This article is a review of PortuguesePod101.com, an online resource for learning Portuguese through audio podcasts.
In this review, I'll take you inside the premium members area and show you the main features of the website then give you my honest assessment of the quality of the product, so you can decide whether it's right for you.
PortuguesePod101 Review: Summary
- Very substantial – tonnes of great lessons available
- Easy to use lesson format – video and audio lessons, as well as a handy mobile app
- Dialogues are too short
- Too much “lesson” content, not enough Portuguese!
- Insufficient material for higher levels
- Lots of advertising, up-selling, and cross-promoting related products when you sign up
A premium PortuguesePod101 subscription costs $180 USD per year.
PortuguesePod101 is a good, absorbing resource that beginners and intermediate learners will benefit from the most. At the higher levels, there’s a big gap in content, so you may find it’s not enough for you. The advanced lessons that do exist are good quality, though.
With their bite-sized approach to learning material, PortuguesePod is a great choice for modern learners with busy lives – especially those who struggle with motivation. That said, it’s not an ‘easier’ route and it will still take proper commitment from you.
(My top recommendation for Portuguese learners is Portuguese Uncovered, which teaches you through StoryLearning®. Click here to find out about Portuguese Uncovered as soon as it’s released!)
What Is PortuguesePod101?
PortuguesePod101 is an online subscription programme that teaches Portuguese to learners of all levels. The main focus is Brazilian Portuguese, but they do touch on European Portuguese.
Subscribers get access to a vast library of Portuguese audio and video lessons, as well as a number of other learning tools, such as Portuguese flashcards and an online English-Portuguese dictionary.
All of the content included in the premium subscription is available to access through a web browser or a mobile app. Lessons can be synched across your devices, which is handy.
A Look Inside PortuguesePod101
Lessons in PortuguesePod101 are grouped into five proficiency levels. Each level has different ‘seasons' or thematic sets of lessons, averaging about 25 lessons long (although some are longer or shorter).
This adds up to literally hundreds of Portuguese podcast lessons, which means PortuguesePod101 is a pretty substantial resource.
Having said that, with so much content to choose from, figuring out where to start is not easy!
One feature that helps is called ‘Learning Paths'. The paths simplify things, allowing you to pick lessons in a more focused direction. You can decide on specific pathways based on your current level and what you most want to learn.
For example, beginners can choose from learning paths like ‘Connecting with Portuguese-Speaking Family', ‘Living in Brazil' or ‘Top 25 Portuguese Questions You Need to Know.’
I like this idea, because it makes it easier for you to decide where to start. Not only that, but you’ll also have a clear picture of what you'll have learnt by the end of any pathway.
What's Included In Each Lesson?
Each lesson contains 3 audio tracks:
- Full Lesson Audio
- Review Track
- Dialogue Only Track
Each lesson normally follows the same format:
- Dialogue in Portuguese
- Repetition of the dialogue with a translation
- Discussion of the story and cultural insight
- Explanation of new vocabulary
- Explanation of new grammar
Once you've completed the main lesson, you can use the review and dialogue-only tracks to practice what you've learned.
With the review track, you can listen again to the new vocabulary. With the dialogue track, you can simply replay the Portuguese dialogue without listening to all of the explanations.
This is the track I recommend you focus on the most.
If reading helps give you clarity, you’ll also like the Lesson Notes at the end, which offer language tips and a deeper look at the grammar.
Let's check out some of the more advanced features of PortuguesePod101 that you get with the premium subscriptions…
The really valuable part of PortuguesePod101 is the powerful extra features supplementing each lesson.
The dialogue is in an interactive format: each line is clickable, so you can click and hear the audio at your own pace, line-by-line, and also switch the text between Portuguese and English.
This works really well and is ideal for breaking down the dialogues into smaller parts, so you can listen and read at the same time. This is great for improving listening comprehension and vocabulary.
Below that, you get a list of vocabulary from the dialogue. Again, you can click on these individual words to hear the audio (at natural speed and slowed-down) and see them in writing.
Another cool feature in PortuguesePod101 is the customizable flashcard system.
These are spaced-repetition flashcards, designed to help you memorize new words. The decks are fully-customisable and easy to set up, so you can get right into it from lesson one. Basically, you choose the vocabulary you want to learn from your lessons and save it to Flashcards, then go back later to revise.
The big downside, though, is that these flashcards only show you words in isolation. It's much more effective to learn words in context. Without that option, PortuguesePod101’s flashcards have very little practical use – which is a real pity!
All of the lesson material is also available in downloadable worksheets, in case you like to have printed copies in front of you. There's nothing unique about these – they're just PDF versions of the information on the website. Nevertheless, people like to consume information in different ways, and if you prefer printed lessons in your hands, it's good to have.
You also have the option of downloading the podcasts. This might appeal to you when there’s no choice but to work offline. The one downside to this is not being able to use the interactive element, and that’s the best part.
Bonuses For Beginners
In addition to the lessons, you’ll find a few extra resources for beginners that add value for people learning Portuguese for the first time.
When you're just starting out, it’s a little overwhelming until you have a solid grasp of the basics: grammar rules, pronunciation, spelling… These things are important to get right, so it’s not practical to try and piece it all together from various websites. Here, you can get it all in one place:
- Overviews of the language
- A Guide to Portuguese Pronunciation
- 2000 Most Common Words
- Key Portuguese Phrases
- Portuguese Vocabulary Lists
All the vocab lists come with audios and a voice recorder, so they’re good for pronunciation practice.
There’s a very brief ‘Portuguese Grammar’ guide here, but it’s all written in English and to be frank, has no useful information whatsoever. You’ll find individual grammar notes at the end of many lessons, though.
Other Notable Features
A couple of other cool features include a quiz function, which gives you vocabulary and writing tests based on language from the lessons, and an online dictionary Portuguese-English / English-Portuguese dictionary.
This handy little audio dictionary is accessible from the search bar on your dashboard, and it contains all of the language from the lessons.
The quiz is pretty basic, to be honest. It asks very few questions and they’re too easy to really test your knowledge.
PortuguesePod101 Review: What I Like
There are quite a few things I really like about PortuguesePod101…
- It's a very substantial resource. There are lots of lessons at all levels and the library is updated regularly with new material. Beginners, in particular, will benefit from the wide range of material on offer.
- The course is well-designed. It's certainly not easy to select and produce graded material for an entire language course, but the content is impressive. Grammar points, pronunciation and vocabulary are repeated through the levels, which helps to reinforce what you've learnt.
- The line-by-line clickable dialogues with audio, transcription and translation are AWESOME. Without a doubt, this is PortuguesePod’s strongest point.
- The podcast lessons are short and entertaining, with very likeable presenters who get to the point quickly. If you’re someone who needs a bit of a push to get going, you’ll probably find these appealing.
- The difficulty levels are just right. Once you figure out your current level and get started, you'll find that the progression from level to level is logical. Early lessons are mostly in English, and advanced lessons are mostly Portuguese.
- Vocabulary is well-selected and the dialogues are based on real-life situations, with loads of cultural input. This means the lessons teach useful, practical language (the kind of Portuguese that's actually spoken by native speakers.) Most of the lessons are in Brazilian Portuguese, but there’s a 25-lesson European Portuguese vocab series.
- Pronunciation videos are good. The video presenters pay attention to detail, and there are other infographic videos clearly demonstrating how to get your mouth around the sounds.This is a great help, as it’s a language where pronunciation is quite important.
- The grammar sections at the end of each lesson are really thorough, which is useful.
- The handy mobile app makes it possible to listen to episodes easily if you’re on the go. You can even use the line-by-line audio feature on your smartphone.
PortuguesePod101 Review: What I Don't Like
On the other hand, there are also quite a few things I don’t like about PortuguesePod101:
- There’s too little variety of lesson types at the high levels. The audio blogs give wonderful insight into Brazil’s rich culture, but this is the only kind of Advanced lesson you get. There are no opportunities at all to practice speaking Portuguese, and by this stage, that’s a vital need. The same is true of writing exercises – they don’t exist.
- The podcasts use too much English and not enough Portuguese. This might help absolute beginners, but gets frustrating as soon as your understanding grows. If you’re like me, by the intermediate stage you’ll be craving higher-level language you can really get swept up in. Even though the presenters are great and you hear lots of interesting facts about Brazilian culture, it’s all in English! It would be so much more exciting (and challenging) to hear these stories in Portuguese.
- There’s too much advertising, up-selling, and cross-promoting related products (by way of emails, on-site banners etc) even after you sign up, which gets irritating when you've already paid for the product – not great for the user experience.
- The resources are, at times, not very cared for, which is a bit disappointing for something you pay good money for. The information across the different study tools is not always consistent. For example, some words in the database don't come with audio recordings, and the dictionary needs attention – so many words and phrases are repeated multiple times. You also don’t know what you’re getting with a lesson until you start it… Some don’t have dialogue tracks, while others don’t have vocabulary lists. There are podcasts that need English editing, too. None of this is a deal-breaker, but it does leave you feeling a bit neglected!
- The vocabulary lists and flashcards work with single words out of context, which is a huge missed opportunity. It's so much more effective to learn words in context – as regular readers have heard me say often! Although you hear words in context in the Portuguese dialogues (and there are often sample phrases in the flashcard programme) it just isn’t enough for effective learning. I'm a big believer in keeping words in full sentences at all times, especially when revising.
- Lots of teaching, not much immersion. One issue I have with lessons is that you’re so busy “learning” stuff, that you never quite switch over to thinking in Portuguese. I mean, you spend around 15 minutes listening to a podcast, but only hear about 30 seconds-ish of sustained listening to Portuguese – the dialogue bit. The rest is teaching explanations of grammar and vocabulary. It isn’t that the teaching isn't useful or good quality, it's just that you need daily immersion in Portuguese if you actually want to learn the language! They get this right at the advanced level only. I would love there to be more material for extensive listening, so you can just ‘feel it’ and enjoy the lyrical sounds of Brazilian Portuguese.
- Vocabulary lists from the lessons don't always contain all the useful words from the dialogues. It's often the case in the lessons that you want to know what a word means, but it's not in the vocab list. You can look it up in the dictionary that comes with the website (and from there, export those words to flashcard decks), but it's unnecessary and interrupts the user experience.
How Much Does PortuguesePod 101 Cost & Is It Worth It?
PortuguesePod101 works on a freemium model, meaning it's free to create a basic lifetime account and use some of the earliest lessons. To experience the best content and special features, however, you'll need to pay for a subscription.
There are various different subscriber options and as you might expect, the longer you subscribe for, the cheaper the deal. The prices are quite reasonable, in my opinion.
If you take a one-year premium subscription as our baseline – this costs $180. That's a lot more than the price of a language book, but substantially less than other commercial products like Rosetta Stone ($399) or Pimsleur ($345 for 30 lessons), for example.
Overall, I think PortuguesePod101.com is a substantial and well-made resource for learning Portuguese that's easy to consume. And, despite my issues with the teaching format, I think you'll find it useful if you decide to sign up.
However, if you're looking for a comprehensive beginner programme that will take you all the way to the intermediate level in Portuguese and that uses a much more fun, engaging and effective method, then I've got something that might suit you better…
Portuguese Uncovered: A Better Alternative To PortuguesePod101
While PortuguesePod101 is reasonably well-structured and has lots of lesson content, it's not the most fun Portuguese programme.
That's where Portuguese Uncovered is different.
Portuguese Uncovered is a comprehensive online beginner course that takes you from a complete beginner in Portuguese up to an intermediate level. And it's fuelled by a fun and unique method called StoryLearning®.
StoryLearning is a process that was invented to teach you languages naturally. It’s so natural, in fact, that it’s based on how human beings learn their native language.
In the course, you'll learn through an exciting original story in Portuguese, written especially for beginner learners.
Even though you learn through story, you have a native Brazilian teacher and experienced language learner at your side, all the way through the course, giving explanations in English and tips to learn the material fast.
Uncovered teaches all of the key aspects of the language: reading, listening, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and speaking. So by the time you've finished, you'll be a confident intermediate level Portuguese speaker, ready to go out and actually use your Portuguese in the real world!
What You Get With Uncovered
- Complete 20-module course to learn to speak Portuguese with confidence through StoryLearning™. This is a method that relies on your brain's natural way of learning.
- 60+ video lessons with your experienced Portuguese teacher. You'll learn with the same method that's attracted worldwide attention, from the BBC, Independent, Open University, European Commission, El País, and more!
- Learn the secrets I used to learn 8 languages and how to use them yourself to learn to speak with confidence & take part fully in conversations with native speakers.
- Fully downloadable programme so you can learn faster – anywhere, any time, and on any device… even without an internet connection!
- Complete learning material, including audiobook, translations, printable worksheets… everything you need to get started and find success with your language learning!
- Expert pronunciation training videos, so you can perfect your pronunciation and speak like a native from the start.
- Money-back guarantee, so you can buy without risk today, and get a full refund if you don't love it.
If you're determined to learn Portuguese and looking for the most fun and effective Portuguese course around, I'm confident you'll love Uncovered!
Ready to start? Click here to find out more about Portuguese Uncovered as soon as it's released.