Portuguese Becomes Language Of Business In Miami

Oct 18, 2013
Originally published on October 14, 2013 4:08 pm

A second language is spoken in about 20 percent of all households in the U.S.

However, in the Miami area alone, that number rises to about 70 percent.

The dominant second language there, of course, is Spanish, but a new language is becoming influential in Miami’s business community.

From the Here & Now’s Contributors Network, Karen Rundlet of WLRN explains the rise of Portuguese in Miami.


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And here at home a look at language. The Census Bureau says a second language is spoken in about 20 percent of all U.S. households. In the Miami area, that's 70 percent, and it's Spanish. But Spanish has competition. From the HERE AND NOW contributors network, WLRN's Karen Rundlet on the rise of Portuguese.

CAROLINA PINHO: (Speaking foreign language)

KAREN RUNDLET, BYLINE: Carolina Pinho moved to Miami area from Brazil more than 20 years ago.

PINHO: You know, I'm very proud. Maybe 10 years ago, very few people would be interested in learning Portuguese. It wasn't, it still isn't like an international language, but in South Florida it is.

RUNDLET: Pinho runs the Cultural Center for Language Studies, a school that offers Portuguese classes.

PINHO: (Speaking foreign language)

RUNDLET: Translation: Hello, how are you?

PINHO: (Speaking foreign language)

RUNDLET: Pinho says enrollment in Portuguese classes is way up, partly because Brazil is hosting soccer's World Cup next year, and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

PINHO: Brazil is preparing for those games, and a lot of people want to do business, sell something: infrastructure, equipment, consulting services.

Pinho's corporate clients include FedEx, Visa and Univision. Alexandra Estrada is also one of her students. She works in the cruise industry. Are you starting to use your Portuguese already on the job?

ALEXANDRA ESTRADA: Oh yes, a lot because I have many people coming from Brazil. And it's very difficult for me to communicate with them in English. Sometimes they don't know English, or they feel more comfortable talking in Portuguese.

RUNDLET: And Brazilians are spending their money on more than just cruises. They've set records in South Florida as the biggest shoppers of all foreign tourists. Want proof? Head to Sawgrass Mills. It's an outlet mall where Brazilians are known to fill suitcases with purchases before dashing to the airport to catch a flight home.

PINHO: It's very easy to find a Brazilian shopper. They are everywhere, and they have huge bags of shopping merchandise.

RUNDLET: Two years ago, Brazilians started scooping up Miami condos. Brazil's currency, the real, was particularly strong then, and prices were about three times less than the price for a comparable condo in, say, Sao Paolo. Today more towers are being built with Brazilians in mind.

Elizabeth Cooper Garcia is a realtor who uses some of the Portuguese she picked up after college with her Brazilian clients.

ELIZABETH COOPER GARCIA: Given the amount of Brazilians that are coming here to South Florida, Portuguese is going to be essential.

RUNDLET: And of course, she says, just one condo purchase leads to more shopping.

GARCIA: The property gets furnished, you know, so they have to go to a furniture store. They need to buy linens, pots, pans, you know, if they're going to be using the place.

(Speaking foreign language)

RUNDLET: Ultimately, students of Portuguese to learn the language for one of three reasons: loving the language, loving a Brazilian or loving money.

PINHO: Brazil has become a country for business opportunities.

RUNDLET: How do you say that in Portuguese?

PINHO: (Speaking foreign language)

RUNDLET: And in an economy that's still struggling, many Miami businesses are learning to say hello, (foreign language spoken), to new customers. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Karen Rundlet in Miami.

YOUNG: And you're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.