What Languages are Spoken in Brazil?

Portuguese is the official and most widely spoken language of Brazil.

The Official Language of Brazil

Brazil, located in South America, has a population of approximately 207.35 million. This population has a high level of diversity, and is made up of a wide variety of customs and languages spoken. In fact, approximately 210 languages are spoken in Brazil.

The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, which is used for government communications, mass media publications and broadcasts, and public education. It has approximately 204 million native speakers, which represents the vast majority of the population. The Portuguese spoken in this country is often referred to as Brazilian Portuguese, and is considered a dialect of the language used in Portugal, which belongs to the Indo-European language family. In formal written form, however, the two are similar. Brazilian Portuguese shares common characteristics with European Portuguese of the 16th century, tied closely with the beginning of Portuguese colonialism in Brazil. Additionally, this dialect has been influenced by several indigenous and African languages also spoken in Brazil.

Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS), although not an official language, is mandated by the government to be used in public services, including education and healthcare. This requirement was implemented in an attempt to make public services more inclusive to the general population. Additionally, it is part of the public educational curriculum.

Indigenous Languages

Brazil has a large number of indigenous groups. Around 536,000 individuals, for example, identify as indigenous. Additionally, this country has 67 uncontacted tribes, which is the largest number of uncontacted indigenous groups in the world. The significant presence of indigenous tribes in Brazil is reflected in its number of recognized indigenous languages. In Brazil, 14 Amerindian languages are recognized, including Guarani, Apalaí, Piraha, Terena, Kaingang, Arára, Canela, Carib, Buroro, Tucano, Tupiniquim, Caraja, Nheengatu, and Nadeb.

Of these languages, Nheengatu is the most widely spoken. This language has approximately 19,000 native speakers and is utilized in the northern part of the country, concentrated around the Rio Negro region. It emerged as the language of business in that area during the 1600’s and today, continues to be used as the method of communication between people of different tribes. As of December of 2002, the Nheengatu language has been recognized as an official language of the municipality of Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira in the Amazonas state.

Minority Languages

Because of the history and current state of immigration to Brazil, many other minority languages are also spoken in the country. The majority of these languages are from Europe, including Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, and Ukrainian.

German and Italian are the most widely spoken of the minority languages. Immigrants from these European countries are concentrated in the southern and southeastern regions of the country, where they have been for a significant number of years. In fact, the German and Italian spoken in Brazil have developed into two unique dialects: Brazilian German and Brazilian Venetian, also known as Talian. Brazilian German is spoken by approximately 3 million people throughout the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. Brazilian Venetian is spoken by around 1 million people throughout the northeastern area of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in the Serra Gaúcha region.

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