Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest country, after China, the USA, Canada, and Russia. It has by far the largest population of Portuguese speakers, with over 205 million native speakers. Despite its problems, Brazil is a global economic force and ranked as the eighth-largest economy in the world by GDP (Investopedia, 2019).
However, companies that plan to enter this market have a tough challenge: overcoming the language barrier. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, Brazil has a low proficiency score, and ranked 53rd out of 88 countries.
When it comes to the Business English Index, the situation is even more concerning: on a 10‑point scale, Brazil achieved a score of 3.27, very close to the worst score of all (2.92). This places Brazil in the 71st position out of 77 countries analyzed.
Much of the problem lies in the education system, where public schools have trouble selecting and retaining good English teachers. In addition, most students go to school part time, and there's no emphasis on language proficiency.
This poses a formidable challenge to companies seeking to enter the Brazilian market. Without localization, the chances of success are very limited. Even if you do find proficient speakers, it's important to consider that communicating in a second language is not as effective as doing so in their mother tongue. As Nelson Mandela wisely said,
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
When doing business in Brazil, Portuguese is the way to go.
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Matheus R. Chaud
I am a native Brazilian Portuguese speaker with extensive experience in translation, proofreading, editing, subtitling, and quality assurance.