Brasilia - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You do need some survival Portuguese or be fluent in Spanish which will help you fill in the gaps when someone is talking. We have been surprised how little English is spoken here. - Oct 2021

I think you need the local language for a successful tour - for shopping, taking Uber, travel etc. Local classes are available and the locals are very forgiving if you mangle their language. It is one of the best countires I have been in for learning a language. - May 2020

You need Portuguese to survive here. t's especially important for spouses, as they can feel isolated without it. If you work for the USG, I would press your agency for language training for your spouse as well, even a short course. Most people don't speak English in Brasilia. Tutors and classes are available here, though its better to learn some before you get here. - May 2017

One should have a basic working knowledge of Portuguese. While most expats speak English, you will be hard pressed to find vendors, wait staff or store clerks who speak English. There are several classes and tutors available. Tutors run about 80 or 90 Reais/hour. - May 2017

You need the language. The embassy has free classes 1x a week, but this will be slow progress. Sign up for the directed study classes online at the embassy and look for classes at NEPPE, they run about $R700 ($220 USD) for a 6 week course, but are worth it. There are also lots of tutors that you can find on the aforementioned FB pages. - Mar 2017

Our family speaks Portuguese--the kids fluently--and that makes life here very good. In Brasilia a growing number of people speak English, but on the road you will need Portuguese. - May 2016

A lot! Very few people speak English, so speaking Portuguese is a must if you want to get out and about. - Aug 2015

A lot. It is rare to find people that speak English here. Some of them can't even recognize it. Someone asked me if I was speaking Japanese, another person (on another day) asked me if I was speaking Spanish. Learn as much Portuguese as you can. Luckily the locals are pretty good and patient with understanding broken Portuguese and between that and pointing and signing, you can get your message across. - Aug 2015

They don't speak English here. Learn as much Portuguese as you can. - Aug 2015

To enjoy your daily living, I'd say quite a bit. Brazilians are very forgiving of poorly spoken Portuguese and will try to help you, but very few speak anything except Portuguese even in a government city like Brasilia. If you speak Spanish, it will help you to understand them, but most will not understand you very well if you speak Spanish to them. Really try to learn at least some basics before arrival. - Jun 2014

No one speaks English. We came with no portuguese, and it has been really hard in every way. - Dec 2011

This is an interesting one. You need it, but it is one of the easiest languages in the world to learn. Your gardener, pool guy, many of your local staff, and almost all of your service providers will not speak English. Do a FAST course or Rosetta Stone if you don't get language training. I cannot imagine how much you would miss here without it. I did 14 weeks of classes, and found what I learned to be sufficient for non-professional discourse. If you hate language training (like I do) Portuguese is the language to learn! - Aug 2011

A LOT! Unless you're going to spend your life inside the embassy and around goverment people, you need to know your Portuguese. Regular people at the grocery store and domestic help don't speak English. Even some people that claim to speak English don't. - Dec 2009

I knew very little and survived; but surviving is not living. The more you know, the better -- as it reduces anxiety, allows you to make better friends, etc. - Nov 2009

Language is necessary. You can get by if you speak spanish. - Jun 2009

Without Portuguese, your life is very limited. Spouses should seriously consider taking the FSI course, if possible. Contrary to what many Hispanic Americans seem to believe, Spanish is less useful than English (and English is not useful). - Aug 2008

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