Despite the love-hate relationship (which is mostly about love) that Brazilians have with the Portuguese language, its introduction in Brazil was late and traumatic.

When the Portuguese arrived in the land, they were outnumbered easily by the native population. Since most of the early economic life of Brazil was about trade with Brazilian indians, and the Portuguese had no intention to colonize the land, the lingua franca was Tupi, a language of the Tupi-Guarani family. The few Europeans who were interested in a lasting presence in Brazil were the Jesuits, and they were more interested in imposing their religion than the language of some other country.

The Jesuits, being the only ones actually caring about living on the land, were quick to establish schools. Virtually all of the colonial education was in their exclusive hands. And that education was given in Tupi, the language of their intended audience.

In the 18th century, though, the Marquis of Pombal, prime minister of Portugal (who actually held king-like power) banned the use of Tupi in Brazil, declared Portuguese its official and only language and also expelled the Jesuits for a number of political and economical reasons that boil down to "they had too much power".

This was a horrible set-back for Brazil, as it was left entirely under control of the Crown, which was obviously more interested in taking all of the riches they could and leave. In particular, the country was left without a single school, as they were all Jesuit-run, in Tupi. It took at least half a century until any kind of official schooling system was established.

Also, one of the reasons why the Jesuits were banned was due to the protection they gave to the indians against slavery and murder. After they were forced to leave, there was no one left to protect the native populations, and the only word that can describe what happened to the natives is genocide. Unlike most countries in Latin America, Brazil does not have major native populations, and the 300 or so native languages still spoken nowadays face the risk of extinction in less than a lifetime. Amerindian blood is a part of the Brazilian blood, but that happened due to miscegenation. I'll spell that for you: R-A-P-E, miscegenation. The Jesuits were destroying the religion of the indians, but at least in every other aspect there was mutual trust and respect. The early men of letters in Brazil were Tupi-speaking indians. Today Tupi is a dead language.

Besides the words that were inevitably transported from Tupi to Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese has not been influenced by other native languages. Close research shows most loan words from native non-Tupi languages into Portuguese only happened when they were already incorporated to Tupi. Besides that, the way African slaves spoke Portuguese was also an influence, but relatively very few African words were incorporated. Later waves of European immigration, even if numerically inferior, left greater impressions in the language.

Today there are two major dialects in Brazil. They are, and I am using my own terms, the caipira and urban dialects (caipira is culturally equivalent to redneck). They are mutually understandable without problems, with very few exceptions. The urban dialect is the most prestigious and used in official and formal situations. The easiest way to spot the caipira dialect is by listening to the "r"s of the language. "Caipiras" use the retroflex "r", and omit more easily the "s" at the end of plural words. Sometimes the stressed syllable is also longer than in the urban dialect, but if you want a better description you should look elsewhere.

There are also many local differences (see writeup above), but they are all compatible. If you learned Portuguese anywhere in Brazil you can go anywhere else and you will not have a problem identifying what they speak as your own language.

Trivia: Which languages influenced Brazilian Portuguese the most? (or: which languages contributed the most to its lexicon?)

There is no complete, scientific mapping of the entire language that would allow a straight answer, but by randomly sampling words one can reach this ranking:

  1. Latin - hands down, too many to mention
  2. Greek - technical vocabulary, lots of prefixes and suffixes
  3. Tupi - names of plants, animals, places, fruits: jequitimbá, cajú, Curitiba, Iguaçu...
  4. Arabic - a lot of words mostly starting with al- (alfândega, algarismo, aldeia, but also arroz, laranja, azeite, álcool, até, café), and of course the names of ever popular Arab food: esfiha, tabule, quibe, etc.

Most other words come from African languages (acarajé, banguela, berimbau, cachaça, fubá, moleque, samba) and some other European languages. There are also a few words from Japanese, though most Japanese words are about Japanese concepts (caratê, sushi, sashimi).