Coming to Brazil? 5 Reasons You Need to Speak Portuguese

Learn Brazilian Portuguese

Are you planning on spending some time in Brazil?

How’s your Portuguese?

Brazil has a lot to offer travelers and foreigners who relocate here, but in order to take advantage of these opportunities, you need to speak Portuguese.

While Brazilians do their best to speak some English, it’s really difficult to spend more than a few weeks in Brazil without speaking the language.

To get you excited about learning Brazilian Portuguese, here are a few experiences that are waiting for you once you speak Portuguese.

Attend A Brazilian University


There are few places that would be cooler to study for a semester than Brazil.

Many colleges offer some kind of exchange program in Brazil and the number of foreigners studying here has increased dramatically in recent years.

While it’s possible to spend a semester in Brazil without learning any Portuguese, and in fact many do, you’re losing out on a huge opportunity to make lifelong connections with your Brazilian peers.

Those students who come to Brazil already speaking Portuguese are able to dive deeper into their field of study and get more out of their learning experience.

In addition, they are able to connect deeper with their Brazilian peers and teachers, who will often invite them to family churrascos, travel experiences and present new work opportunities. (oh I see – this is where the meat pic would be!)

Start A Business


Maybe you’ve been to Brazil a few times and are thinking about making a permanent move here. For many foreigners, opening up a business in Brazil goes hand in hand with that move.

Despite the challenges of opening a business here, the payoff is big. Brazil is a remarkably unique and beautiful country, and doing business here will give you a ticket to experience the culture on a much deeper level than you could as a tourist.

Your spoken Portuguese will have to be very good before you can take this step. All of the normal challenges you’ll face in starting a business will be amplified by the foreignness of the language and culture. It would add a layer of complication if you had to rely on someone to translate and interpret for you all of the time.

Once you manage to open up your business you will likely find that your knowledge of Portuguese gives you a competitive advantage, since there aren’t many foreigners around who’ve opened up successful businesses in Brazil. If you operate a service business you’ll benefit from extra word of mouth referrals just because you’re a foreigner who speaks Portuguese. Many will be delighted to see a gringo who adopted to the culture so well that he was able to start a real business in Brazil.

Avoid Getting Ripped Off By Taxi Drivers in Rio

For the most part, you don’t have to worry about taxi drivers ripping you off in Brazil. I’ve found that most taxi drivers are honest and will get you to where you need to go without any funny business.

That being said, I do need to warn you about a special breed of taxi driver that is commonly found in Rio de Janeiro. These crooks specialize in preying on gringos who don't speak any Portuguese and don't know the city.

What these malandros like to do is to pick up gringos off the street and drive them around in circles to inflate the taxi fare, or take them on a route that is completely out of the way.

Not speaking any Portuguese makes it difficult to confidently ride taxis in Rio. Without a few key Portuguese phrases, you will be wondering if they’re going to rip you off and how you might confront them about it. Doing so without the right language tools weakens your ability to resolve the situation in your favor.

If you enter a taxi and strike up a conversation with the driver they will be less likely to try something with you. In the event that they do try something, you will be able to let them know they’ve crossed the line. If you can tell them that you don’t appreciate their thieving antics in their language they will apologize profusely and cease engaging in such dishonest practices, at least in my experience.

Understand What the Protests Are All About

protests in brazil

You might not know it if you only pay attention to international news but there is a protest just about every week somewhere in Brazil.

Brazilians are unhappy with the way their government is managing the country and they are growing increasingly vocal in expressing their dissatisfaction. You’d have a hard time figuring out why they feel that way though if you only pay attention to English language news sources.

If you’ve been following these events in English you probably have no idea what is really going on. The rationales behind the protests are complex and vary between regions. Don’t expect the mainstream news sources to report such intricacies.

If you really want to know what’s going on you have to watch the media that is being produced in Portuguese and shared on Facebook and Youtube. If you have the chance to go to a protest and talk to people in person you will gain an unfiltered perspective of the reality of life in Brazil.

This unique experience is one that few go out in search of, but if you’re truly interested in Brazilian culture it’s one that you can’t miss.

Unique Dining Options in Rio's Favelas

Favelas are a controversial topic to bring up around Brazilians. Everyone has an opinion about the police’s efforts to pacify the favelas. Debates rage on and on about the effects of favela tourism and whether it’s disrespectful for foreigners to take tours of these places.

What can’t be debated is that there are some restaurants in the favelas that offer a unique culinary experience for those that are brave enough to seek them out. You'll have to find your own way there though since most Brazilians would never step foot in a favela.

Once you arrive in the favela you will have to ask people for directions several times in order to navigate the intricate mazes of the favelas. If you don’t speak Portuguese this will be a near-impossible task to accomplish.

It might not be easy to get there but the breathtaking views and savory flavors will be well worth the effort.

Ready to learn Portuguese? 

Check out our Intensivo course so that you can take advantage of these experiences in Brazil.