Learn Portuguese

On this page, you'll find everything you need to learn Portuguese from scratch. You'll learn about the key features of the language and I'll share my best tips and recommended Portuguese resources with you.

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Learn Portuguese: The Ultimate Guide For Beginners

If you’re starting to learn Portuguese, then you’re in for a wonderful experience.

Learning a new language can be intimidating in the beginning, from understanding the grammar to mastering the pronunciation so people can understand you to getting the hang of a different culture’s slang and idioms, it can all feel a bit overwhelming.

Don’t be discouraged! With time, patience and practice, anyone can master any language, including Portuguese.

If you have a notion of any other Romance language (Spanish, French, Romanian and Italian) then you’ve already got a head start at understanding basic grammar and sentence structure. Also, anyone with a Latin background gets a head start at understanding the language.

Portuguese is a rich and beautiful language that will unlock your understanding of Portuguese-speaking cultures and people.

In this post, I’m going to reveal everything you need to know about how to learn Portuguese as a beginner, so you can start your journey to learn Portuguese off on the right foot.

So, are you ready to learn Portuguese? Let’s get started!

By the way, if you’re looking for the best way to learn Portuguese fast… then look no further than Portuguese Uncovered. Portuguese Uncovered is an exciting online Portuguese course I’ve created that teaches you Portuguese naturally through the power of story. Click here to find out more and for a free 7-day trial of the course.

learn Portuguese

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article…

If you’ve ever asked yourself any of the following questions, then this article is for you. If you want to skip ahead, just click the section that interests you.

  1. Why Should I Learn Portuguese?
  2. What’s The Difference Between Brazilian and European Portuguese?
  3. What Are The Key Features Of Portuguese?
  4. What Do I Need to Know About Brazilian Culture?
  5. Is Portuguese Hard to Learn? 
  6. What Are Some Common Pitfalls to Avoid as a Beginner Portuguese Learner?
  7. 6 Steps to Learn Portuguese for Beginners
  8. What’s the Best Way to Become Fluent In Portuguese?
  9. What are the Best Resources for Learning Portuguese? 

I’ll start by telling you about the Portuguese language and its culture. Next, I’ll answer common questions beginners have about learning Portuguese. Then, I’ll finish with my recommended action steps for those who want to learn to speak Portuguese, followed by some great resources.

Note: As you may be aware, there are some significant differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese (we’ll cover that topic further on). So, you might be asking yourself, what type of Portuguese is used in this article?

Generally, I’ve tried to choose examples that would be the same in both dialects. However, when a choice had to be made, I’ve gone with Brazilian Portuguese examples, as this dialect is more popular among Portuguese learners.

And again, don’t be intimidated by the length of this guide. The PDF version is available for free so you can download and read it at your own pace.

Because this post covers everything you need to know as a beginner, it’s quite long! I’ve also prepared a special PDF version of the post so you can download it and read it anywhere, anytime.

Click here to grab your copy now! (It’s free)

Why Learn Portuguese?

why learn Portuguese?

Portuguese doesn’t have the attitude of Italian, the romanticism of French nor the widespread utilitarianism of Spanish, but this less flashy Romance language has a charm and beauty that is a reflection of Portugal’s unique culture and heritage.

A huge added bonus of learning to speak Portuguese is that you can speak it on three continents: Europe, South America (Brazil) and Africa (Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe).

It is the sixth most spoken language in the world (Spanish is the fourth most spoken language). Even though it originated from this tiny area, the language spread during the years of Portuguese colonization.

While each of these Portuguese-speaking cultures has its own pronunciation and idioms and are strongly influenced by native and tribal cultures, if you get the basics down, you’ll be able to communicate well in any of these countries.

Some more reasons you might want to learn Portuguese:

  • You have a passion for Fado (sometimes called Portuguese blues) or Bossa Nova (Brazilian jazz) music and want to understand the lyrics
  • You have a Portuguese-speaking friend
  • You found out you have ancestry from a Portuguese-speaking country and want to learn some of the language to connect to your heritage
  • You got a job in a Portuguese-speaking country
  • You’re planning to travel to a Portuguese-speaking country

Another great reason to learn Portuguese is that while travelling in a Portuguese-speaking country, the locals will be charmed by your attempts to speak and understand their language.

You’ll get lots of encouragement and make new friends quickly when you demonstrate your desire to learn how to speak Portuguese.

Additionally, Brazil, Portugal and the African Portuguese-speaking countries all have rich musical cultures and learning the language will give you a better appreciation of these artistic expressions so you can enjoy them even more.

Luanda, Angola

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What’s The Difference Between Brazilian And European Portuguese?

Though they are technically the same language and share the same grammar rules and Latin roots, Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese are actually quite different in practice.

First of all, each language is influenced by its geographical location and its immigrants. European Portuguese has been influenced by Arabic, being located so close to Northern Africa and many of the words, especially in the south, have Arabic influence.

Brazilian Portuguese, on the other hand, is influenced by the languages spoken by the African slaves who were brought to the Northeast, as well as the indigenous tribes who are the country’s original inhabitants.

Additionally, there is a strong German and Italian culture in the country’s south, where you’ll find pasta as authentic as any nonna in Italy would make and you can attend a wildly popular Oktoberfest in the southern city of Blumenau.

The Italian and German languages spoken by immigrants have survived until today in some pockets of the south and influence the local accent and vocabulary.

view of Porto, Portugal

Given these different influences, the languages on each side of the Atlantic have evolved some very distinct accents and sounds.

Brazilian Portuguese is widely commented to have a more musical and lilting sound, with a slow and rhythmic cadence and open vowels that make it easier to learn while European Portuguese has a quicker, staccato pace and more closed vowels and hard consonants, making it resemble German or Eastern European languages.

From slight spelling differences, for example the word “contact” is spelled contacto in European Portuguese and contato in Brazilian Portuguese, to completely distinct turns of phrases such as the word “train” which is comboio in European Portuguese and trem in Brazilian Portuguese, there are differences both big and small between the two languages.

As you gain more practice and experience in Portuguese, you’ll develop a better ear for these differences and come to appreciate the nuances of the unique accents and vocabulary that make up the Portuguese language.

So, what type of Portuguese is used in this article? In general, I’ve tried to choose examples and words that would be the same in both varieties of Portuguese.

However, when a choice had to be made, I’ve gone with Brazilian Portuguese examples, as this variation is more widely spoken and more popular among Portuguese learners.

difference between European and Brazilian Portuguese

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What Are The Key Features Of Portuguese?

Modern Portuguese is a Latin-based Romance language, but its roots are more complex. With influences of German and Arabic, Old Portuguese was also known as Galacian Portuguese, a language spoken in an area in the Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula.

Modern European Portuguese comes from what had become the country’s major urban centres of Coimbra and Lisbon in central Portugal.

When the Portuguese colonized Brazil in the 1500s, European Portuguese was adapted and influenced by the languages of indigenous tribes as well as the languages of the Africans who were brought to the country as slaves.

Over time, as German, Dutch and Italian settlers came to Brazil, the language was further influenced by the native tongues of the new arrivals.

All of these influences have produced a beautiful and charming language. Brazilian Portuguese has a sound and cadence that is very distinct from its European roots and many people describe it as a musical language.

As you begin to learn the rhythms and sounds of the language, you’ll soon fall under its spell.

Portuguese Uses Word Gender

Portuguese uses word gender

It may be strange for an English speaker, but as in all Romance languages and also in German, Portuguese assigns gender not only to people but to objects as well.

It’s important to remember this when learning new vocabulary so you can increase your level of fluency. When you learn a new word, mar (sea), for example, be sure to learn it’s gender as well: o mar (the sea).

If you aren’t sure and you need to guess if a word is masculine or feminine, you can guess that words that end in “a” are feminine:

  • a lâmpada (the lamp)
  • a cama (the bed)
  • a boca (the mouth)

and words that end in “o” are masculine:

  • o pássaro (the bird)
  • o carro (the car)
  • o espelho (the mirror)

However, this is not a rule! In fact, there are some exceptions:

  • o dia (the day)
  • a tribo (the tribe)

So, in the end, you will need to learn the genders of each noun by memory. But if you use a method like StoryLearning®, you’ll actually pick up the genders of key words quickly and easily as you immerse yourself in stories in Portuguese.

When you’re describing a person, you will use their preferred gender pronoun such as ele or ela (he or she).

For professions you’ll address gender as well:

  • a médica (feminine) vs. o médico (masculine)
  • a concessionaria (feminine) vs. o concessionário (masculine)
  • a advogada (feminine) vs. o advogado (masculine)

Portuguese Verb Conjugation

How Portuguese verb conjugation words

Another key feature of the Portuguese language are its verbs. Portuguese verbs are conjugated just like in English so that the subject and verb agree.

In English, where many of the subjects share the same conjugation, this may seem like an awful lot of work to learn all these different conjugations.

However, one of the benefits is that having specific verb conjugations for each subject makes it much clearer and easier to follow. In fact, it’s common to sometimes leave off the subject entirely when speaking because the verb ending will clue you into the subject.

There are three types of verb endings in Portuguese: -ar, -er and -ir. Here’s a breakdown of how regular verbs are conjugated in the present tense:

Portuguese verb conjgation chart present tense

While Portuguese does have an extensive set of verb tenses and conjugations, even more than Spanish, many of them are not used in day-to-day conversations and even in written communications. Only people who hold academic titles or official government roles would use most of the harder ones.

Portuguese Pronunciation And Spelling

Portuguese pronunciation and spelling

European Portuguese has a lot of nasal vowel sounds and a lot of “sh” sounds that are reminiscent of Slavic languages and is perhaps one of its biggest distinctions from other Romance languages.

However, Brazilian Portuguese, while still maintaining the nasal sounds, has a much softer and arguably more pleasant sound than its European counterpart.

Learning Portuguese pronunciation is a matter of practice and dedication. You might try recording yourself speaking Portuguese. This is a good way to observe your pronunciation and see where you need to improve.

Accents

One big difference between English and Portuguese in terms of pronunciation is that Portuguese words have accents. These accents help you understand how a letter is pronounced. You can look at them as little pronunciation guides.

Here are the different accents you’ll encounter in Portuguese and how to pronounce them:

Agudo Accents

Agudo accents are represented by a dash above a vowel, have the function of lengthening the vowel sound and placing emphasis on that syllable:

  • á – is pronounced ahh
    • ex: máscara (mask) is pronounced: maah-skah-rah
  • é – is pronounced ehh
    • ex: médico/a (doctor) is pronounced: mehh-djee-co
  • í – is pronounced ee
    • ex: país (country) is pronounced: pie-eesz
  • ó – is pronounced o
    • ex: óculos (glasses) is pronounced: ohh-coo-los
  • ú – is pronounced oo
    • ex: público/a (public) is pronounced: poob-lee-co
Portuguese accents
Circumflex Accents

Circumflex accents which look like little hats sitting on top of the vowel have the function of shortening the vowel sound and placing emphasis on that syllable:

  • â – âncora (anchor) is pronounced: ahn-cor-ah, with the “ahn” having a nasal sound that is also pronounced sharply with the emphasis on this first syllable.
  • ê – bebê (baby) is pronounced: be-beh, with the second “beh” being pronounced sharply and the emphasis being placed on this second syllable.
  • ô – avô (grandfather) is pronounced: a-voh, with the “voh” being pronounced sharply and the emphasis being placed on the second syllable.
Tilde Accent

The til (tilde) will be familiar to Spanish speakers. It’s the wavy line that sits over the ñ in Spanish, making a nya sound. However, in Brazilian Portuguese, you won’t see the tilde over the “n”. Instead, it plays an important role with the ã and õ vowels.

The tilde is the accent that produces the biggest change in the sound of the vowel, even changing the pronunciation completely. It produces a very nasal sound, kind of like when you have a head cold.

  • pão (bread) is pronounced like: powhn with a nasal sound on the vowel and a very subtle “n” sound to close the word.
  • não (no) is pronounced like nowhn.
Similarities And Differences Between Portuguese And English Pronunciation

Similarities and differences between Portuguese and English Pronunciation

Portuguese spelling and pronunciation is honestly quite a bit easier than English spelling. While in English the consonant combinations “ph” and “gh” make the sound of “f,” in Portuguese, things are more straightforward.

  • Foto = photo
  • Farmácia = pharmacy

There are some differences to watch out for, however. For example, the Portuguese “h” is a silent consonant:

  • Hotel (hotel) = o – tel
  • Hospede (guest) = os – ped – ee
  • Horário (time) = or – ario

Additionally, the Portuguese “r” makes the sound of the English “h”:

  • Racional (rational) = ha – cion – al
  • Ridículo (ridiculous) = hee -dee – coo – lo
  • Rir (to laugh) = heer

Finally, the Portuguese “x” makes the sound of the English “sh”:

  • Xingar (to scorn) = sheen – gar
  • Xadrez (chess) = sha – drais
  • Xampoo (shampoo) = sham – poo

In Portuguese, there are many words with the consonant combination “lh.” The “lh” is pronounced like “ly”:

  • Ilha (island) = eel – ya
  • Filha (daughter) = feel -ya
  • Milho (corn) = meel – yo

The vowels are mostly similar to the pronunciation of English vowels with a few key exceptions. The Portuguese “i” is pronounced like the English “e”:

  • Fila (line) = feel – a
  • Nariz (nose) = nar -eez
  • Líquido (liquid) = leek – ee – do

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What Do I Need To Know About Brazilian Culture?

What do I need to know about Brazilian culture?

When speaking Portuguese, you may be in a variety of cultures and each culture will influence the language, the way it’s spoken and the slang.

For example, if you’re speaking Portuguese in Lisbon, the cadence of your speech will be fast with hard vowels and a more closed mouth than if you were speaking Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, where the words are spoken at a slower, more relaxed pace and the vowels are softer and the mouth opens more widely.

The Portuguese of Mozambique sounds like a compromise between the two styles. In each country, you’ll find unique terms and phrases. In this article, I’m focusing primarily on Brazilian Portuguese.

In Brazil, which has the largest concentration of Portuguese speakers on the planet with a population of 212.6 million, you’ll find an amazing variety of cultures and influences. The Afro-Brazilian population brought over during the years of slavery brought with them rituals and traditions from Africa found in Candomblé and capoeira.

In some remote corners of the country, you’ll find indigenous tribes whose ancestral practices are still alive, particularly in the Amazon. In the south of Brazil you’ll also find the traditions of the gauchos, descended from Italian and German settlers.

One thing you can count on: Brazil is one of the friendliest countries in the world and you’ll find that everywhere you go Brazilians will be welcoming and helpful towards you, especially if you’re trying to communicate to them in Portuguese.

Here are some examples of Brazilian culture that can inspire your Portuguese learning journey:

Brazilian Music

Brazilian music

Brazil’s music is just as varied as its cultures from the sensual Bossa Nova born on the warm shores of Rio de Janeiro to the Sertanejo country music sung by the cowboys of the Midwest to the fast-paced rhythms of the samba bands originating in the Northeast, every region of Brazil has its musical traditions.

Brazilian popular music, called MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) also counts among it some very good bands and musicians from Legião Urbana to Ana Carolina to Zeca Baleiro, Los Hermanos, Ivete Sangalo, the internationally famous Anitta and many more.

Capoeira

Capoeira

Capoeira is a unique style of Brazilian martial art that was developed by Brazilian slaves to fight their masters. It involves not only martial art moves that look like a form of dance and acrobatics, but also music and singing.

Capoeiristas learn to play all the instruments, including the tambourine, drums and berimbau, an instrument that looks like a bow with a gourd attached to it and is played by striking a stick against the string.

The best capoeira schools are in the Northeast of the country, but you’ll find capoeira being practiced all over the country and Brazilians have even set up capoeira schools internationally.

You can sneak a peek at a capoeira session by going to a school, but, if you’re lucky, you’ll happen upon an improv session on the beach or in town squares.

Brazilian Cuisine

feijoada

Though food traditions vary throughout the country, if there’s one thing Brazilians like it’s a good barbeque and each region swears its barbeque is the best. Brazil prides itself on its rodizios where the waiter brings various cuts of freshly barbequed meat to your table until you say “uncle.”

In the Northeast, fisherman bring in fresh catch to make the traditional moqueca, a fish stew made with a tapioca-based porridge, fresh fish, coconut milk and palm oil.

Feijoada is the national dish, a remnant from the time of slavery where slaves would use the leftover parts of a pig like the ears, hooves, tail and snout to beans and make a bean stew.

Today you can still find traditional feijoada being served in some of the best restaurants in the country, usually with an option of “light” feijoada, without all the traditional swine parts.

A great traditional snack in Brazil is pão de queijo, a cheese bread made with tapioca flour, perfect for a light breakfast or afternoon snack.

And don’t forget the coffee. Brazil has a long tradition of producing excellent coffee beans and Brazilians love their coffee strong and sweet.

Wildlife

Brazilian wildlife

Brazil is home to the Amazon rainforest, the largest rainforest on the planet. It is also home to the Pantanal, a giant wetlands area in the Midwest about the size of Portugal.

Anacondas, jaguars, anteaters, tapirs, alligators, piranhas, pink dolphins, and thousands of species of unique birds attract wildlife aficionados to Brazil every year. Tourists come from all over the world to see the natural splendour in some of Brazil’s most remote areas.

Brazilian Cinema

Though Brazil hasn’t made as big of a cinematic splash as other countries on the world stage, with only a handful of internationally released films, the ones that have been shown outside of Brazil have made striking impressions.

Here are a few examples you might have heard of:

  • “City of God”: the shocking, yet touching story of the Brazilian favelas told through the eyes of a young journalist
  • “Elite Squad”: the story of the country’s special operations unit that rises above the mafia-like corruption of the country’s police units
  • “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation”: the story of the phase of the military dictatorship that lasted from 1964-1985 told through the eyes of a child in

These films bring to light the socio-political struggles of the country in modern times.

Beach Culture

Brazilian beach culture

What would Brazil be without its beaches. With one of the longest coastlines in the world and some of the world’s most stunning beaches, Brazil’s Atlantic coast is where you’ll find most people flocking to during vacations, including beach-seekers from neighboring Argentina and Uruguay.

A bikini, a surfboard, an ice-cold beer or fresh coconut water and a lounge chair are all you need to fit into Brazil’s thriving beach culture. Beach volleyball is taken very seriously as a sport and the Brazilian teams have often won medals in the Olympics for their excellent beach volleyball teams.

Rio de Janeiro is one of Brazil’s most internationally sought beach destinations with the beaches in Bahia being coveted by in-the-know Brazilians. The southern state of Santa Catarina also has stunning beaches with Rosa beach being famous among world-class surfers.

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Is Portuguese Hard To Learn?

Is Portuguese hard to learn?

While there’s a rumour that learning Portuguese is really hard, it’s really not that bad! In this section, I’ll look at some of the reasons why learning Portuguese is easier than you think…

English & Portuguese Have Lots Of Words In Common!

First of all, Portuguese is a Latin-based language which is a big help. That’s because over 60 percent of English words are Latin-based.

That means that there are a lot of similarities and once you get over the initial stages where everything sounds like Greek, you’ll soon see that Portuguese isn’t so mysterious after all.

Here are some words in Portuguese whose meaning you can guess in English:

Many words in English that end in -ble have the same root in Portuguese but end in -vel.

Check it out:

  • possible = possível
  • terrible = terrível
  • incredible = incrível
  • indeterminable = indeterminável

Many words that end in -ty in English end in -dade in Portuguese. Here are some examples:

  • city = cidade
  • simplicity = simplicidade
  • reciprocity = reciprocidade
  • diversity = diversidade

Many words ending in -ent in English end in -ente in Portuguese.

Have a look:

  • coherent = coherente
  • adherent = adherente
  • excellent = excellente
  • recent = recente

Many words ending in -tion in English end in -ção in Portuguese such as:

  • relation = relação
  • situation = situação
  • information = informação
  • creation = criação

And some words don’t change spelling at all, only pronunciation:

  • chocolate = chocolate
  • similar = similar
  • banana = banana
  • radio = radio

Portuguese Gender Rules Are Simple

Portuguese gender rules are simple

Noun genders generally follow a pretty basic rule which is that nouns that end in an “a” are typically feminine:

  • a padaria = the bakery
  • a panela = the pan
  • a maça = the apple

…and nouns that end in an “o” are typically masculine:

  • o travesseiro = the pillow
  • o espelho = the mirror
  • o rio = the river

While there are some exceptions, you can usually use this rule of thumb with nouns that end in “a” or “o” to guess the gender if you’re not sure.

See how Portuguese isn’t as mysterious as you think? With all these similarities and by learning to identify these slight changes, you’ll be getting the hang of Portuguese in no time!

What Tips Can I Use To Master Portuguese Pronunciation?

What Tips Can I Use To Master Portuguese Pronunciation?

Portuguese pronunciation gets a bad rep, but it’s actually not as tricky as you might think.

First of all, what you see is what you get… Generally, for most words, the word will sound like it’s spelled. In this sense, it’s much easier to learn Portuguese pronunciation than it is for non-English speakers to learn English pronunciation.

Look at words like “though,” “laugh,” and “queue.” Be grateful you don’t have to learn how to pronounce those words! In that sense, Portuguese pronunciation is thankfully quite straightforward.

Of course, there are significant differences between how words are pronounced in Brazilian and European Portuguese. The pronunciation can get tricky at times, particularly for European Portuguese. Luckily Brazilian Portuguese is spoken at a slower pace with more open vowels, making it easier for foreigners to get the hang of the pronunciation.

Arguably one of the hardest sounds to master in Portuguese is the nasal sound produced by the ão combination used in words such as pão (bread), não (no), medicação (medication).

To make this sound, you need to keep the mouth and back of the throat half closed, bringing most of the sound into the nasal passages.

Try it and then compare it with the more open sound of “ow” in English words like “wow,” “how,” “cow.” In those words, the mouth and the back of the throat both open wide and there is virtually no vibration of sound in the nasal passages. See how different they are?

This is an important distinction as it could be tempting to skip learning the nasal sound and just pronounce the word bread as “pow” and the word no as “now.” However, it’s unlikely people will be able to understand you very well as the two sounds are very distinct to the trained native Portuguese speaker’s ear.

Experiment with the more nasal and more open sounds to get the hang of how the Portuguese ão is pronounced correctly.

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What Pitfalls Do I Need to Avoid as A Beginner Learner?

Pitfalls to avoid for beginner Portuguese learners

Don’t translate

Each language has its own flow and logic and as you begin to learn some basic Portuguese, you want to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible.

Look at how Portuguese is expressed naturally and don’t try to translate things from English into Portuguese. By translating, you’ll only end up sounding awkward because often translation seeks a literal pair in the other language and that doesn’t always work.

For example, in English you would say, “The guy is cool.” In Portuguese, that would literally be O cara é frio. But this simply doesn’t make sense. The correct translation using similar Brazilian Portuguese slang would be O cara é legal.

If you tried to translate that into English, you’d run into a similar problem because the literal translation would be “The guy is legal.” See the problem with translating?

Instead of translating learn how people express things in Portuguese and you’ll be on your way to fluency much faster than if you relied on translating to get you by.

Don’t Memorise Random Words

Don't memorise random words

When you’re learning a language, it’s important for your brain to be able to associate new words and vocabulary. That’s why it’s better to learn phrases rather than individual words, a bit like in the example above.

You’re also more likely to remember and use words the right way when you learn them in context, by reading stories for example, which is precisely the method here at StoryLearning.

If you try to look up a bunch of random words or start going through a Portuguese dictionary from A-Z, you miss an important process that allows you to associate words with each other.

Don’t Look Everything Up In The Dictionary

Let’s say you’re reading a book or watching a film or series in Portuguese and you come across a word you don’t know. You stop reading or pause the film and look it up. Then you press play and pretty soon another word comes up and you do the same thing.

At this pace, you’ll get through the book or film sometime next year. While looking up a couple of words can be a good exercise, looking up every single word will just lead to frustration. Try not to get too hung up on what you don’t know and instead focus on what you do understand.

By doing this, you can start to take leaps in logic and fill in some of the blanks on your own, even if you’re not 100% sure. As you practice and continue learning, your vocabulary will grow and pretty soon, the number of words you understand will be greater than those you don’t and those blanks will start filling in.

Don’t Write Everything Down

view of Porto

If you’re taking a class or having conversations with a language buddy, it’s great to take notes that you can refer to later. However, you shouldn’t get too hung up on this. When you pause to write things down, you stop the flow and can actually miss some important things.

Instead of writing it down, try to pay active attention to the conversation or class in the moment. See how much you can follow. By being present and available to talk or exchange ideas, you may learn more than if you were busy scribbling everything in a notebook.

Don’t Be Afraid To Make Mistakes

Fear of making mistakes is probably one of the greatest inhibitors of learning. Making mistakes is part of learning something new, and that is particularly true of learning a new language as an adult.

Don’t expect that you’ll get everything right all the time and don’t be such a perfectionist that you don’t risk expressing something in case you don’t get it right.

It’s precisely through mistakes that we learn how to get it right. Remember that languages are about expressing ourselves and communicating. As you learn, seek as many opportunities as you can to communicate in Portuguese and make mistakes so that you can learn from them.

Take Things One Step At A Time

Christ the Redeemer at sunset

Perhaps the biggest challenge in learning Portuguese is becoming familiar with all the verb tenses. It can seem overwhelming at first. Don’t get discouraged by the verb conjugations. They will come naturally with time and dedication.

It might feel like it’s all a bit too much – learning gender, pronunciation, verb conjugations, not to mention idioms and slang. But if you start to get tense and anxious about trying to learn everything at once, you’ll just end up frustrated.

Learning a new language as an adult is a process and it takes time. Be patient with yourself. You’re not in competition with anyone else. Remember why you’re learning the language in the first place and try to have fun with it.

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6 Steps To Learn Portuguese For Beginners

Portuguese is a rich and incredible language. If you’re embarking on a journey to learn Portuguese as a beginner, you’ll be so glad you did. All your efforts will be worth it once you start being able to understand and communicate in Portuguese.

There are so many different methods of language learning out there and beginners can get lost amid all the different courses and channels. Here are my top recommendations for anyone wanting to start learning Portuguese.

1. Enrol In Portuguese Uncovered To Learn The Fundamentals (And More!)

step 1 learn the fundamentals

One important thing about learning a language is that it must come from the learner, not the teacher. The teacher’s job is to guide you – but you must do the learning.

This means you will need the necessary tools to learn, and a good beginner course is indispensable.

You’re going to need lots of input via reading and listening in order to move beyond beginners Portuguese and grow your vocabulary. That’s why I’ve created my online Brazilian Portuguese course – Portuguese Uncovered – to teach you through the power of story.

You’ll listen to and read your first book in Brazilian Portuguese, and our expert Portuguese teacher Sylvia, will help uncover the grammar and vocabulary in the story, chapter by chapter.

By the time you’ve finished, you’ll be a confident and well-rounded Brazilian Portuguese speaker, ready to use your Portuguese in the real world!

2. Set A Goal Like Learning Basic Grammar And Conjugation

set short and long-term goals

Basic grammar and verb conjugations are probably the first things you should learn in any language. Verbs like “to be” and “to do” will get you started and serve as the basis for a lot of sentences. Numbers, letters, some basic nouns are the foundation upon which you will build fluency as you add on new vocabulary.

Without this basic foundation, there’s no glue to bind your vocabulary and bring it to life. Don’t miss this essential step on your way to becoming a Portuguese speaker.

3. Learn Key Portuguese Phrases

Have you ever looked at a travel guidebook for a foreign country? Usually they have a “common terms and phrases” section that comes in handy in a variety of scenarios. Think of the terms and phrases that you would use in Portuguese such as:

  • “How are you?” Como vai?
  • “I’m fine” Tudo bem.
  • “What’s your name?” Qual é seu nome?
  • “My name is…” Meu nome é …
  • “What do you do for a living?” Ao que voce dedica?
  • “I am a…” Eu sou…
  • “Where are you from?” De onde voce e?
  • “I’m from…” Eu sou de…

You can think of other phrases for other scenarios such as if you’re going out to dinner or booking a hotel room. By learning these phrases, you help build fluency and learn how to express yourself in common situations such as meeting someone, having dinner or making a booking.

4. Don’t Get Hung Up On Grammar Or Be Afraid To Make Mistakes

Learning proper grammar is indeed an important part of being fluent in a language but if you get too hung up on whether or not your grammar is correct, you’ll limit your communication.

Everyone makes mistakes and, luckily, Brazilians are very friendly and will be happy that you’re doing your best to communicate. Try not to be a perfectionist.

Take risks, guess when you’re not sure, be ready to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes and don’t take the whole thing too seriously. Language learning is better when you’re having fun.

5. Find Brazilians To Practise With

This part should be easy. Brazilians are super friendly and love to practice their English while helping you practice your Portuguese. If there aren’t any Brazilians where you live, you can sign up for a language partner on an online platform.

There are so many benefits to talking with a native speaker. They can help correct your pronunciation and your grammar and you’ll learn slang phrases and regional expressions that you simply won’t be able to pick up in a textbook.

6. Learn The Correct Pronunciation

Learning the right pronunciation is tiring. It can feel like you’re tongue-tied sometimes as you try to say things correctly.

But it’s an important part of the process of learning a language and if you just say the words phonetically without learning the correct accent and pronunciation, then you can’t really say that you’re speaking the language.

Pronunciation and accent are equally as important as having a great vocabulary and knowing how to conjugate verbs and use the correct gender for the nouns.

It may be difficult and frustrating at times, but learning the correct pronunciation of Portuguese is yet another key to unlocking the door to language fluency.

Also, Portuguese, and particularly Brazilian Portuguese, is a beautiful language with unique sounds and rhythms that you’ll miss if you don’t practice pronunciation.

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What’s The Best Way To Become Fluent In Portuguese?

best way to become fluent in Portuguese

Well, it sounds cliché, but the best way to learn Portuguese is to practice consistently. Now, how you practice is a different issue altogether. There are many ways to learn and many roads to fluency.

Read

Reading is a great resource for learning a language. Especially if you take a book you already know and love in English and read the translation in Portuguese. That’s a great way to start.

You can also read them side by side, reading a sentence in English, then in Portuguese and eventually reading entire paragraphs and pages at a time. Mark your book up, write in it, underline words, communicate with the text as you read and learn.

Eventually, try reading texts only in Portuguese without the English companion, maybe choosing books that were written by a Brazilian author such as Jorge Amado, Paulo Coehlo, Clarice Lispector and Adriana Lisboa.

Write

Try your hand at composing in Portuguese. It will force you to come to grips with spelling and grammar like nothing else. Write short paragraphs or thought pieces in Portuguese and test your ability to express yourself in writing.

Listen To Music

A lot of Brazilian songs have wonderfully poetic lyrics. Try out a few bands and see which ones grab your attention. Tom Jobim is perhaps the most famed Brazilian composer and his songs are definitely worth a listen.

Additionally, try the MPB band Legiao Urbana who were famous for their lyrics as is Caetano Veloso, and the polemic rebel rocker Raul Seixas.

Watch Films

Watching Brazilian films like “City of God” and “Elite Squad” will give you a good sense of how Brazilian Portuguese is spoken, including Brazilian slang.

Also, there are lots of interesting Brazilian series you can watch on paid services like Netflix and others. The acclaimed series “Invisible City” is a modern twist on Brazilian folklore.

rio-de-janeiro at sunset

Take A Class

Taking a class with a qualified and preferably native teacher will give you structure and a methodology to help you become fluent. It also keeps you on a schedule so that you work towards meeting certain milestones within a determined period of time. That basically means that it keeps you from slacking☺

Do A Language Exchange

Language exchanges can be really rewarding experiences where you have conversations with a native speaker and learn how to express yourself in casual conversations.

Your language exchange partner will be able to give you tips on your pronunciation and your grammar. In addition to learning a language, you might even make a good friend.

Travel

Perhaps the most fun and at the same time most challenging way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the culture. The fun part is that you will see up close and personal the cultural habits and sites.

You’ll listen to the music, taste the food and, yes, talk to people. You won’t have an option but to communicate with others. You will have to learn to express yourself to order food, ask where the bus stop is, talk to your Uber driver, ask for an extra pillow and every other part of your day-to-day existence while travelling.

The challenging part is sometimes you’ll be lost for words, or you won’t understand what someone is saying to you or won’t be able to make yourself understood. But more often than not, you’ll find the resources to communicate and be able to laugh a lot at your mistakes as you learn.

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What Are The Best Resources To Learn Portuguese Online?

Now that you’re ready to start learning Portuguese, these are my recommended resources to learn as quickly as possible.

Online Portuguese Course: Portuguese Uncovered

Illustration_Portuguese

Portuguese Uncovered – Learn to speak Brazilian Portuguese like a local and create your ideal life with my exciting online programme, Portuguese Uncovered, to learn Portuguese the right way, driven by the power of story! Get started now with a FREE 7-day trial!

Portuguese Books For Beginners

  • short stories in brazilian portuguese beginnerPortuguese Short Stories for Beginners – One of the best ways to improve your Portuguese and expand your vocabulary is to read Portuguese books. I’ve written a series of short stories designed especially for beginners. If you enjoy reading, you’ll love these stories, which are packed with special features to help you understand and – above all – enjoy reading Portuguese! Available on Amazon Kindle and paperback. 

Learn How To Speak Portuguese

Italki – This is my favourite website for finding teachers and affordable tutors to help practise my Portuguese. I use italki literally every day to get that all-important speaking practice that helps me stay fluent.

Master Portuguese Grammar Through Story

Portuguese Grammar Hero

Portuguese Grammar Hero – Want to master Brazilian Portuguese grammar without translating in your head or pouring over grammar books?

Discover my method for learning the essentials of Portuguese grammar the natural way through story to become a grammar hero!

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Now You’re Ready To Start Learning Portuguese!

now you're ready to start learning Portuguese
When you learn a new language, you are setting out on a remarkable journey. You’ll learn about history and culture and will challenge yourself to adopt a new way of thinking and speaking.

Becoming fluent allows you to open the door to new worlds where you can develop new friendships and relationships and expand your possibilities:

  • You’ll be able to talk with native Portuguese speakers on three continents
  • You’ll be able to understand music and films in Portuguese
  • You’ll be able to read works of literature in Portuguese
  • You’ll be able to apply for jobs that require some level of Portuguese

There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to express yourself in another language and connect with native speakers.

As you go about learning Portuguese, have lots of patience with yourself and also have lots of fun! This rich and beautiful language has much to offer to new learners.

Hopefully the tools and advice offered in this article will give you ample guidance and support as you start this new language adventure. And if you sign up for my course, Portuguese Uncovered, you will be able to do it even faster, better, and by having a ton of fun. Click here for a free 7-day trial of the course.

Boa sorte and enjoy learning Portuguese!


I hope you’ve found this post helpful!

If you have a friend learning Portuguese, please take a moment to share this post with them, it would mean a lot to me!

I know this is a long post and it’s difficult to take everything in all at once. That’s why I’ve created a special PDF version which you can download and refer to any time you need it! And if you download the PDF, I’ll send you even more tips to help you as you continue learning Portuguese.

Click here to download the PDF version of the article and receive more great language learning tips for free.

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