The Brazil World Cup 2014 is quickly shaping up to be one of the biggest sporting events in history, with the biggest sporting event of 2014 landing in one of the most football-mad countries.
Literally billions of people from across the globe are expected to tune in or turn up to watch the 32 teams from across the world do battle for the World Cup, with FIFA estimating a staggering 715 million people watching Italy beat France in the 2006 World Cup final in Germany.
While most fans will watch it all unfold on TVs in pubs and homes – likely praying for fewer Vuvuzelas than the South African World Cup experience – an estimated 600,000 fans are expected to watch and experience it all in person.
Attending a World Cup is obviously a once-in-a-lifetime experience, particularly in a country as football-mad, passionate and unique as Brazil, a country which holds a record five World Cup championships (from the 19 cups ever held).
However, going can mean more than just football, celebrations and good times. It can mean a litany of problems, with fans facing problems such as crime and scammers. Especially in a country such as Brazil, which is renowned for a lack of English speakers.
That is why any World Cup 2014 preparations should include learning some basic Portuguese. Not only can it help make friends with local sport fanatics, it could also save you from getting mugged or ripped off.
Speak Local, Be Local
As any avid traveler knows, learning even a few words of the local language can greatly enhance your experience of that country. Learning the basics of local language even more so.
Most people generally greatly appreciate efforts visitors make tounderstand their language and their lives so being able to speak a few friendly words at a pub or on the bus can often lead to great experiences from welcoming hosts who are eager to share their country with you.
This is especially the case in Brazil, a welcoming country of people who love to talk and socialize. Learning basic Portuguese before the World Cup 2014 could be the difference between sitting in a pub alone after a game celebrating and becoming immersed in a writhing crowd of screaming, celebrating Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro.
It means you could get invited along for a meal at a small restaurant only locals know about with fan you started talking to on a bus in Sao Paulo, or could strike up a friendship with the excited fan in the stands next to you in Porto Alegre.
Also, importantly, knowing Portuguese may be the difference between you getting or not getting a drink at a football match in Brazil.
In fact, knowing your way around the basics of local language could help you not only get a beer, but also help avoid drunken crowds.
Learning the local language ultimately allows you to engage with the country you are visiting on a much deeper level, and learning even basic Portuguese can (sometimes quite literally) unlock new doors for you in a new country. This is especially true for those seeking a more authentic Brazil experience than hotel foyers and western-style restaurants.
Avoid Becoming a Victim of Crime
A more serious reason for learning basic Portuguese is safety – for both you and your wallet. With the Brazil authorities recently acknowledging violence is a problem in many cities hosting games, anyone attending the 2014 World Cup needs to be at least a bit wary.
Learning basic Portuguese and knowing your lefts from your rights could be the difference between you ending up in a dangerous slum and finding your hotel safely late at night. Being able to understand a little of what people are saying also means you can heed any warning signs for upcoming trouble, and avoid it. If you prefer to learn Portuguese in a small city, you can visit and discover the wonders of Paraty.
Understanding Scammers and Prices
Events as big as the World Cup and Olympics also bring with them an inevitable wave of scammers and price mark ups. Suddenly a hotel room in Rio de Janeiro is costing you R$500 (Brazilian Reals) a night instead of R$250 (or about $100 USD) and meal prices have sky rocketed.
Forget getting a beer at a local western-style pub, the prices have simply become exorbitant. Knowing basic Portuguese – particularly numbers – in these situations can be a life saver for your bottom line. For a start bartering a price is always more successful in local dialect, while understanding how much they're asking for can save confusion or you getting the wrong change.
Beyond price hikes, a basic knowledge of Portuguese can help you avoid the predatory leer of scammers intent on taking advantage of naive visitors. Scams such as counterfeit game tickets seem to follow the World Cup around like a bad smell, while fake taxi fares and pleading “orphans” are among the many scams to confront travelers in any part of the world.
Learning enough Portuguese before you get to Brazil to spot such scams could help you save money and trouble. In fact, you could quickly find including elaborating your vocabulary to include basic Portuguese was the best thing you packed for the World Cup 2014.
Guest Author: Evelyn Niven