- Posted by VoiceBoxer Team
- On 14 April 2016
Brazil. Officially called the “Federative Republic of Brazil,” it is the world’s fifth-largest country  and the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world. Brazil is rich in culture and history and, despite the recent economic slowdown and political turmoil, is a global economic force. Not only is it the world’s seventh-largest economy by GDP as of 2015, but it is also a member of the BRICS group, together with Russia, India, China and South Africa, characterized by their large, fast-growing economies.  The BRICS countries not only have massive populations and growing middle classes,  but also a very fast rate of internet adoption, with the internet penetration in Brazil growing from 49.3% to 55.7% between 2013 and 2015. 
Yet addressing this growing middle class and doing business in Brazil require you to overcome a significant language barrier. Brazilian English proficiency is described as “Low,” with a score of 51.05 in the English Proficiency Index  and Brazil’s business English proficiency sits at 3.27 placing it somewhere between “Beginner” and “Basic” in the Business English Index’s system . Why is that?
The education system:
English education in Brazil is considered “poor” and “not sufficient to master the language” by the British Council. One big contributor is the fact that public schools are having trouble attracting high quality English teachers, resulting in teachers that are overworked and undertrained. Additionally, the half-day school system and the importance placed on other topics lead to English only being taught twice a week in a lot of schools. Adding an emphasis on reading and writing skills results in students with low English proficiency leaving school and little experience with conversation in a language other than their mother tongue.
While the British council paints a slightly brighter picture of the English education available in the private sector, it is still considered to be cost-prohibitive by many Brazilians. 
Brazilians are very proud of their cultural heritage, and the uniqueness of their culture and the Portuguese language is one source of that pride, synonymous with Brazilian sovereignty. English, on the other hand, has been and still is associated with “cultural imperialism.” This is why Brazilians are extremely wary of English as a “second” language, and it has long been denied special consideration in politics and education. In fact, English is only considered as one of many foreign languages, with many schools offering seven languages to middle schoolers. 
Generations of Brazilians have prospered without English. The pride in the Portuguese language and the notion that they can (some say should) manage without a strong emphasis on foreign languages are fading with younger generations of Brazilians, but sometimes still strong.
To sum it up, Brazil has a complicated relationship with foreign languages, especially English. A mixture of pride and lack of proficiency makes Brazil a market that is hard to penetrate without localization. Even with those that do understand your message, you would certainly be better off communicating in the local language to speak to their national pride and to avoid being associated with the negative sentiment that can be attached to the use of the English language.
If you want to do business in Brazil, you should do it in Portuguese.