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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6 Replies Date Popularity

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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