Is English Spoken in Brazil? A Brazilian Weighs In

Brazil is the only country in Latin America that does not have Spanish as its first language. Over here our main language is Portuguese, and only a small part of the population speaks English fluently as a second language.

English is not widely spoken in Brazil. Only 5% of the Brazilian can somehow communicate in English, and only 1% of the population is fluent in the language. There are about 2 million fluent English speakers in Brazil, located especially in Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro.

Differently than in Europe where is very common to find people that can speak in English as second language, it’s rare in Brazil. Even with English being part of the curriculum of the schools in the country.

How Widely Spoken Is English in Brazil?

In Brazil is not common to find people that can speak English fluently. Different from other countries where English as a second language is very common, in Brazil, that’s rare. At least this is what is described in extensive research about the idiom in Brazil provided by the British Council Brazil.

According to British Council research, only 5% of the Brazilian can communicate in English. Also, their studies showed that only 1% of the population is fluent in the language. About 2 million people in a country with more than 200 million inhabitants.

5% of Brazilians Can Communicate in English

According to the study from British Council, there are about 10 million people in Brazil that can communicate in English. It means that 5% of the Brazilian population has at least some knowledge of the language.

In this group are the people that can understand and talk a little bit of English, but are not fluent speakers. They are usually people who took English classes during school or young people who grew up with Internet access and playing video games.

In this specific case of the younger generations, studies are indicating that because most games are international and in English, children and teenagers who grew up playing (in a healthy amount of time) have an easier time with English because they had more contact with the language.

1% of The Population is Fluent in English

Only 1% of the Brazilian population speaks English fluently. That’s what the British Council research discovered after interviewing thousands of people. In Brazil, it’s very rare to find people that are really fluent in the language. Usually, fluent speakers are teachers of the language or workers of international companies.

Although, there’s data pointing up that young people that grew more connected to the Internet and consuming more content in English (Music, Movies, TV Shows) has a better knowledge of the language and more chances to become fluent speakers in the future.

Actually, a fun fact about me is that I’ve learned English all by myself, listening to music and watching a lot of series and movies. My skills are far from perfect, but good enough to work for several US companies and write a blog in English. 🙂

What Is The Reason For This Numbers?

The study presents 2 main reasons to this lack of education:

  • English Was Not Mandatory

For a long time in Brazil, English classes were not mandatory in public schools. The first two versions of the Brazilian guidelines and bases of national education, from 1961 and 1971, did not include English in the curriculum.

It has only changed in 1996 when English became mandatory for starting from elementary school.

Therefore, people who studied in periods when teaching English were not mandatory may not have had contact with the language, which influenced their professional and academic life. This is one of the main reasons why is harder to find older people well versed in the English language.

  • Not Enough Workload

As said before, since 1996 English is a mandatory class in Brazilian schools. It solved part of the problem, but there’s still not enough workload dedicated to this discipline.

With so many disciplines in the base curriculum, it’s hard to find time to fit a proper number of classes to give students enough time to learn the language.

Being Fluent in English Can Double Your Salary in Brazil

Another interesting piece of information provided by the study is that being fluent in English can actually more than double your salary in Brazil!

As this is very rare in Brazil, British Council research discovered that having advanced knowledge of the language (Fluent, Near-Native) can increase your salary by up to 52%. Other surveys, such as the one carried out by the human resources company Catho, show a possible increase of up to 70%.

The following table shows the differences in the salary by the level of English skills.

RoleAdvanced EnglishIntermediary EnglishBasic EnglishNo English
Manager | DirectorR$ 15042,21R$ 11466,7R$ 9397,94R$ 7265,31
Supervisor | Team LeaderR$ 7377,52R$ 6182,04R$ 4541,06R$ 3724,46
Specialist | GraduateR$ 6451,77R$ 5576,50R$ 4694,89R$ 4191,30
AnalystR$ 4301,67R$ 3944,09R$ 3518,26R$ 3154,56
Tech SpecialistR$ 3699,43R$ 3222,93R$ 3008,58R$ 2669,77
AssistantR$ 2198,40R$ 1824,93R$ 1636,74R$ 1500,07
Operational RolesR$ 2120,35R$ 1668,71R$ 1721,19R$ 1663,58
Data provided by Fluencypass

People Tend To Lie About Their Real English Skills

Another sad reality is that people tend to lie in the curriculum about the real level of their English skills, although this is not a problem that occurs only in Brazil.

Catho, one of the largest human resources companies in the country, carried out an analysis here that revealed surprising data about the real number of people who lie about English skills.

The study promoted by Catho applied English tests to a large group of people who filled out resumes on the online platform claiming to have an advanced level of knowledge of the English language, to ascertain whether the information was real.

The data was revealing: only 36% of the survey participants actually have advanced English skills.

What Cities in Brazil Speak English?

In the ranking of English proficiency recently released by EF Education First, a company specialized in language teaching, Brazil falls into the category of “low proficiency” in the language. But some cities are doing well.

English is not spoken as the first language in any Brazilian city, but in the cities of Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, is easier to find fluent speakers. In the states of Distrito Federal, Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, São Paulo, and Santa Catarina the proficiency levels are higher.

Curitiba is the Brazilian city with higher proficiency levels in the EF Education First ranking by cities, in the 7th position in a ranking with 50, with the same score as Berlin and Hamburg. Curitiba and Belo Horizonte are the only two cities in Brazil considered with Very High Proficiency.

English Proficiency Level by Brazilian States

The cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasília are doing better than the average, but not so well. The proficiency level in these cities is considered Moderate. In the following table, you can check the Brazilian states and proficiency levels in the English language.

StateProficiency Level
Distrito FederalModerate
Rio Grande do SulModerate
ParanáModerate
São PauloModerate
Santa CatarinaModerate
Mato Grosso do SulLow
Rio de JaneiroLow
Minas GeraisLow
CearáLow
MaranhãoLow
PernambucoLow
Espírito SantoLow
ParaíbaLow
ParáLow
Rio Grande do NorteVery Low
BahiaVery Low
GoiásVery Low
AmazonasVery Low
Mato GrossoVery Low

What Are The Top 3 Languages Spoken In Brazil?

Even though the official language spoken in Brazil is Portuguese, there are other languages spoken in the country, especially because of European immigrants and native indigenous languages.

The top 3 idioms spoken in Brazil as the first language are Portuguese, German and Indigenous Languages. There are more languages spoken in the country, but not as a native idiom. According to WorldAtlas, about 97,9% of the population speaks Portuguese, 1,9% speaks German and 0,2% speaks Indigenous Languages.

Portuguese

The official language in the country, Portuguese is widely spoken in Brazil. According to the data provided by the World Atlas about 97,9% of the Brazilian population speaks Portuguese.

In the absolute majority of cities in Brazil the only language spoken is Portuguese. In some cities is more common to find fluent English speakers, especially in Curitiba and Belo Horizonte.

German

Brazil is a mixed country that a huge number of immigrants from Europe. One of the main immigrant communities in Brazil is German, and their language is the second most spoken language in Brazil as a native idiom, with about 1.9% of the population knowing the language.

In the city where I live, called Guarapuava, there is one of the biggest German Colonies in Brazil: Colônia Entre Rios. The region is very important for the agriculture of the country. This community was formed by Donauschwaben immigrants, and over there they speak a specific dialect of the German language called Schwowisch (Standard German: “Schwäbisch”).

Indigenous Languages

There are more than 180 indigenous languages in Brazil, spoken by around 160,000 people. Especially in indigenous communities.

The most important Indigenous Languages are the Tucuna, with 40,000 speakers, Embiá, with 10,000, and Nheengatu, with approximately 3000 speakers. Even though they are very important for the history of Brazil, roughly 0.2% of the population speaks an Indigenous language.

RankLanguageSpeakers (% of Population)
1Portuguese97.9
2German1.9
3Indigenous Languages0.2
Data from worldatlas.com

Conclusion

Well, I believe that this article has brought a good notion of how widely English is spoken in Brazil. Despite not being one of the main countries in the world in this sense, some cities, such as Curitiba and Belo Horizonte, have been showing that there is room for improvement in this regard.

This type of research takes a lot of time and effort to do. For this research, I’ve gathered all the data by hand using Brazilian websites and specific researches. So a little shoutout to give proper references to the article:

https://richardsedu.com
https://moneytimes.com.br
https://www.britishcouncil.org.br

I hope that this article has given you a better picture of How Widely English is Spoke in Brazil. f you liked the article and believe that this research can help a friend of yours, share this post with him. If you’re a blogger, feel free to use this data on your website. Just give proper references and you’re good to go 🙂

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