I spent a long time trying to figure out why I knew so little about Brazil. I think a lot of it has to do with the language. Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language on earth with a total of 258,604,956 speakers in 9 countries that recognize it as an official language. Of that number 201,009,622 live in Brazil for staggering 77.7% of the total (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_language). This is a language that has roots in small European country of 16,000,000 people. By comparison America has the worlds largest population of English speakers with 58.5 of the world total (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language). The difference, though, is while English is the most commonly learned second language, Portuguese is rarely promoted as an important language to learn. That mentality is likely changing given Brazil growing economy, but regardless if it wasn't for Brazil there wouldn't be much point in learning Portuguese as second language. It be like learning a Scandinavian language, cool that you can speak it, but limited in its usage. What is even more staggering is the fact that the total population of South America is roughly 399,230,000 people meaning that slightly more that half of all South Americans are Brazilians. When I hear South America mentioned, I immediately think Spanish, but even though nine countries speak Spanish in South America, compared to one that speaks Portuguese, that one country has more people then the rest combined.
|View from Sugar Loaf|
While Spanish and Portuguese are both romance languages that there roots in neighboring European countries, they are different enough that someone who speaks Spanish would struggle in Brazil and vice versa. I remember meeting a few Brazilians in Uruguay when I was there last Christmas. I was better off speaking English to most of them, which is even more dissimilar, than trying Spanish. Even in Rio, I found English was more commonly spoken than Spanish, and I was frequently amazed when cab drivers would stop me and speak English after trying to Portuguese up my Spanish. Reading wise it is really similar with some words being completely different, but enough cross over to figure out the gist if you speak Spanish. What amazes me even more how the borders of Brazil and other countries seem to be a wall against language learning. The second I entered Brazil my Spanish became useless. The same can be said about Portuguese when I crossed back over to Paraguay. Most people I have met who claim to speak both really don't speak both, but rather have tendencies one way or the other while with certain words being switched in appropriate places.
|View from Sugar Loaf|
It was clear to me that the country had wealth, but what was fascinating was how little it seemed to effect the the social interactions between people. All shapes, sizes and colors came off as equals even though that is not the case at all. I somehow felt that the people in Rio despite being in a major city came off as being a part of a community. A lot of that might have to do with the various neighborhoods within the city that have distinct culture identities, but I constantly had the feeling that people were enjoying their lives and their interactions with those around him. The city is riddles with juice bars that sell fresh squeezed juices of all kinds, many of which I had never heard of. There are chains, but it seemed as though most were independently owned, and that people had certain allegiances to one over the other based on the familiarity I saw with vendors and customers. Rio also has a plethora of things to do outside with extensive bike paths, public beaches, and outdoor workout stations. I was so unused to this that I almost single handedly caused several catastrophic accidents just trying to cross the bike paths. On a random Thursday afternoon I was sitting looking at the beach in Copacabana when this beefy looking man walked up to me and my buddy just to practice his English. His name was Walter, and he had been practicing for about a year. I could barely understand what he was saying, but the fact that he was a local who asked to talk with us as tourists in one of the worlds biggest cities struck me as unique. He seemed genuinely happy that we came to see his city, and proud that it attracts people there that can help him get a better sense of the world outside of it. I have to say I felt great the whole time I was there. Even though I could barely communicate I felt like people were interested in me in the same way I was interested in them.
|Maracanã Stadium will host 2014 World Cup Final|