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Why do Brazilians speak Portuguese Posted by on Aug 15, 2007 in Geography

People speak Portuguese in Brazil because Brazil was a Portuguese colony.

Though this fact is well-known in some circles (loyal blog readers and Portuguese language learners, for example), one may be surprised how many well-educated people either don’t know that Portuguese is spoken in Brazil, or don’t know why! It is actually pretty common to hear “Oh, you are going to Brazil? How great! Do you speak Spanish?”, even from relatively wordly individuals; I certainly have heard this one many times!

In any case, on to the task at hand, which is to provide a useful summary of the events leading to Brazilians speaking Portuguese…

European discovery of Brazil occurred at the beginning of the 16th century, common era. The Portuguese court became interested in exporing the natural resources of Brazil beginning around 1530. Early efforts to find precious metals were unsuccessful, but agriculture (particularly sugar) became a valuable Brazilian export for the Portuguese crown. By the end of the 18th century, private explorers had located vast mineral reserves in Minas Gerais (Uai!) much the the crown’s delight.

The colonial period came to an end around this time, and the arrival of the Portuguese royal family in 1808, as they fleed Napolean and his army, marked the beginning of the age of the Brazilian Empire. When the King of Portugal, João VI, left Brazil in 1821, he left his son, Dom Pedro I in charge. Through a serious series of events, Dom Pedro I and others were able to secure independence from Portugal in 1822.

Dom Pedro I reigned as emperor until 1831, when he was forced to step down and return to Portugal. His son, Dom Pedro II (pictured above) was left behind to assume the throne. The only problem was that Pedro Segundo (as he was known) was only 5 years old at the time. A tumultuous period followed until Pedro Segundo was old enough to rule; he was crowned emperor in 1840.

This is a very simplified summary of only one period in Brazil’s history. I encourage you to look further and read more about Brazilian history if it interests you. The 20th century was particularly eventful, and it wasn’t until 1985 that the country was truly a modern democratic republic.

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  1. kayleigh:

    why do brazil spesk in portuguese because i cant understand a word in this piece of writing

  2. Thais:

    Oi eu falo português!

  3. alicia regis:

    thanks for the blog…i was actually helping my son with his homework… the question was what language do Brazilians speak and i told him “spanish”, then i decided to google it and make sure, it’s a good thing i did, i was really shocked to read that Brazilians speak Portuguese,,,, imagine that, you are never to old to learn

  4. Abigail:

    Um, I dont think this really helped. Did they speak Portuguese because there was Portuguese leader and rulers?

  5. Marcelo:

    Sou brasileiro, com muito orgulho, e comecei a rir….é inacreditável… é óbvio que falamos PORTUGÜÊS, fomos colonizados por Portugal.

  6. Margaret Nahmias:

    What worse is that people confuse Spanish with Portuguese. Yes some words and verb forms are similar, but they are completely different language It also show how little Portuguese is known compared to Spanish.

  7. Carlos:

    Nossa! Eu já sabia que algumas pessoas pensavam que a gente falava espanhol, mas poxa! Brasil foi colonizado por Portugal! E não pela Espanha! Tão sabendo bonito! YES, WE SPEAK PORTUGUESE!

  8. Monika:

    Hi, I just cannot understand how you can confuse Portugese with Spanish and not know what language is spoken in Brasil. In Poland , where I live, this knowledge is spread in grammar schools. Besides – Brasilian music – samba and bosssanova , which are so famous – are sung in Portugese. :))

  9. Ben:

    1st group: People whose descendants travelled from Africa to Asia then over the Bering Strait to North America and finally reached South America. Over 10,000 years ago.
    2nd group: Europeans (mostly Portuguese) (This group of people makes up most of the population of Brazil today so they still speak Portuguese because they come from people that spoke Portuguese.) Hundreds of years ago.
    3rd group: African slaves from the slave trade. A couple hundred years ago.
    4th group: Modern day workers from all around the world.

  10. Joao:

    It’s only in Western Europe and North America (the biggest spoilers) that Portuguese is little known. In Africa or Asia, Portuguese is a little more known – even today – than Spanish.

    In the US, obviously, the Spanish influence is great, so many people don’t even dream of another largely spoken language in the Americas.

    Add the fact that there are some little differences between Brazilian Portuguese and the European one. These differences in pronunciation as well as a few different words are comparable to the differences between American English and British English.
    No Brazilian Portuguese is not a diferent language as some claim. There are little dialectal differences though.

  11. ooplalah yapstar ,jr.:

    the reason that portuguese is spoken in portugal is the same reason that english is spoken in england.and spanish in spain.and so 4th.there is an untrue folklore that states that portuguese was born the day that a man in the fishing village was seen dancing with a pig.embarrassed (mispelled?);a peculiar sound erupted the night.from wence vocals the sound emitted,no one knew.and thus the legend was begotten….

  12. Dan:

    Portuguese is spoken in Brazil as a result of the Pope’s actions. Spain and Portugual were engaged in exploring and conquering the New World. Spain and Portugual were contemplating War to decide and settle upon territory. They went to the Pope who drew a line in the then know New World and said everything east belongs to Portugual and west belongs to Spain. Brazil was East.

  13. DuFF:

    It’s very important to add that the portuguese we speak here in Brazil is waaaaaaaaaay different from what you’ll hear in Portugal.
    Languages are always changing, and after so many years of independence from Portugal, our language is now totally different, even though, I find it way easier to comunicate with someone from Portugal than with someone from a spanish speaking country like Mexico or Argentina.

  14. GJJ:

    I had no idea that the people of Brazil spoke to Portuguese until l became fascinated with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu mainly Gracie jiu jitsu.I’ve begab to study about Rio de Janeiro a place where my father visited when he was a teenager 60 years ago. Royce Gracieis one of my heroes and a legend. Through him I have been able to study the art Gracie jiu jitsu. Royce Gracie proved that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the best form of self defense. He did this by winning the first UFC and 2 more UFC tournaments. He beat several different styles of martial artist that outweighed him by well over a hundred pounds in some cases. He is the reason there is a UFC today. This has created MMA otherwise known as mixed martial arts where other martial arts are combined with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

  15. Katy:

    Even if the Portugese colonised Brazil it still doesn’t explain why they speak portugese. Didnt they have a language before the portugese arrived? Spain colonised Philippines around the same time and the Philippines still retained their own national language, Filipino, plus 70 dialects.

  16. Julio:

    Katy: Basically Portugal forbade the use of native languages around here in the XVII century. Before that, the most widespread language was Tupi.

  17. Roxanna:

    Even with all of this explaining I still don’t know why do Brazilians speak Portuguese. I need to know the big WHY.

  18. Laura:

    People of Brazil are Portuquese. Brazil was founded by Pedro Cabral a portuquese explorer. The reason people mistake brail for a spanish speaking country is because the portuguese language is similar to spanish. there are alot of words that are similar to spanish that it sounds so much like spanish. There are some people in brazil that speak both spanish and brazilian portuguese. Singer Nelly Furtado is Azorean Portuguese and she speaks both Portuguese and spanish. I’m Spanish and Puerto Rican, but I have heard the portuguese language and alot of the words I hear sound spanish. I understand those words, but not the rest of what is being spoken

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