Anthropologist and Senator Darcy Ribeiro died on February 17. He was
considered by most an accomplished educator, novelist, anthropologist,
and politician. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso went to his funeral
and even declared a national three-day mourning period in the days following
his death. Was he only a façade? Was Ribeiro the shrewdest cheater
Brazil has ever seen? That’s what this article wants to prove.
Quem tem boca vai a Roma.
(If you can speak you can get to Rome.)
When they settled Brazil in the 16th century, the Portuguese encountered the diverse languages of the Indians.
These, together with the various idioms and dialects spoken by the Africans brought in as slaves, extensively changed
the Portuguese spoken by the early settlers.
Along with Portuguese, Tupi-Guarani (language), written down and simplified by the Jesuits, became a
common language which was understood by the majority of the population. It was spoken by the general public until the
middle of the 18th century, but its usage diminished with the great number of Portuguese gold-rush immigrants and a
royal proclamation in 1757 prohibiting its use. With the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1759, Portuguese was well and
truly established as the national language.
Still, many words remain from the Indian and African languages. From Tupi-Guarani come lots of place names
(e.g. Guanabara, Carioca, Tijuca and Niterói), animal names (e.g.
piranha, capivara and urubu) and plant names
(e.g. mandioca, abacaxi, caju
and jacarandá). Words from the African dialects, mainly those from Nigeria and
Angola, are used in Afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies (e.g. Orixá, Exu and Iansã), cooking (e.g.
vatapá, acarajé and
abará) and in general conversation (e.g.
samba, mocambo and moleque).
Within Brazil, accents, dialects and slang
(gíria) vary regionally. The
Carioca inserts the "sh" sound in place of
"s’. The Gaúcho speak a Spanish-sounding Portuguese, the
Baiano (from Bahia) speak slowly and the accents of
the Cearense (from Ceará) are often incomprehensible to outsiders.
Portuguese is similar to Spanish on paper, but sounds completely different. You will do quite well if you speak
Spanish in Brazil. Brazilians will understand what you say, but you won’t get much of what they say. So don’t think
studying Portuguese is a waste of time. Listen to language tapes and develop an ear for Portugueseit’s a
Brazilians are very easy to befriend, but unfortunately the vast majority of them speak little or no English. This
is changing, however, as practically all Brazilians in school are learning English. All the same, don’t count on finding
an English speaker, especially out of the cities. The more Portuguese you speak, the more you will get out of your trip.
Most phrasebooks are not very helpful. Their vocabulary is often dated and they contain the Portuguese spoken
in Portugal, not Brazil. Notable exceptions are Lonely Planet’s
Brazilian Phrasebook, and a Berlitz phrasebook for
travel in Brazil. Make sure any English-Portuguese dictionary is a Brazilian Portuguese one.
If you’re more intent on learning the language, try the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI) tape series. It comes in
two volumes. Volume 1, which includes 23 cassettes and accompanying text, costs $130 and covers pronunciation,
verb tenses and essential nouns and adjectives. Volume 2 includes 22 tapes with text and sells for $115. It includes
some useful phrases and a travel vocabulary.
For fluent Spanish speakers, FSI also has Portuguese-From Spanish to Portuguese,
which consists of two tapes and a text explaining similarities and differences between these languages. This one costs $20. To get hold of these,
write to or call the National Audiovisual Center (301) 763-1896, Information Services PF, 8700 Edgeworth Drive,
Capitol Heights, Maryland, USA, 20743-3701.
In Australia, most foreign-language and travel bookstores stock a range of material, from the basic "Travel Pack"
with a phrase book and two tapes for A$35, to a condensed version of the FSI tapes. A condensed version of the FSI
tapes is available from Learn Australia Pty Ltd (008) 338-183, 726 High St, East Kew, Victoria, 3102. Twelve 90-minute
tapes cost A$195. The `Living Language’ course is in-between, and it includes phrases, vocabulary, grammar
and conversation. The manual and CD cost A$50.
Combine these with a few Brazilian samba tapes and some Jorge Amado novels and you’re ready to begin the
next level of instruction on the streets of Brazil. If that doesn’t suffice, it’s easy to arrange tutorial instruction through
any of the Brazilian American institutes where Brazilians go to learn English, or at the IBEU (Instituto Brasil
Estados Unidos) in Rio.
Portuguese has masculine and feminine forms of nouns and adjectives. Alternative gender endings to words
appear separated by a slash, the masculine form first. Generally, "o" indicates masculine and "a" indicates feminine.
Greetings & Civilities
Thank you (very much)
I am sorry.
How are you?
I’m fine thanks.
Desculpe (me perdoe).
(lit: forgive me)
Como vai você/Tudo bem?
Vou bem, obrigado/a .
Tudo bem, obrigado/a.
Please write it down.
Please show me (on the map).
I (don’t) understand.
I (don’t) speak Portuguese.
Do you speak English?
Does anyone speak English?
How do you say… in Portuguese?
I have a visa/permit.
Escreva por favor.
Por favor, me mostre (no mapa).
Eu (não) entendo.
Eu (não) falo português.
Você fala inglês?
Alguém fala inglês?
Como você diz… em português?
Eu tenho um visto/uma licença.
Date of birth
Place of birth
Data de nascimento
Local de nascimento
What is your name?
My name is…
I’m a tourist/student.
Where/What country are you from?
I am from…
How old are you?
I am… years old.
Are you married?
Do you like…?
I (don’t) like…
I like it very much.
It’s all right/No problem.
Qual é seu nome?
Meu nome é…
Eu sou um turista/estudante.
De onde/De que país você é?
Quantos anos você tem ?
Eu tenho… anos.
Você é casado/a?
Você gosta de… ?
Eu (não) gosto de…
Eu gosto muito.
Está tudo bem/Não há problema.
I want to go to…
I want to book a seat for…
What time does the
Where does the…
The train is…
Ferry (sometimes called balsa)
How long does the trip take?
Do I need to change?
You must change trains/platform
I would like to hire a…
Eu quero ir para…
Eu quero reservar um assento para…
A que horas… sai/chega?
De one o/a… sai?
Ferry (sometimes called balsa)
O trem está…
Quanto tempo a viagem demora?
Eu preciso trocar?
Você precisa trocar de trem/plataforma
Passagem de ida
Passagem de volta
Eu gostaria de alugar
How do I get to…?
Is it near/far?
Go straight ahead
At the traffic lights
At the next corner
Como eu chego a…?
O que é… isto?
Número da casa
Vá em frente
Vire à esquerda
Vire à direita
Na próxima esquina
I’m looking for the…
What is the address?
Do you have a…
Room with two beds
For one/two nights
How much is it per night/per person?
Is service/breakfast included?
Can I see the room?
It is very…
Where is the toilet?
I am/We are leaving now
Do you have…?
A clean sheet
Eu estou procurando o/a…
Albergue da juventude
Qual é o endereço?
Você tem um/uma…
Quarto de solteiro
Quarto de casado
Quarto com duas camas
Para uma/duas noites
Quanto é por noite/por pessoa?
O serviço/café de manhã está incluído?
Posso ver o quarto?
Aonde é o banheiro?
Eu estou/Nós estamos saindo agora
Um lençol limpo
Where is the/a…?
Aonde é o/a…?
Casa de câmbio
Centro da cidade
I’d like to change some…
Posto de informações turísticas
Eu gostaria de trocar
Um pouco de…
Checks de viagem
I am hungry/thirsty
I would like the set lunch please
Is service included in the bill?
I am a vegetarian
I would like some
I don’t eat…
Café da manhã
Barraca de comida
Eu estou com fome/sede
Eu gostaria do prato feito por favor
O serviço esta incluído na conta?
Eu sou vegetariano/a
Eu gostaria de algum/a
Outro/a… por favor
Eu não como…
How much does it cost?
I would like to buy it
It’s too expensive for me
Can I look at it
I’m just looking
I’m looking for…
Do you take travelers’ checks/credit cards?
Do you have another color/size?
Eu gostaria de comprar
É muito caro para mim
Só estou olhando
Você aceita checks de viagem/cartões de crédito?
Você tem outra cor/tamanho?
Times & Dates
What time is it?
In the morning
In the evening
Day after tomorrow
Que horas são
Uma e quinze
Uma e meia
Uma e quarenta e cinco
Hoje de noite
Depois de amanhã
Todo o dia
Todos os dias
seis (when quoting telephone
or house numbers, Brazilians
will often say meia instead of seis)
I’m allergic to penicillin/antibiotics
Eu sou alérgico/a penicilina/antibióticos
Creme de proteção solar
Call a doctor!
Call the police!
Chame o médico
Chame a polícia!
Brazilians pepper their language with strange oaths and odd expressions. Literal translations are in brackets:
You said it!
I’m mad at…
Is there a way?
There’s always a way
shooting the breeze
Nossa! (Our Lady!)
Eu estou chateado
Sempre tem jeito
Batendo um papo
Fio dental (dental floss)
Brazilians accompany their speech with a rich body language, a sort of parallel dialogue. The thumbs up of
is used as a greeting, or to signify `OK’ or `Thank you.’ The authoritative
não, não finger-wagging is most
intimidating when done right under someone’s nose, but it’s not a threat. The sign of the
figa, a thumb inserted between the first and second fingers of a clenched fist, is a symbol of good luck that has been derived from an African sexual
charm. It’s more commonly used as jewelry than in body language. To indicate
rápido (speed and haste), thumb and
middle finger touch loosely while rapidly shaking the wrist. If you don’t want something
(não quero), slap the back of your hands as if ridding yourself of the entire affair. Touching a finger to the lateral corner of the eye means `I’m wise
VISAS & EMBASSIES
At the time of writing, Brazilian visas were necessary for visitors who were citizens of countries which required
visas for visitors from Brazil. American, Canadian, French, Australian and New Zealand citizens required visas, but
UK citizens did not. Tourist visas are issued by Brazilian diplomatic offices and are valid for arrival in Brazil within 90
days of issue and then for a 90-day stay in Brazil. They are renewable in Brazil for an additional 90 days.
It should only take about three hours to issue a visa, but you need a passport valid for at least six months, a
single passport photograph (either B/W or color) and either a round-trip ticket or a statement from a travel agent,
addressed to the Brazilian diplomatic office, stating that you have the required ticketing. If you only have a one-way ticket
they may accept a document from a bank or similar organization proving that you have sufficient funds to stay and buy
a return ticket, but it’s probably easier to get a letter from a travel agent stating that you have a round-trip ticket.
Visitors under 18 years of age must submit a notarized letter of authorization from their parents or a legal guardian.
When you enter Brazil, you will be asked to fill out a tourist card, which has two parts. Immigration officials will
keep one part, and the other will be attached to your passport. When you leave Brazil, this will be detached from
your passport by immigration officials. Make sure you don’t lose your part of the card whilst travelling around Brazil. If
you do lose your portion, your departure could be delayed until officials have checked your Story. For added
security, make a photocopy of your section of the tourist card and keep this in a safe place, separate from your passport.
Whilst researching we crossed the Brazilian border many times. At one stage, whilst travelling from Brazil to
Uruguay, we missed the fact that the requisite part of our tourist card had not been collected on departure. Several weeks
later, when we arrived at Ponta Porã on the Paraguay-Brazil border, the immigration authorities explained that we had
not technically left Brazil! After considerable cogitation and some friendly banter, the officials asked us to make a
certified deposition concerning the details of our "disappearance’. Then the old cards were doctored, and we were issued
with new cards.
The Polícia Federal handles visa extensions and they have offices in the major Brazilian cities. You must go to
them before your visa lapses, or suffer the consequences. Don’t leave it until the last minute either. Go for an extension
about 15 days before your current visa expires. The tourist office can tell you where they are. In most cases a visa
extension seems to be pretty automatic but sometimes they’ll only give you 60 days. The police may require a ticket out of
the country and proof of sufficient funds, but this seems to be entirely at the discretion of the police officer.
When applying for an extension, you will be told to go to a
papelaria (stationery shop) and buy a DARF
form. (Sometimes this isn’t necessary; it depends on the office you go to.) After filling it out, you must then go to a
Banco do Brasil (or another bank nearby) and pay a fee of about $12. You then return to the Polícia Federal with the
DARF form stamped by the bank. The extension should then be routinely issued.
If you opt for the maximum 90-day extension and then leave the country before the end of that period, you
cannot return until the full 90 days have elapsed. So if you plan to leave and re-enter Brazil you must schedule your
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