I do not speak Portuguese, and only enough Spanish not to starve. English is my second language, but my first, Dutch, will not be very useful. Will people in Brazil be able to communicate with me?

I am willing to go down to a kind of sign language combined with single words but at times you need someone to translate. So will there be someone speaking English in every touristy location as well as in many towns and villages off the beaten track?

  • Try this app. Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 21:00
  • 1
    You may not understand them, but many of them will understand your Spanish. I have had conversations with Brazilians where I spoke Spanish and they spoke Portuguese.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 5:18
  • 2
    During my trip to Sao Paolo, I realized that people understand very little other than Portuguese (the Brazilian dialect). Very touristy places understand a little, but usually using a combination of sign-language, bits-n-pieces of Portuguese you can make do. There are many sites that have handy tourist-friendly phrasebooks that you can print-out. Also if you have an android phone, install Google Translate, with Brazilian Portuguese and English/Dutch, along with Text-To-Speech database, for offline use (s.t. you can use it even without internet connection).
    – bdutta74
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 6:30
  • @icarus74 can you please make that into an answer? Maybe limited geographic spread but very useful extra information.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 9:09
  • Related question: Communicating in English or basic Portuguese in Brazil
    – user29220
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 10:15

3 Answers 3


I am living in Brazil (Rio Grande do Norte) and I can tell you from experience that tourist staff will not be able to understand anything beyond the most basic phrases unless this is a specialty of your hotel or resort.

You'll probably be able to get " Cardapio em ingles" (english menu) at almost anywhere though, with the items numbered and more or less translated understandably, the prices may well not be listed or even different than the other menu.

Im in no way connected to this company, but CVC viagems is a really well known travel agent franchise who would be able to arrange payment/transit/orientations for you in the cities and major resort areas.


Yes not many Brazilians speak the English language especially outside Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo.

Try to learn as much Portuguese as you can before visiting there. You can also take the help of translator apps, phrasebooks and Youtube to learn basic stuff in Portuguese.

English is not widely spoken except in some touristy areas. Don't expect bus or taxi drivers to understand English, so it may be a good idea to write down the address you are heading to before getting the cab. In most big and luxurious hotels, it is very likely that the taxi fleet will speak some English. If you are really in need of talking in English, you should look for the younger people (-30 years), because they, generally, have a higher knowledge of the language and will be eager to help you and exercise their English. (Source)


English is hardly spoken in Brazil. Your hotel receptionist in Rio may well speak English, but very few others will. Even in Ipanema -- one of the most popular parts of Rio for international tourists --English is not spoken.

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