered to be the languages that accompanied the swathes of migrants that arrived in Brazil during the early 20th century. Amongst these languages, a majority of the languages are of European origins, such as German and Italian, in addition to languages such as Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. The migrant language speaking group represents about 2 % of the population, with the German tongue dominating this group. German is the second most spoken language in Brazil. Languages such as German and Japanese have strong roots in the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo, with several publications such as newspapers and magazines published in German and Japanese as early as the 1940s.
The presence of Italian cannot be ignored as well, though the early Italian speakers grew accustomed to Portuguese, leading to a decrease in the number of Italian speakers over the years. Off late, English is gaining popularity as well, especially the bigger cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. With a growing youth population, the number of students taking up English as their second language is increasing. Despite having Spanish speaking neighbors, Spanish is not amongst the most spoken languages in Brazil, losing out to English as the most preferred additional language opted-in schools.
Indigenous languages are the oldest languages in Brazil, present even before the European languages mentioned above. With dwindling numbers due to the younger generation picking up Portuguese, the Indigenous languages are facing the threat of extinction. However, it is not all bad news as the most recent census stats the presence of 274 languages that are still alive to this day. Languages such as Ticuna, Kaingang, and Kaiwá Guarani, amongst others, are some of the indigenous languages of Brazil. The indigenous languages of Brazil belong to the Amerindian family of languages, with two language families Tupi and Marco-Je being the biggest. Most indigenous languages are concentrated in the Rio Negro region with Ticuna being the most spoken language amongst the indigenous languages with 35,000 speakers, followed by 26,500 Kaiwa’ Guarini speakers and 22,000 Kaingang speakers.
The major existing Amerindian languages are Apalaí, Piraha, Terena, Kaingang, Arára, Canela, Carib, Buroro, Tucano, Tupiniquim, Caraja, Nheengatu and Nadeb, amongst others.
From the exotic indigenous languages to the romance languages such as Italian, Brazil offers a plethora of languages for the avid language enthusiast.
Learn Brazilian Portuguese the most spoken language in Brazil or take a look at the other languages we offer and get started on a new linguistic adventure.