Language Schools for Expats in Brazil

Submitted: April 2014

There are only two countries in the world where Portuguese is the native language: Portugal and Brazil. Officially there are approximately 260 million Portuguese speakers in the world in nine countries or territories; of these, over 200 million of them live in Brazil. If you are moving to Brazil as an expat, you are going to have to learn some Portuguese, even if it only extends as far as por favor and obrigado.

The best way to jump-start the learning process is to spend some time back at school. This might involve anything from attending evening classes after work at a cost of around U$400 a week, to spending a month on an intensive one-on-one VIP course, with accommodation and airport pickup included, at a cost of over U$10,000.

If you are looking for a qualification to show that you are proficient in Brazilian Portuguese, perhaps to help you to find work, you can study for the CELPE-Bras (Certificate of Proficiency in Portuguese for Foreigners) examination. CELPE-Bras is the only official qualification in Brazilian Portuguese, and it is also recognised worldwide. CELPE-Bras is usually a prerequisite for foreign students wishing to take university courses in Brazil. It may also be required if you are taking up professional work in Brazil, based on a foreign diploma or other qualification. Courses are available in many places in Brazil. Even if you do not particularly want the qualification, you can search for schools which provide CELPE-Bras courses, as this may give you more confidence regarding the quality of the tuition at the school.

Choosing the right school for you depends on what you want to get out of it. If you are interested in more than just class-based learning, many schools provide sight-seeing tours which not only help with your language development, but also give you more information regarding what you are looking at than you would get from a guide book. They may also provide outings such as shopping trips or restaurant visits. These can help you to learn the vocabulary you will need in these situations, and improve your confidence. Also a guided trip to a restaurant may encourage you to try the wide variety of Brazilian food on offer, and discover some new favourites.

Generally schools will run classes for students of all levels of ability, ranging from total beginners to accomplished speakers taking refresher courses. You will generally be assessed on arrival to see which class would be suitable, but you should always confirm that if you find yourself in a class that does not suit your ability, you can move freely into a more suitable class.

There are many different factors involved in the final choice of school. These include:

The internet in Brazil has not matured yet to the complexity and depth seen in many western countries, so information can be a little patchy. Many schools have their own websites which give detailed information of courses offered. There are also websites that act as agents for schools such as this one which also includes student reviews of the schools. There is a website here which allows you to search by state to find schools; it also has a list here of some of the universities that offer courses. Tripadvisor offers reviews and information from previous students here, and Lonely Planet has some information and links here. There is a website which reviews language schools worldwide and currently has a few entries for Brazil here. The depth of information can only improve over time, provided that students continue to contribute to it.