Updated: Mar 12, 2020
As tech startups race to enter the international market, you may be wondering how you’ll keep up. One way is to learn an in demand foreign language.
You could spend around 2,200 hours learning Mandarin…or about 600 hours learning Brazilian Portuguese. Not only is it relatively easy to learn, it’s a language of the future. Here are just three reasons why tech workers should learn Brazilian Portuguese:
1. The Brazilian Silicon Valley is booming. Nestled in the state of São Paulo, the city of Campinas is home to 32 of the largest IT companies in the world. The eponymous state capital is no slouch either. Nubank, PagoSeguro, 99 (formerly 99 Taxis), and TOTVS, four of Latin American’s unicorns, have a headquarters there.
Brazil is also Latin America’s tech innovation leader, with eight of the most innovative firms in the region. The first in Latin America to attract Netflix, Uber, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay, you won’t have to forgoing your favorite apps when you visit, either.
2. Few Brazilians learn English. Yes, English is the language of international business. But Brazilians must have missed the memo because only 24% of professionals and 8% of executives speak fluent English. This linguistic handicap extends to employees in hi-tech fields, which has hurt Brazil’s competitiveness in IT and outsourcing (e.g., call centers). So, if you want to build connections in South America’s largest nation, it would be wise to falar un poco de portugues (speak a little Portuguese).
3. It’s very similar to Spanish. The lexical similarity between Spanish and Portuguese is nearly 90 percent. That means 9 out of 10 of the two languages’ words are similar (though not always mutually intelligible). If you already speak Spanish, you’ve got a 90% head start when it comes to learning Portuguese.
Only speak English? Don’t worry. Thanks to plenty of loan words from Latin, speaking English gives you an advantage when it comes to learning Portuguese. Here are just a few words you already know: banana, caramel, flamingo, and veranda.
Now, you may be thinking I don’t have the time to show up at some language class every week. Well, thanks to the internet, you don’t have to anymore.
If you just want to pick up some vocabulary…
Free apps such a Duolingo and Memrise offer a fun, easy way to learn the basics or refresh your knowledge. You won’t become fluent with these apps alone, but they’re a great supplement for a more comprehensive program. (I’ve used both myself.)
If you want to improve your listening skills….
You’ll need to listen native Brazilian Portuguese speakers in natural conversations.
If you’re ready to make an investment and prefer to learn through videos, Sematica Portuguese is the program for you. With a monthly subscription, you’ll get access to a series of novela-style videos that keep you engaged with soap opera-like stories. (Think French in Action). This program is also the best one I’ve tried, and it really help me to take my language skills to the conversational level.
Although it’s audio-only, Rocket Portuguese can help you build a great foundation with vocabulary and grammar. They only have one level so far (some languages have up to three), but you can sign up for a free trial to see if it’s right for you. I haven't tried Rocket Portuguese, but the Italian program is pretty good.
If you want to become fluent…
Here’s where it gets a little tougher. You’ll need to practice with Portuguese speakers.
You can do this online with a tutor though iTalki for about $10-$15 per hour. Or you can
check out for meets up group in your area. (Duolingo hosts them for free.) Of course, if you have a Brazilian friend, even better!
Regardless of how you decide to learn, it’s totally worth it. Brazilian Portuguese will open the door to the largest country in South America, be it for professional or personal reasons.