Learning to Speak Brazinglish

Brazilians are trying hard to get ready to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Despite having a big territory rich with natural scenery, Brazil is not accustomed to many international visitors. The World Tourism Organization, which ranks tourist spending in different countries, puts it 39th on the list, behind much smaller countries like Lebanon, Croatia and Malaysia. Next year, the government expects tourism spending in Brazil to grow by 55 percent, thanks largely to the World Cup.

But as that time draws near, the general feeling among my compatriots is one of disbelief, as if somebody was expecting to see a turtle fly or explain the Schrödinger equation. The prevailing feeling is captured by the expression “Imagina na Copa …” — Imagine during the Cup — spoken every time we see a 112-mile-long traffic jam, an overcrowded airport or the rising prices of hotels and flights. If things are already bad, imagine what they’ll be like during the World Cup.

But Brazilians are especially apocalyptic in our expectations. We belong to a country where corruption costs $28.7 billion to $47.7 billion a year, according to an estimate from the Industrial Federation of São Paulo State; that’s between 1.4 percent and 2.3 percent of the gross domestic product in 2010. We have poor infrastructure and serious social inequity. We worry about violence from drug trafficking and organized crime — last month, one gang from São Paulo threatened to unleash “a World Cup of terror” if the government didn’t agree to its demands.

And yet Brazilians are doing what we can to welcome tourists.

There’s a school teaching English on almost every corner, seeming as common as bakeries, hair salons and evangelical churches. The Brazilian Association of Franchising estimates that there are a total of 6,088 franchises of 77 language schools with names like Wizard, Yes! and Wise Up. Some schools guarantee that a student will learn English in 18 months, six months, eight weeks and, yes, 24 hours. The Ministry of Tourism has created a program to increase access to English classes called Hello, Tourist!

Nevertheless, the Education First English Proficiency Index places Brazil at No. 46 of 54 countries. Even some of the official efforts to further English translations of public signs are clumsy; six months ago, a giant football stadium in Salvador, in northeastern Brazil, opened with exit gates marked “Entrace” — both mislabeled and misspelled. On the streets of the capital, Brasília, a sign pointing to “Setor Hoteleiro Norte” (Northern Hotel Sector) had the translation, “Southern Hotel Sector.”

In the great tradition of Brazilians making fun of ourselves, this set off a fad of nonsensical English translations of Brazilian locations on social networks. One of my favorite translations: “Santos Dumont the True Airplane Inventor and Not The Wright Brothers Avenue” (for Avenida Santos Dumont). More than an effort to communicate, these inside jokes are a way of strengthening our bonds against outsiders.

Shortly before the 2008 Olympic Games, in Beijing, the world was presented with a new language: Chinglish. A blend of Chinese and English, the term was commonly applied to ungrammatical or nonsensical English in local contexts.

One particularity of Chinglish is its straightforwardness, as in examples like: “Deformed man toilet” and “Keep it carefully to avoid gangster.” It’s a way to ignore Western euphemisms when talking about sensitive topics. As Oliver Lutz Radtke, the author of “Chinglish: Found in Translation,” puts it, “Chinglish is right in your face.”

Brazinglish, on the other hand, is very casual and reckless, and often chooses to go literal just to avoid making the effort to explain better. The results are word-by-word translations with an unintelligible (or quite strange) content, sometimes nothing more than playing with sounds. Imagine, for instance, translating “Manhattan” (Man-hat-tan) to “Guy with an embrowning cap, as by exposure to the rays of the sun.”

Some great examples can be seen in restaurant menus. To Americanize some foods, we could write “Barbie Kill Sauce” instead of “Barbecue Sauce.” Trying to explain some typical food to foreigners, we often create nonsensical expression such as: “Meat of the Sun with Friend Potato” (Carne de Sol com Batatas Fritas), “Crazy Meat” (Carne Louca), “Sleeve Juice” (Suco de Manga), “Chicken to the Bird” (Frango à Passarinho) and “Against the Brazilian Steak” (Contra-filé à Brasileira).

Brazilians have also adopted plenty of English words, though we often change the meaning in the process. We have begun using “outdoor” to designate a billboard, and “folder” instead of brochure. Claire Rigby, the editor of Time Out São Paulo, has written about these curious words. “We speak roughly half English and half Portuguese in the office — and then descend into a world of hybrid language,” she writes.

Brazinglish can be poetic, but it’s not nearly so lyrical as Chinglish. Some of the best known phrases in Chinglish are substitutes for a well-known sign in parks: “Little grass has life, please watch your step,” “Show your tender heart by leaving the green leaves untouched” and “Show mercy to the slender grass.”

Brazilians are so nervous about what will happen when tourists descend for the World Cup, we’re practically wishing we could call it all off. Perhaps we can plant a new sign at our stadiums. It would be a perfect translation, and it would be placed in the middle of the soccer field: “Keep off the grass.”

Continue reading…


Key Terms…
  • host ↔ sediar
  • Despite ↔ Apesar de
  • scenery ↔ cenário
  • ranks ↔ classifica
  • spending ↔ gasto
  • thanks largely to ↔ graças em grande parte à (por causa de)
  • draws near ↔ se aproxima
  • disbelief ↔ descrença
  • turtle ↔ tartaruga
  • The prevailing feeling ↔ O sentimento predominante
  • traffic jam ↔ engarrafamento
  • overcrowded airport ↔ aeroporto superlotado
  • rising prices ↔ o aumento dos preços
  • belong to ↔ pertencem
  • gross domestic product ↔ produto interno bruto
  • social inequity ↔ desigualdade social
  • worry about ↔ preocupar com
  • unleash ↔ desencadear
  • to welcome ↔ dar boas-vindas
  • corner ↔ esquina
  • as common as ↔ tão comum como
  • bakeries ↔ padarias
  • hair salons ↔ salões de beleza
  • evangelical churches ↔ igrejas evangélicas
  • Nevertheless ↔ Não obstante
  • public signs ↔ placas públicos
  • clumsy ↔ sem jeito
  • exit gates ↔ portas de saída
  • both mislabeled and misspelled ↔ erroneamente marcado e com erros ortográficos
  • making fun of ourselves ↔ tirando sarro de nós mesmos
  • set off ↔ criou, desencadeou
  • fad ↔ mania
  • nonsensical ↔ sem sentido
  • inside jokes ↔ brincadeira interna
  • strengthening our bonds ↔ fortalecer nossos laços
  • outsiders ↔ estrangeiros
  • Shortly before ↔ Pouco antes
  • A blend of ↔ Uma mistura de
  • straightforwardness ↔ frontalidade, tratamento direto
  • toilet ↔ vaso sanitário
  • puts it ↔ diz
  • on the other hand ↔ por outro lado
  • reckless ↔ imprudente
  • chooses to ↔ escolhe
  • avoid ↔ evitar
  • quite strange ↔ muito estranho
  • restaurant menus ↔ cardápios
  • plenty of ↔ abundância de
  • though ↔ embora
  • brochure ↔ panfleto
  • descend into a world of hybrid language ↔ descer para um mundo de linguagem híbrida
  • not nearly so ↔ não tão
  • wishing we could ↔ desejando que pudéssemos
  • call it all off ↔ desistir de tudo
  • stadiums ↔ estádios


Despite Apesar de
apesar de tudo, creio que os pontos positivos se sobreposeram ↔despite everything, I believe the good points overlap
Apesar da aparência modesta, consta que é riquíssimo. ↔Despite its modest appearance, the truth is that it’s extremely wealthy.
ranks classifica
Em 2008 e 2009, a MotionPoint foi incluída na lista Inc. da Inc. Magazine 500, que classifica as 500 empresas privadas de mais rápido crescimento nos Estados Unidos. ↔In 2008 and 2009, MotionPoint was listed on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500, which ranks the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the United States.
draws near se aproxima
Jesus se aproxima dos dois e pergunta-lhes de que estão falando. ↔Jesus draws near to the two and asks them what they are talking about.
Quando o momento do combate se aproxima, o guerreiro da luz está preparado para todas as eventualidades. ↔When the moment of combat draws near, the Warrior of Light is prepared for any circumstance.
worry about preocupar com
Don’t worry about that. ↔Não se preocupe com isso.
Don’t worry about the past. ↔Não se preocupe com o passado.
unleash desencadear
acabaram desencadeando uma enxurrada de revelações de fraude ↔unleashed a cascade of revelations of fraud
to welcome dar boas-vindas
We welcomed her to the party. ↔Demos-lhe as boas-vindas à festa.
corner esquina
I’ll meet you on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Broad Street. ↔Eu te encontro na esquina da Avenida Jefferson com a Rua Broad.
Nevertheless Não obstante
Nevertheless, I want to go there. ↔Apesar disso, eu quero ir lá.
I was very tired, but I was nevertheless unable to sleep. ↔Eu estou super cansado, mas mesmo assim não consigo dormir.
clumsy sem jeito
The clumsy man envied her extraordinary talent. ↔O homem desajeitado invejava o talento extraordinário dela.
Her movements were awkward and her gesture clumsy. ↔Os movimentos dela eram estranhos e seus gestos desajeitados.
making fun of ourselves tirando sarro de nós mesmos
Ele foi ridicularizado, virou motivo de chacota (zombaria). ↔He was made fun of, became a laughing stock. (fazer chacota = to make fun of, to mock)
set off criou, desencadeou
As corridas e as caçadas desencadeiam no coração paixões furiosas e selvagens. ↔Races and hunts set off furious and savage passions in the heart.
strengthening our bonds fortalecer nossos laços
Ne verdade, acho que estreitamos os laços com clientes e fornecedores”, diz Wunsch. ↔In fact, I think we have tightened our bonds with clients and suppliers,” says Wunsch.
Reunimo-nos aqui aos milhares esta noite, num espírito de calor humano, paz e boa vontade, para desfrutar da nossa solidariedade e dos nossos laços de amizade. ↔In a spirit of warmth, peace and goodwill, we gather here in our thousands to enjoy our solidarity and our bonds of friendship.
outsiders estrangeiros
▪ She felt like an outsider in her new school.
a person who does not belong to or is not accepted as part of a particular group or organization
A blend of Uma mistura de
Será necessária uma combinação de todas as abordagens. ↔A blend of all approaches will be needed.
straightforwardness frontalidade, tratamento direto
He is usually straightforward and sincere and thereby gains the confidence of those who meet him. ↔Ele normalmente é muito direto e sincero e portanto ganha a confiança daqueles que o conhecem.
puts it diz
How shall I put it? ↔De que forma devo falar isso?
reckless imprudente
Tom is a reckless driver. ↔Tom é um motorista displicente.
His death was owing to his reckless driving. ↔A morte dele se deve à sua forma descuidada de dirigir.
avoid evitar
Don’t avoid my question. ↔Não fuja da minha pergunta.
I try to avoid eating too much for my health. ↔Tento evitar comer demais pela minha saúde.
Mary pretended she was sick to avoid going to school. ↔Mary fingiu que estava doente para evitar de ir à escola.
not nearly so não tão
The iPhone is not nearly so dominant in other countries as it is in Australia.  
call it all off desistir de tudo
We’ve talked about splitting up but neither one of us has the guts to call it off.  
However, a few days before the wedding, Pam got cold feet and decided to call it off.  
A short time before the wedding, Anni threatened to call it off.  


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