By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – When looking for a job in Brazil it is a necessity for practically all posts to have at least some knowledge of Portuguese, as English is not as widespread in the Brazilian business world, as one could think. Also, while learning the language, one will get a deeper understanding of cultural particularities and different business practices.
Finding a job in Brazil is generally difficult for a foreigner, as most employers require the candidate to already have a visa and work permit for Brazil before applying. On top of that, many companies require some Portuguese language skills in order to handle or understand local business.
“As in any country speaking the local language is crucial. We believe that in Brazil this is possibly even more important because most Brazilians don’t speak English. The upper social classes do speak English but the majority simply doesn’t. This means that for any job in Brazil you need to speak at least intermediate Portuguese to be able to communicate and be functional in most jobs,” Bart Bijen, founder of Caminhos Language Centre, explained.
Bijen also sees knowledge of the language as skills setting one apart from other candidates. “Another reason to learn Portuguese is that many foreigners want to get in the job market in Brazil. For employers it will be easy to decide between a foreigner who speaks Portuguese and who doesn’t.”
Marjorie Duarte, Product Supervisor of Portuguese for Foreigners at the Brasas language schools that also offer Portuguese for foreigner classes agrees: “I’d say that learning Portuguese as a foreign language in Brazil is essential. It can represent the extra mile in the foreigner’s résumé.”
Adding, “Their Portuguese knowledge can be a way to make them feel part of a bigger group. Besides that, a Portuguese speaker can build a better relationship within the company’s environment, due to the fact that learning the language involves the ability of decoding a new number of codes and starting to live under a new number of cultural habits.”
Learning Portuguese can, especially for English-only speakers, be a difficult task. The pronunciations of the words in Portuguese are rarely the way they are written and some require sounds not common in other languages.
“When it comes to articles, idiomatic expressions, the use of conjunctions, the use of Brazilian gestures, vowels and their open and closed sounds, and some specific verb tenses (the subjunctive, the usage of the different past tenses of our language) [those are the challenges] for them [students] during the learning process,” Duarte says of the difficulties most foreigners face.
Additionally, there is a “difficulty in understanding the subjective aspects of our culture (and it can’t be found in books or on the net). In other words: how does a Brazilian finish a conversation without being rude? How should foreigners behave at Brazilian parties? How do you say yes or no when you’re in a Brazilian business environment?” Duarte continues, showing that learning a language also opens one up to a country’s culture, which in business can be crucial.