~ Posted by Robert Butler, March 8th 2012

Helen Joyce's piece on why Brazilian Portuguese is the best language has attracted a good deal of attention in Brazil where it has been picked up as: "Brazilian Portuguese is the best language to learn, says The Economist". This wasn't quite the point. As visitors to this website will know, the article is one of six, each of which champions a different language to learn.
Nevertheless, since Helen's article went online, more than 300 comments have been posted on this site, many of them in Portuguese. We asked Helen, who is The Economist's correspondent in São Paulo, if she could tell the non-Portuguese speakers among us what the commenters were saying. (We summarised the English-language comments yesterday.) Helen emailed back a list of the eight main points that have been made in Portuguese:

1.  I'm so proud to be Brazilian, it's the best country in the world. And I'm so proud that my wonderful country is finally getting the recognition it deserves.
2. You're joking - Brazil?! It's a dump.
3. No it's not, it's brilliant, and you're a self-hating Brazilian. [complexo de vira-lata - the "cur" complex; allegedly what some Brazilians suffer from...]
4. Yes it is, and you're a blind jerk who loves corrupt politicians. And Brazilians are racist to boot, this gringa woman has no idea how she'd be treated if she were black or poor [there's some truth to that, and all...]
5. Why is this article written in English? Surely it should be written in Portuguese. It's for an English-speaking magazine, d'oh!
6. Why do you talk of "Brazilian Portuguese"? There's only one language, "Portuguese" and it's spoken best in Brazil/very badly in Brazil; most historically accurately in Brazil/much more purely in Portugal; alternatively Brazilians don't speak Portuguese at all, they speak Brazilian. Story about how I didn't understand a Portuguese person. Story about how my Brazilian neighbours don't understand how to decline verbs. Story about how Portuguese people sound even funnier than Spanish ones.
7. Well done, very entertaining article, particularly the bit about "shameless white liars". Funny anecdotes about white lies.
8. We're not liars!

If you would like to read why five writers would choose another language to learn, the case for French is made here, Spanish here, Chinese here, Arabic here and Latin here. But which do you think is the best language to learn? Have your say by voting in our online poll. At the moment, Brazilian Portuguese is right out in the lead.


Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life