Most people think that when you come to Train BJJ in Rio you need to be fluent in Portuguese to get by, which isn’t true at all. Most people, including me, come here without being able to speak any Portuguese and get by fine through a combination of pointing and having a good demeanour!
This also works the other way, as it is easy to understand people here that speak no English through their body language and gesturing. This definitely applies during classes, for example when an instructor who doesn’t speak English is teaching it is always obvious what he is saying and pointing out, and if you don’t understand the move they are always more than happy to guide you or re-demonstrate it.
This often isn’t an issue as there is often someone translating the class into English.
Although you don’t need any Portuguese to come here, you will no doubt pick some up. Chances are if you are training enough these three phrases will be the first you learn;
1. Thank you (Obrigado)
This will of course be very useful to you in all situations whilst in Brazil but it’s good to know during training when you shake hands at the end of class or for when an instructor has come over to help you with a move.
(um, dois, três, quatro, cinco, seis, sete, oito, nove, dez). Knowing this is useful when counting drills or exercises out loud during class. It’s ok to count in English at first, but it shows that you’re making an effort if you try and learn the Portuguese during your trip. This is actually surprisingly easy to learn as all your class mates will be chanting it out loud so you will get to hear what it sounds like many times.
3. Here (Aqui – pronounced ak-ee).
This is often used by the professor to highlight and important part of a move such as a particular grip or movement.
Overall, whilst I would say that Portuguese is definitely not necessary at all, Brazilians will still appreciate the odd ”obrigado” here and there.