Many people have a misconception that all countries in South America speak Spanish. In reality, Brazil is the only exception. The country’s national language is Portuguese, being a former colony of Portugal. It is spoken by almost all Brazilians, except for a few very remotely located Indian tribes and some recent immigrants.
The difference, however, between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese-which the locals refer to as “Luso”-lies on a number of pronunciation and contextual differences. For instance, the word “Rapariga” means “young girl” in Portugal, but in Brazil it means “prostitute.” A person from Portugal can easily understand a Brazilian, but not the other way around. This is because Portugal has been exposed with many Brazilian television programs.
And as many people also misconceive, Portuguese has many differences with the Spanish language. The word “Legal” (pronounced as leh-GAL) may mean legal in Spanish, but in Portuguese it is a slang meaning “great” or “cool,” and it could very illegal. Also, the Portuguese word “No” is not the same as the “No” of English and Spanish. It is actually a contraction of “em” and “o,” resulting to a word which means “in the.”
When going to Brazil, you really need to brush up on your Portuguese, as English is not widely spoken except in some tourist area. If you do not have the patience of learning a new language, you can still find your way to get around with the help of some students and people living in financial zones. Do not expect your bus or taxi driver to be able to understand English, so have your directions or destinations written in Portuguese when taking public transport. However, if you do know Spanish, you can be able to get by especially if you are traveling in the southern part of Brazil, where Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo are located.
Você não fala o Português? Do not feel intimidated by it. In fact, you can learn some simple, useful phrases as you get around Brazil. Besides, it sounds really sexy.