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.

The 2014 Oil & Gas Expo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil news
Portuguese skills often are necessary for business in Brazil, such as at the oil and gas conference, photo courtesy of IBP.

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.”

Class at Casa do Caminho Language Centre, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Learning Portuguese in class will also teach you about customs in Brazil, such as at Caminhos Language Centre, photo by Francesca Nasturzio.

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.


  1. Thanks for this article. I hope to learn a little Portuguese before I visit. I want to learn more about the Culture and this is one way to start.

  2. “The pronunciations of the words in Portuguese are rarely the way they are written…” but English is the worst offender at this!

  3. I do agree with João Vitor – written Portuguese is closer of the way it’s spoken….not as close as Italian, German or Spanish, but more than English or French

  4. So true! when I came to Brazil I attended one month intensive Portuguese course …
    It helped a lot – all that I learnt before was shaped in Brazilian reality and habits. When choosing the course pay attention that the teachers are locals. Foreigner even speaking perfect Portuguese is not the same as Brazilian!


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