Can you get by in Brazil with Spanish rather than Portuguese?

Do most Brazilians respond to Spanish or do visitors have to make an effort with Portuguese?

I ask because a friend of mine recently met a Portuguese-speaker who told him: “We learn English just so we don’t have to speak Spanish to foreigners.” Is this pretty accurate, or is Spanish sufficient?

Kia 30/01/13    LanguageBrazil Link Report

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Both languages are similar. You could speak Spanish in Brazil, Brazilian people will make their best to understand and communicate with you. Maybe this is not the same in Portugal, because of attitude and pronounciation: in fact, it’s not so easy to understand Portuguese people speech to me (I’m Argentinien).

evacricri 30/01/13    Link Report

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  • I have learned that Portuguese speaking countires do not want to be spoken to in Spanish. They will understand Spanish, but may ignore you. In Portugal, while they share the same geogaphic area, they would prefer to be asked in English if they are younger Portuguese who may know English. Brazilian Portuguese is different than European Portuguese. So the bottom line is that even Brazilian’s prefer you try Portuguese and then English. Yes, the understand Spanish, but it’s a matter of pride.

    Time of my life 31/01/13    Link Report

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  • Great question as it’s more to do with nationalism than true understanding.

    All questions have been asked and answered in English, so I would say you’re fairly proficient ;-) and as a result you should be well placed to communicate if you have limited Portugese, and only use Spanish if you really can’t be understood.

    As a mater of interest my Portugese is understood by people who speak the Pavian Dialect in italy?

    mywilfing 31/01/13    Link Report

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  • Thank you, all, for your answers. I think the consensus is that Portuguese, then English, then Spanish is the preferred form of communication in Brazil. I’ll try to pick up some Portuguese before I go : )


    Kia 12/02/13    Link Report

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  • During my brief time in Brasil, because I don’t speak more than a few words of Portuguese, I tried Spanish (before English). I think many folks in Rio and Sao Paulo knew what I was talking about, but they answered in Portuguese (what a shock), so…hand gestures it is.


    buildingmybento 17/06/13    Link Report

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  • Ok, this question is from 2013, but I think it’s worth answering it anyway.
    Brazilians usually do their best to understand foreigners, no matter what language(s) you speak. As long as you try to communicate, they will try to understand and to talk to you. Most Brazilians understand Spanish because of its similarities with Portuguese. However, only recently did Spanish became a mandatory language in High School whereas English has been one for many years. So the probability is that you find it easier to get by in Brazil with English rather than Spanish. Anyway, I encourage you to learn at least a little bit of Portuguese. It’s a beautiful language, in my opinion (not just because I’m Brazilian… heheh).

    AndrĂ©ia Sales 14/10/14    Link Report

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  • I know you posted this long time ago, but I would like to share my opinion.

    As some mentioned before, Brazilians will try their best to understand your Spanish, Italian or English, but none of them is Brazilian, so don’t blame it on them if they look at you as if you were speaking Greek. Also, don’t expect them to reply in other language than Portuguese. Just because they can understand a little bit of your Spanish it doesn’t mean they can speak it. If they can speak any other language they will. Brazilians love showing off ‘in a good way’, so if they can speak a foreign language they will be more than happy to use it. If you speak Spanish and they understand they might have to reply in Portuguese if they don’t speak Spanish, as although they are similar they are two different languages. Also, in my opinion most people are more likely to understand Spanish than English for obvious reason.
    Now, my real opinion about this is that if you visit a County you should try to learn at least the basics of the language or use your own language. To go to Brazil and talk Spanish with Brazilians and expect them to be completely happy with that is the same as coming to England or going to the United States and speak French and expect that the English and Americans will be happy with that or even understand it. English is not French and Brazilian Portuguese is not Spanish. Although we are more likely to understand Spanish than the English to understand French and we are generally happy to try, it is still a bit of lack of respect you go to one Country and use the language of another Country. Anyway, if you need to learn some Portuguese, you can try my classes via Skype or at my classroom in West London. Edinaldo E. Santo –

    Eddie Santos 14/11/14    Link Report

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    I agree with Eddie,
    One should try to adapt (however possible) to communicate with the locals.
    Maybe the reason why Brazilians do not like that much Spanish is because they do not really like Argentinians and associate the Spanish language immediatelly with Argentina ;-)
    Well anyway if you travel to a country where you do not speak the language it is always good to have a local at hand who does speak your language and the local dialect(s)
    That is a bit my reason of being here in Salvador da Bahia and my advantage of being able to guide people arround in 5 different languages.
    Greetz from the tropIX of Brazil

    Ivan Bahia Guide 21/05/15    Link Report

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  • Hi. I would suggest you learn portuguese. I speak ssoanis. When i went to Rio a few understood me, the others just laughed. When I went to Foz, on the Argentine border spanish was more understood. Best to start learning portuguese as I am.

    henleydesmond 25/11/15    Link Report

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