As someone who is just starting out learning Brazilian Portuguese you probably have no idea where to start. Especially if you’ve never learned a foreign language before, or if your only language learning experience came from an ineffective high school class, you’re swimming around lost in a sea of information. What you need is a direction to swim in that will put you on solid footing.
Once you get to Brazil and start talking with people, you’ll realize that everybody pretty much asks the same questions. The biggest problem with courses like Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur is that they were seemingly created in a vacuum without any regard for how Brazilians actually talk to foreigners. Any course that is serious about preparing you to speak Portuguese in Brazil will prepare you to answer these questions first, as they are so fundamental to the foreigner experience in Brazil.
The 9 Questions in Portuguese Brazilians Will Ask You
As a foreigner living in Brazil you are going to evoke a certain curiosity in people that you meet. Almost without fail, almost every Brazilian that you meet will launch into what I call the Gringo Script. The Gringo Script is a set of questions that arise from Brazilians’ curiosity about foreigners in their country. Brazilians love to hear the reasons why foreigners are in their country and what they’re doing here.
While there is some variation to the questions that individual Brazilians will ask, there are some that almost every Brazilian will ask you. It almost seems sometimes as if they all read a blog post titled “The 10 Questions you must ask every Gringo.”
Any time you meet someone through your friends or randomly on your own you will go through some iteration of the following set of questions.
Because everyone is going to ask you these questions, you need to know how to answer them. Start practicing today to be prepared for the eventuality of answering them in real life.
Where are you from?
This is one question that 99% of people will ask you. If they’ve already heard you speaking English and figured out that way that you’re a foreigner, or if they heard you speaking Portuguese with an accent they might ask if you’re American instead. If you’re not American try not to get offended because this is going to happen a lot.
“De onde você é?” Where are you from?
“Você é Americano?” Are you American?
“Eu sou dos estados unidos.” I’m from the US.
“Eu sou da Inglaterra/California/Irlanda/Canada.” I’m from England/California/Ireland/Canada
“Eu sou de Australia.” I’m from Australia
“Eu sou Americano/Australiano/Ingles/Canadense/Suiço.” I’m American/Australian/English/Canadian/Swiss
You can either answer by saying which country you are from or by saying your nationality. Depending on your country you will have to say de da or dos to be grammatically correct.
If you’re American you should be aware that saying, “Eu sou Americano” will start an argument with some people who think that you’re a damnyankee imperialist who came to invade their country for oil. There is a big debate over the use of the word Americano which is outside the scope of this article and will be covered in a future post, but don’t be surprised if a fight starts because you used this word.
If you’re American from a state that has a reputation amongst Brazilians such as California, Texas, Florida or New York then its easier to say that you’re from there. These states are all feminine words so you would say, “Eu sou da California/Nova Iorque/Florida/Texas.”
From which city?
“De que cidade?” From what city?
“Qual cidade?” Which city?
“Eu sou de Londres.” I’m from London.
“Eu sou de Huntington Beach, uma cidade perto de Los Angeles.” I’m from Huntington Beach, a city close to LA.
When people are asking you this question they are hoping that you’ll say that you’re from a city they are familiar with. If your from a major city then you can just say that. If you’re from a city that is less known you should follow up by saying something that it is close to, even if its not that close. The idea is to give them a general direction on the map inside their head.
How long have you been here?
“Faz quanto tempo que você está aqui no brasil?” How long have you been in Brazil for?
“Você já tem quanto tempo aqui?” How much time have you already been here?
“Quanto tempo que você esta aqui.” How long have you been here?
“Tenho um mes aqui.” I’ve been here a month.
“Já faz uma semana que estou aqui.” It’s been a week that I’m here.
“Cheguei ontem.” I arrived yesterday.
The question of how long you have been in Brazil usually comes after where you are from. Don’t get confused with the third variation into thinking they are asking you how long you are going to stay. That question will come later.
You’ve been here X time and you’re already speaking Portuguese this good?
“Você tem um mes aqui e já está falando portugués assim?” You’ve been here a month and you’re already speaking Portuguese so well?
“…e você já está falando portugues deste jeito?” …and you’re already speaking Portuguese like this?
“Falar portugues bem é muito importante para mim.” It’s important for me to be able to speak Portuguese.
I’ve been hearing this since day 1. I think Brazilians are just happy to hear foreigners speaking their language and want to give encouragement to continue regardless of your level.
Where did you learn Portuguese?
“Ondê você aprendeu falar portugues?” Where did you learn to speak Portuguese?
“Você já estudou português antes?” Have you studied Portuguese (before coming to Brazil?)
“Eu aprendi a falar aqui.” I learned to speak here.
“Eu fiz um curso online por tres meses antes de chegar aqui.” I did an online course for 3 months before coming here.
What are you doing here?
“O que você esta fazendo aqui?” What are you doing here?
“Você esta aqui trabalhando/fazendo intercambio/estudando?” Are you here working/doing an exchange/studying?
“Eu trabalho aqui.” I work here
“Eu sou professor de ingles.” I’m an English teacher.
“Eu estou estudando português.” I’m studying Portuguese.
If you respond simply that you’re working here they’re probably going to ask you what you do for work. Be prepared to explain what you do for work in a few words.
Why on earth are you in this city that isn’t Rio or São Paulo?
If you go to São Paulo or Rio people won’t be so surprised to see a foreigner in their city. They’ll still be curious about you, but they won’t be shocked that you’re there as will often be the case in a second tier city like Belo Horizonte.
“Porque você decidiu morar em Belo Horizonte?” Why did you decide to live in Belo Horizonte?
“Porque você não foi pro Rio?” Why didn’t you go to Rio?
“Eu tenho um amigo aqui.” I have a friend here.
“O Rio é bom para visitar, mas eu não quero morar lá.” Rio is nice to visit, but I don’t want to live there.
Do you like it here?
“Você gosta aqui?” Do you like it here?
“Você está gostando de aqui?” Are you liking it here?
“Eu amo Brasil.” I love Brazil!
Have you tried Pão de Queijo?
Maybe this is just because I live in Minas Gerias where pão de queijo was invented, but people love to ask me if I’ve eaten pão de queijo. I haven’t heard this question as much since my accent in Portuguese improved, so I think people will only ask it if they think you’re fresh off the boat.
“Você já comeu pão de queijo?” Have you eaten cheese bread?
“Adoro pão de queijo!” I love cheese bread!
What is your team?
“Qual é seu time?” Which is your team?
“Você torce para quem?” Which team do you root for?
“Você é Galo ou Cruzeiro?” Are you for Galo or Cruzeiro?
If you’re in Belo Horizonte you had better say, “Eu sou Galo doido!” I’m crazy for Galo!
So that’s the Gringo Script, the most common questions that people will ask you in Brazil.
If you’re serious about learning and being prepared to speak Portuguese to Brazilians then you’ll bookmark this article and come back to it after you’ve had your first conversation.