Languages of the Amazon Rainforest
With more than 400 indigenous tribes (consisting of around 300,000 people) in the Amazon (about 50 tribes are still uncontacted) the languages of the Amazon differ between regions and tribes. Most tribes will speak some Portuguese or Spanish along with their tribe’s particular language and perhaps neighboring tribes as well. Some of the largest language families of the Amazon are Tupian, Macro-Je, Cariban, Arawakan, Panoan and Tuanoan.
Brazil, which hosts 60% of the Amazon Rainforest, speaks Portuguese, while other parts speak Spanish. In many Amazon locales, indigenous Amazonia languages are also spoken. With the many different languages found in the Amazon, you will be relieved to know that English is spoken in some hotels and tourist destinations. All of our tour guides are English-speaking, and other languages are available upon request.
Although your tour guide will be able to speak English, it’s always a good idea to learn some of the basic phrases of the local language. We recommend learning some basic Portuguese or Spanish. You can steer clear of the indigenous languages of the various Amazonian tribes. This will help you communicate with the locals when the tour guide isn’t around. The locals will appreciate your effort, and might even be able to teach you a couple of phrases and words!
Learning a few basic Portuguese and Spanish phrases will make it much easier and enjoyable as you travel through South America. We recommend that you take a “Portuguese/Spanish for Travelers” class at your local community center, or with a software program such as Rosetta Stone. There are also many language apps you can download onto your smartphone if you would like something easy and convenient. Many travel guidebooks include brief language sections – study up before you go to familiarize yourself with the language.