Brazilian English: Brazinglish, Portenglish or Englishese?

Posted by on February 16, 2010

© PhotoaltoFrom English to Brazilian Portuguese and back … Another great guest blog from Brazil, this time from Stephan Hughes, teacher, teacher trainer, translator, interpreter and educational technology enthusiast.


Living in the country for more than 13 years has given me some “expertise” on the impact of English on Brazilian Portuguese. Words are adapted and formed based on English ones, e.g. deletar (to delete), estopar (to stop), printer (to print), and then there are those words which are incorporated lock stock and barrel, e.g. penalty, performance, approach, holding. Some are borrowed in the original form but have changed in meaning: an outdoor no longer refers to an open space, somewhere beyond the area of a four walled room, but a billboard or large advertising poster spread out around big Brazilian cities.

As an English speaking native and language teacher in Rio, I realized how influential my mother tongue could be. One aspect that I have found quite intriguing is the use of the Future Continuous or Future Perfect Continuous in Portuguese, especially in telemarketing jargon: “Dentro de uma semana, o senhor estará recebendo nosso catálogo”  (which translates into English as “In a week’s time you will be receiving our catalog, Sir”). From what Brazilian colleagues have told me, the use of the tense in Portuguese was virtually non-existent until some years ago.

Another fun element of Portenglish/Brazinglish or whatever you might want to call it is the way Brazilian learners and teachers of English alike literally “translate” sayings and proverbs from one language to the other. For instance, the omnipresent What’s up is loosely translated as “Which is”, which is a literal translation of the original Portuguese equivalent Qual é.

Here are a couple more examples:

Makeshift translation: Don’t come that don’t have!
Original Brazilian saying: Não vem que não tem!
English version: Don’t even think about it!

Makeshift translation: It’s not soft, no!
Original Brazilian saying: Não é mole, não!
English version: It’s not easy! It’s no walk in the park!

Finally, a great way to see how one language impacts on the other is in music. One song penned by Brazilian artist Zeca Baleiro makes things crystal clear. Here are a few lines:

Venha provar meu brunch (Come try my brunch)
Saiba que eu tenho approach (Know that I take things head on)
Na hora do lunch (At snack time)
Eu ando de ferryboat (I take the ferryboat)

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Comments (29)
  • Haha it’s so funny these makeshift translation … when people speak like in the lyrics, it’s because they want to show off (and most of them aren’t good English speakers).

    Posted by Vivian on 16th February, 2010
  • The telemarketing jargon is very annoying.

    Posted by Fabio Fischer on 16th February, 2010
  • It’s very interesting to know the perspective of an English native speaker teaching English in Brazil. I’m a Brazilian English teacher in Brazil.

    Posted by Laura Hahn on 16th February, 2010
  • As a Portuguese English teacher living in Portugal, I can also tell you that in my country we also have and use many English borrowings: sport language is a wide field and I can give you a few examples of those borrowings – andebol for handball, hóquei for hockey or basquetebol for basktball.

    Posted by Ana Ramos on 17th February, 2010
  • It’s a very interesting point. I’ve been study english since I was young, and I have a Theory about that language borrowings. When learning, teachers advise you to try hard to think in english to improve your speach. On this way as the time past and your aim is achivied, becames natural that you make littles mistakes (confusion) on your mother tongue, and began to change or use some english words instead of portuguese words. It’s happens to me after came from a journey abbroad (N.Y, London), or have used english (spoken or written) for a long period. And what began as a mistake soon turns in a usual way of speak. Brazinglish, if you prefer.

    Posted by maria esteves on 17th February, 2010
  • Dear Stephan,
    While reading your interesting notes, it has occurred me the following which is currently trendy in my country, Portugal :
    1- “É / estás muito fashion!” ( when you are observing, and giving very positive appreciation regarding your clothes or hairstyle, for example); 2 -“Fiz um backup do documento” (I have saved a copy of this document) ; 3 – “Preciso de ir ao médico para fazer um check-up” (I need see the doctor so as to know about my health conditions, and proceed according to the type of examinations required by the doctor)

    As for the example you have given above “In a week’s time you will be receiving our catalog, Sir.”, in Portugal we say : “Dentro de uma semana, o senhor irá receber o nosso catálogo.” It’s worth noticing the use of the definite article.
    All the best,

    Posted by Maria do Céu Costa on 18th February, 2010
  • What I don’t like at all is when an English word is used in Portuguese and the pronunciation is changed when it is not even the easiest thing to do. For example, the word bullying was pronounced /ˈ’bʌ liɪŋ/ by a very famous TV presenter in Brasil. And she kept repeating it. Even in Portuguese if we read the word we will naturally pronounce it /ˈbʊliɪŋ/ and seeing an influential person doing that was awful!

    Posted by Teresa on 23rd August, 2010
  • It’s really interesting how we try to adapt things even though it’s wrong we must admit that we are crative 🙂

    Makeshift translation: Nobody deserves!
    Original Brazilian saying: Ninguém merece!

    Makeshift translation: Today have!
    Original Brazilian saying: Hoje tem!



    Posted by Roberta Ramos on 25th August, 2010
  • I agree with Roberta, our creativity is really amazing. The other day I overheard two students talking and one of them said: “Don´t worry, I´ll book your face.” Of course, he was trying to say “Vou livrar sua cara”. It was very funny. However, I notice that makeshift translation is also common when it comes to ordinary constructions. Once a student of mine said “They if married.”, when she was trying to say “Eles se casaram.”

    Posted by Patrícia Simplício on 28th August, 2010
  • This is really very interesting, and one thing I usually like pointing out to my students is the risk of using online translators without checking any further. The saying ‘antes só do que mal acompanhado’, for instance, becomes ‘previously only than in bad company’, which makes no sense at all in English! It’s very important that they are aware of how literal translations can hinder communication.

    Posted by Paula Esteter Colaço on 29th August, 2010
  • Makeshift traslation: Gave right
    Original Brazilian saying: Deu certo!
    It worked!

    There are so many of these that we hear some creative students using that amazes me!
    Perhaps one of these days some makeshift traslation will actually become part of English 🙂

    Posted by Ludmila Santos on 30th August, 2010
  • Here are some idioms and expressions that I found on a website.:
    Makeshift traslation:
    a.) Is we in the tape! = É nóis na fita.

    b.) Tea with me that I book your face = Chá comigo que eu livro sua cara.

    c.) I am more I = Eu sou mais eu.

    d.) Do you want a good-good? = Você quer um bom-bom?

    e.) Not even come that it doesn’t have! = Nem vem que não tem!

    For more makeshift translation go to :

    Posted by Ricardo Razo on 1st September, 2010
  • Wow, I’m kinda shocked with this sentence written by you Stephan Hughes: «Another fun element of Portenglish/Brazinglish or whatever you might want to call it(…)» Oh c’mon son, you are a teacher and you had the gutts to say Brazinglish?! As if there was a language called Brazilian.

    I’m from Portugal, and I really think that those makeshift translations are more common in Brazil, I mean I don’t wanna say that brazilians can’t speak english, but they have loadsa difficulties that the portuguese don’t have.

    I’m a member of a brazilian forum and sometimes I see some other members writing things like these: «Espero que ela performe hoje»; «Esse álbum debutou em número #1». Kinda weird, isn’t it?

    Thumbs up for this article. 🙂

    (Sorry for using some slang).

    Posted by Vs on 2nd September, 2010
  • Brazilian English: Brazinglish, Portenglish or Englishese?
    I really liked the article which proves the interaction which exists between languages. It’s nice to observe it when non native speakers “translate” expressions from another language to their own thus “feeling” the other language as if it was their own. I think this makes no harm but it shows language learning in its humorous way instead.

    Posted by Marcia Oliveira on 3rd September, 2010
  • […] So take the time to check them, increase your vocabulary, and pay more attention to some problems […]

    Posted by English Tips 4 U! » HAPPY NEW YEAR (2011)!!! on 20th March, 2011
  • Great article! It`s amazing how languages can merge at times and produce hybrid instances that, although awkward at times, incorporate the cultural identities of the speakers and can be mostly understood by other speakers who share the same mother language. Congrats!
    Claudio Silva

    Posted by Claudio Silva on 4th September, 2011
  • My 84 years old mom friended me on Facebook with a short message “…Tou no face” (Literally: I’m in the face ). As a native Brazilian I love their creativity and ability to adapt, but that is not exclusive to us. Any group involved with two languages is going to create new words. In Texas I found a Washateria (Laundromat), Truckos para Rentar (Trucks for Rent), and someone complaining “Mi casa esta’ leakeando” (my house has a leak). The more interaction between people from different backgrounds the more we will be hearing crazy (and funny) things like these. That means, it will only get worse (or funnier) as the world gets smaller..

    Posted by Nilton De Macedo on 26th June, 2012
  • I really liked the article. A few years back I had the opportunity to work teaching portuguese to some american students here in Brazil. They wanted to know Brazilian expressions, ” viajar na maionese” gave me some trouble to explain 🙂 lots of fun.

    Posted by Deborah Brown on 2nd September, 2012
  • Hot saw, hot see – quente viu, quente vê – quem te viu, quem te vê

    Posted by Janis on 2nd September, 2012
  • There is one that I think is really funny:

    Makeshift translation: Wood face
    Original Brazilian saying: cara de pau

    Posted by Kelly Amorim on 4th September, 2012
  • Heard on Jô Soares:

    Makeshift translation: Take your little horse out of the rain.
    Original portuguese: Tire seu cavalinho da chuva.

    Posted by Deborah Brown on 5th September, 2012
  • Great article! I read all the comments and I remember some of my students saying things similar to the ones mentioned above.

    Makeshift translation: Step on the ball
    Original Portuguese: Pisar na bola

    Makeshift translation: He’s a bag without a handle.
    Portuguese Original: Ele é um mala-sem-alça

    Posted by Michelle Silveira on 6th September, 2012
  • When I think of makeshift translation I remember Mamonas Assassinas and that song called MONEY:

    It goes..

    Money que é good nóis num have (HEAVY!), se nóis hevasse
    Nóis num tava aqui playando,mas nóis precisa de worká
    Money(MONEY!) que é good nóis num have (HEAVY!), se nóis hevasse
    Nóis num tava aqui workando, o nosso work é playá..

    Posted by Priscilla Silva on 6th September, 2012
  • Great article. The other day I was watching a sitcom and one of the characters said that he had some skeletons in the closet, which was literally translated as “Eu tenho esqueletos no armário”. It was funny because it makes no sense in Portuguese, but I googled it and I realized that this expression has been used a lot in Portuguese. I wonder if people who don’t know the English expression will grasp its meaning. By the way, here’s another one:

    “I’ll google it!”: Eu vou dar uma googlada

    Posted by Aline Goneli on 9th September, 2012
  • It’s a funny interesting article!
    Here is another one:
    Makeshift: She is a dog sucking mango.
    Ela é o cão chupando manga.

    Posted by Fernando Falcão on 14th August, 2013
  • I laughed a lot the first time I heard “fulfill the sausage” = encher linguiça! lol

    Posted by Ester Teixeira on 16th August, 2013
  • That’s quite interesting. I’m not a great fan of makeshif translation, but it’s facinanting and might be very attractive for some students, specially young teenagers. Unfortunately, I don’t know many makeshif translations, but there is a classic one: a Good-good, as in “I want a good-good for dessert.” Portuguese: “eu quero um bombom de sobremesa”, real meaning in English “I want a candy (or sweet) for dessert”.

    Posted by Juliana Marra on 20th August, 2013
  • Hi! I must say I love makeshift translations, they can make our lives easier and funnier sometimes. When correcting a composition I came across something I need to share with you now. I saw “His Peter was a nice guy, blah, blah, His Peter…” I couldn´t help laughing my head off when I realized what it meant : “Seu Pedro”. Well, it was a great oppportunity I had to reteach my students the titles (Mr. Mrs..) and their use in American and British societies. 🙂

    Posted by Ana Lucia Ferraz on 21st August, 2013
  • AWESOME! i think makeshift translations are funny…my adult students love playing around with them…
    Stephan, you should watch the brazilian movie FLORES RARAS. It’s a beautiful movie that tells the love story of the poet Elizabeth Bishop and Lota Macedo. In the movie you can clearly see that Elizabeth was deeply influenced by brazilian culture. Tthere is a scene in the movie where she plays with makeshift translations….I don’t know if she has actually written that little poem somewhere…but I’ll try to find out.

    O/ 😉

    Posted by Andressa Garbato on 28th August, 2013
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