- Almost 40 per cent of Britons don’t realise that Portuguese is the official language of the host-country of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games;
- More than one in ten of those surveyed were under the impression that Brazil’s official language was Brazilian while almost a fifth thought it was Spanish;
- Research has previously revealed that Portuguese is the sixth most important language for the UK’s future;
- The British Council is urging people to use Rio 2016 as an opportunity to ‘give Portuguese a go’.
As athletes across the globe get ready to give it their all in Rio, Britons are being urged to ‘give Portuguese a go’ as new research reveals that almost 40 per cent of the UK population don’t realise that it is the official language of this year’s Olympic and Paralympic host-country, Brazil.
Commissioned by the British Council - the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities – the new UK wide survey of over 2,000 people unveils that many Britons won’t be winning gold when it comes to their linguistic knowledge of Brazil. Almost a fifth of those surveyed (18 per cent) were under the impression that Spanish was the main language used in Brazil while more than one in ten (11 per cent) believed it to be Brazilian.
And while Portuguese isn’t as widely taught in the UK as more traditional languages such as French and Spanish1, previous research has highlighted that it is in fact the sixth most important language for the UK’s future prosperity2 – with less than one per cent of the UK population currently able to speak it. More than that, with only a small percentage of the Brazilian population able to speak English to a proficient level, those travelling to Rio to cheer on Team GB could end up lost in translation if they don’t choose to learn some words and phrases before going.
Commenting on the survey results, Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, said: “Portuguese is a hugely important language for the UK both now and in the future. With the eyes of the world on Rio this summer, we have the perfect opportunity to learn more about this fascinating part of the world and to try out some Portuguese along the way. Ultimately having more of us being able to speak at least a little of a foreign language is good for the UK’s long–term competitiveness in the increasingly connected world.”
To help visitors and athletes travelling to Rio 2016, the British Council in Brazil has put together bilingual Visitor Handbooks which can be downloaded for free. The guides include some useful words and phrases as well as specialist vocabulary related to the Olympic and Paralympic sports. The British Council’s social media channels will also be sharing ways to cheer on teams in Portuguese throughout the Games.
The new survey was carried out by Populus among more than 2,000 UK adults and was commissioned by the British Council as part of its work to build relationships for the UK around the world through language, culture and education - and to advocate for the learning of modern foreign languages in the UK through its on-going #LearnALanguage drive. The #LearnALanguage campaign – which urges people across the UK to take on a new language in 2016 – includes a short video series on how to start a language learning journey as well as information on various educational opportunities and real-life global connections available for UK learners to understand other languages and cultures.