Vieira succeeding despite language barrier

Joao Ricardo Vieira enters Biloxi, Miss. third in the world standings. Photo by Andy Watson /


  • Joao Ricardo Vieira is currently in his first season on the Built Ford Tough Series.
  • The 29-year-old is a Brazil native from Itatinga, Sao Paulo.
  • Vieira has yet to learn English and hopes to one day be able to communicate with other riders, fans and stock contractors.

In This Article

FORT WORTH, Texas ― Joao Ricardo Vieira has so much he wants to talk about.

However, for the time being, the 29-year-old rookie is limited to a handshake and a simple question in English, "Hello, how are you?" To which he doesn't always understand the response.

There are so many more questions he has for those he's met and even more about himself that he wishes he could share with fellow bull riders, stock contractors and PBR fans alike, if only he didn't rely on his native Portuguese language.

The translation app on his cell phone is always open, especially on the weekends when he's at Built Ford Tough Series events. His excitement has little to do with how well he's ridden ― Vieira is currently ranked third in the world standings ― and everything to do with a newcomer eager to learn about a country he dreamed of coming to since he was a young boy.

Determined to give complete answers, Vieira patiently used two translators. Guilherme Marchi helped him to articulate his answers while PBR intern Megan Bradford, who has studied Portuguese in college, verified the spelling of names and places he talked about. He also used his iPhone app.

Vieira was born and raised on a farm outside Itatinga, Sao Paulo, where his father managed the land and farm of another family.

Much like the riders who grew up in Texas and Oklahoma or Wyoming and Montana, the Vieira's were cowboys and worked cattle, but, until Joao, no one in the family rode bulls. From time to time he got on calves as a young boy for fun and didn't start competing on bulls as an amateur until he was 17.

After graduating from high school he moved to Paraguacu Paulista to study animal science and agronomy at Escola Superior de Agronomia de Paraguacu Paulista, a university in the state of Sao Paulo known as ESAPP.

Vieira went to college with the intention of becoming a veterinarian.

Upon completing his undergraduate degree he was faced with a decision: continue working toward becoming a vet or focus fulltime on being a professional bull rider.

Naturally, he chose the latter.

"Because I love riding bulls," said Vieira, "that's why I decided to focus on riding bulls."

Success came easy for Vieira ― he won a national title his freshman year of college ― and compared to his father, he was making "good money," so eventually he transitioned to PBR Brazil last year with the dream of coming to the United States.

Now, he's been riding bulls professionally for nine years and this year he made his Built Ford Tough Series debut.

"I never thought that dream would come," said last year's PBR Brazil Rookie of the Year.

This year, he's not only the frontrunner for the PBR rookie title, but he's a Top-5 contender for the world title.

With Marchi helping translate, Vieira expressed his desire to be this year's Rookie of the Year, but added he's "trying hard to be a World Champion too."

Vieira was ranked second in the world until this past weekend.

J.B. Mauney passed him and Vieira is now ranked third in the standings behind two-time defending World Champion Silvano Alves and Mauney.

Considering the language barrier, he's not subjected to anywhere near the same amount of media requests as the top two riders. As a matter of fact, he deals with virtually none of that, whereas Alves and Mauney are pulled in numerous directions on any given day.

However, according to Marchi, Vieira is also saddened.

"On one part it doesn't affect his riding," Marchi said. "He doesn't have to worry about TV or giving interview for you guys, but it affects him in other (ways)-for getting more sponsors, for talking to you guys about his career, his life here and stuff like that."

Vieira added, "Sometimes the fans want to talk to me and I don't know what they say. I want to talk to everybody. I feel bad."

Vieira is working on developing his English skills.

While he's not enrolled in any formal classes, he's been picking up a few key words and phrases from time to time and plans to make a greater effort in the offseason. He also tries to repeat what he hears on the television.

Each week, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Vieira plays recreational soccer in Decatur, Texas, where he's exposed to English and his teammates have been helping him each week. Like traveling with the fellow Brazilian riders and hanging out in the locker room with the all the top riders in the PBR, Vieira likes the camaraderie of the Decatur community.

He and Eduardo Aparecido live together and neither of them know English, so being able to rely on Portuguese when they're are home also slows the process compared to being at a PBR event, where Vieira makes every effort to ask everyone he passes, "How are you?" 

Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.

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