Brazilians do not speak a lot of English, but they’re fun and friendly. They’ll work with you and help you out. They won’t hold it against you that you don’t speak Portuguese. In fact, they’ll take it as a given that you don’t and they’ll appreciate any effort you make.
Here are some short phrases that will get you far in facilitating exchanges. They don’t require any knowledge of grammar and unlike rote memorized phrases they won’t be a false invitation for others to respond to you in Portuguese.
One simple one is “hello,” oi. (phonetically: “oy“)
If you want to say “How is it going?” you ask tudo bem? (“too-du bayn“,) and the response is tudo bom (“too-du bom“) or again tudo bem (“too-du bayn“), ie “Everything’s good. It’s going well.” If you want to get more colorful, your response could be beleza (“bell-ay-za“), which is to say “Everything’s beautiful.”
Beleza can be used in many ways: you could receive some street food from a vendor that looks delicious and let him know you think it looks great and you’re happy by indicating your meal and saying beleza. It’s a way of expressing that something is awesome. You could also try “legal” (“lay-gau”) for saying “cool” or “sweet.”
Another way to say “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” is “e aí?” (“ee ayee“). What you’re literally saying is “And there…?” It’s almost the kind of salutation that doesn’t need a response, a way of walking by the fruit seller you know and saying hey by asking him to acknowledge your presence. You could also respond with a “beleza” if someone asks you “e aí?”
Holding up an empty beer, you might want to ask for “another” or, “mais uma” (“mayse ooma“). If you’d like to be polite, say please, “por favor” (“po favo“). If you want to try asking like a native, you could try “na moral” (“na morau“), which is slang for por favor.
If you’re bumping into someone in the crowd, you might want to say, “Excuse me,” or licensa (“lee-sense-a“). If the situation is a little more serious, as in if you’ve accidentally spilled your beer on your stranger neighbor, you might need to say, “I’m sorry,” or “desculpe,” (“je-scoopy“) a sincere way to say “my bad.”
You don’t have time to learn a completely new language but you want to be able to get around and converse somehow with the people you’re meeting. A combination of these few key words and globish can facilitate meaningful interaction and take your visit to the next level. If your want to get into grammar (and hey, maybe your trip will inspire you), it’s time to get a Brazilian teacher and take advantage of our World Cup special offer!
Enjoy the World Cup!
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