Ana Gabriela Verotti Farah

Ana Gabriela Verotti Farah

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


The Value of a Second Language in Brazil

Ana Gabriela Verotti Farah

Ana Gabriela Verotti Farah

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Lately, being able to speak English fluently in Brazil is no longer something that will differentiate a person, but an obliged request for a candidate to a job position. Learn about the importance of speaking other languages besides Portuguese in Brazil.

Although not officially, English is considered the universal language, in business, on the internet and in general. A large number of people from many countries learn it as a second language, and in Brazil, speaking English fluently besides Portuguese has become essential, specially when it comes to getting a job.

Not only English is important in Brazil, though: the important is the fact that people know how to speak, read and write in a language that is not their native one, whether it is English, Spanish, German, French, Mandarin, Japanese.

The Spanish language is the most requested in the Brazilian corporate environment, according to Thereza Abraão, member of the Creation Committee of CONARH, the National Congress on People Management. However, the fluency in English is the most searched by Brazilian people, and the most used in job interviews.

Brazil's Position Compared to Other Countries

Even though in the past few years, the number of people learning another language in Brazil has increased considerably, Brazil still has an enormous flaw in the education of a second language. In a research made by the Californian company GlobalEnglish, Brazil was no. 70 in level of fluency in English, out of 78 countries.

The company, which gives corporate English classes, analysed the ability on the language of over 200 thousand employees of national and multinational companies that don't have English as a mother language. Brazil had a better grade in 2013 than it had in 2012, but it still has what is considered a "beginner" or "basic" level of fluency in the language. The number was also inferior to the Latin America average.

This research showed that, in the subject of teaching another language, Brazil is far below compared to other emergent economies, such as China, and neighboring countries, like Uruguay. The country is also in a lower position in comparison to other Portuguese-speaking nations, like Portugal and Angola.

Such low levels of Brazilians who are able to speak English fluently can affect Brazil's capacity in attracting foreign investment. According to Rone Costa, development manager of the Cambridge ESOL Examinations in Brazil, the country has lost opportunities due to the lack of professionals capable of communicating in English. “There were companies that had projects in Brazil, but then opted for countries like Costa Rica and Argentina, where there is more qualified workforce”, he said.


Brazilians who speak other languages tend to have better opportunities and, consequently, higher salaries than people who have only a basic knowledge of another language or that only speak Portuguese. In a recent research made by Catho, in which 2,444 job positions in 19 thousand companies in Brazil were analysed, comparing different hierarchical levels and fluency levels in English and Spanish. It was shown that the fluency in another language can increase the employee's salary in up to 51,89% – and in some cases, to even more than that.

Catho's research also showed that when the interview for a job position is made in another language, in 80% of the cases, the language chosen is English. However, since in Brazil mostly A and B social classes have fluency in English, the percentage of professionals that can communicate without difficulty is of 11% – and, from these, only 3% are really fluent.

Salary by Hierarchical Level

The research compared the results of some job positions. The results can be found in the following table:

Job Position No EnglishFluent EnglishDifference
Executive Management
BRL 19.852,24
BRL 23.484,16
BRL 7.775,54
BRL 11.088,07
BRL 5.054,14
BRL 7.025,70
BRL 3.518,96
BRL 5.766,10
BRL 2.853,95
BRL 4.426,13
BRL 1.296,42
BRL 1.536,45

Failures in the Educational System

Brazil has been investing in the education of other languages as part of the process of receiving the foreigners who will attend the major events that the country will host: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. However, the courses given don't provide proficiency to its students; in fact, they are only palliative measures that try to teach at least a basic level of the language to the people who will provide services for the tourists.

The criticism to the initiative is that the nation should have begun being concerned about this matter years ago, and not only now that Brazil is on the spotlight of the world due to the sport events.

The shortcoming of the foreign languages education system is also an obstacle to Brazilian students who participate on the Federal project Science Without Borders, known as Ciência Sem Fronteiras, the scholarship program that assists undergraduate and graduate students and researches in universities abroad. Most of them prefer to go to Portugal, and the main reason for this choice is the fact that they aren't able to speak other languages as fluently as they speak Portuguese. In 2013, the number of students applying to study in Portugal was so high that some of them had to be transferred to others countries that are host institutions.

Lack of Time and Money

Another two obstacles in the language teaching system is that Brazilians don't have much time to do the traditional classroom courses and that most of them are much more expensive than what people can afford. These reasons have been making people search for online courses, which tend to be less expensive and more flexible regarding time. The problem is that, sometimes, the online course only provides an overview of the language or, in other cases, it isn't taken seriously by the student, who has to be really engaged to the learning process.

The lack of individual discipline can be a huge barrier for the foreign language learning process, specially concerning online courses. In order to improve the educational system, there should be provided more options of good courses of foreign languages at more accessible prices.