If you have always wanted to learn Portuguese, you’re nowhere near alone; millions of people study the language every day around the world. And it’s no wonder! Portuguese is a language that captures a rich culture and history. The Portuguese language can take you around the world, from South America to Europe and even to Africa.
But you might have a lot of questions about why you should learn Portuguese or what it takes to get started — or why it’s even worthwhile at all. The good news is you can rest assured that learning the Portuguese language is an effort worth undertaking. With the right tools and technology to guide you in your journey, you’ll see your efforts pay off in so many ways.
Why Learn Portuguese?
Learning any new tongue is a challenge that can open up your mind to new perspectives and help you connect with all types of people across boundaries of land and language. When it comes to learning Portuguese, these reasons are especially true.
To start, if you know the Portuguese language, you open yourself up to a whole world of Portuguese speakers that spans continental borders. There are slightly more than 250 million people on Earth who speak Portuguese to some degree, making it among the top ten most spoken languages worldwide. And it’s the official language of 10 countries and territories.
Portuguese is the main language spoken in Brazil, with more than 200 million native speakers in the country, making the language the second most spoken in South America, just behind Spanish. You can find Portuguese speakers spread around the planet, not only in Portugal and Brazil, but also in many other countries around the world, including throughout Africa, Asia and other pockets of South America, mostly a result of the Portuguese colonial and imperial legacy.
You might want to learn Portuguese for its links to other world languages. Portuguese, a Romance language, is closely related to all of the other languages in the same family, like Spanish, Italian, and French, to name a few. They all derive from Vulgar Latin, the vernacular variety spoken by the common people of the Roman Empire. That means these languages share a whole lot of cognates, or words that are spelled and sound the same and that have the same meaning across more than one language.
Whether it helps you master other Romance languages faster and more easily or it gives you a new understanding of the English you already speak, there’s no doubt that if you learn Portuguese, you’ll have a learning advantage right from the start!
Benefits Of Learning Portuguese
Picking up a new skill can help you express your creativity, stimulate your mind, and discover new sides of yourself along the way. Learning a new language like Portuguese is no exception! Here are just a few of the many ways you can make a positive impact on your life if you learn Portuguese.
- Learn Portuguese For Travel — When the spirit of adventure strikes, don’t let language barriers hold you back. When you have Portuguese in your back pocket, you have a passport to a whole new world. Learning Portuguese not only means you’ll be able to navigate new cities by reading road signs, menus, and train tickets; it also lets you connect with the new people you meet there. It’s often said that the best way to explore a new place is through the eyes of a local, and learning Portuguese lets you branch out of tourist hotspots and into the real world as the native speakers see it. Whether it’s the beaches of Brazil or the romantic streets of Lisbon, you’ll be more equipped to venture off the beaten path and explore all the Portuguese-speaking world has to offer when you have Portuguese in your linguistic repertoire.
- Live The Portuguese Language Abroad — Whether you’re looking to enroll at a foreign university and have a more alternative college experience, find a job at a hostel that lets you hit the beach by day and work at night, or retire in a place with a slower pace of life, living abroad is hands down the best hands-on approach to getting the most immersive language experience possible. By placing yourself in an environment where you’re obligated to speak Portuguese, you’ll fast-track your journey to fluency. Your life can take on new twists and turns when you move to an unfamiliar place, and there’s so much of the Portuguese-speaking world to explore. When you learn Portuguese, you open up a gateway to a robust, colorful, and novel life adventure!
- Build Your Business Portuguese Skills — Today the world is more connected economically than ever before. The sweeping tides of globalization mean that companies and organizations today are operating across international borders and boundaries. If you’re a professional looking for ways to stay competitive and current in the global market, learning Portuguese is a no-brainer for success. Western Europe and the South American continent are both emerging markets full of opportunity for businesses. Learning the Portuguese language is a fantastic way to connect with colleagues in other countries, score new clients, build strong relationships with Portuguese-speaking partners and investors, and to show off the multicultural, international, and inclusive nature of your brand.
- Use Language To Train Your Brain — Building any new skill is a surefire way to expand your intellectual horizons. Learning Portuguese is an especially sound way to keep your brain flexible and nimble, especially as you grow older. Picking up a new language involves making connections between words and what they represent, taking apart and putting together grammatical structures, spontaneously speaking and thinking on your feet, sticking with a challenge when it’s frustrating and confusing, and a whole lot of active listening. There are few better ways to exercise your mental muscles than by learning Portuguese.
- Immerse Yourself In Portuguese Culture, Unfiltered — Learning Portuguese opens you up not only to a better understanding of the language itself but also of the arts and culture of the world that speaks it. To read the literature of decorated Portuguese-speaking authors and poets like Fernando Pessoa, Almeida Garrett, Ferreira Gullar, Lygia Fagundes Telles and José Saramago is to engage with the language in some of its most beautiful and colorful expressions. Through the lens of Portuguese you get a more active immersion in more contemporary Portuguese-language media like podcasts, radio shows, audiobooks, and TV shows. The stories and recipes of world-renowned culinary creations like frango à passarinho, the dialogue of famous Portuguese films, and the lyrics of classic bossa nova songs all become accessible to you when you learn the Portuguese language. And if you’re from a family with Portuguese-speaking elders and ancestors but you don’t know the language yourself, learning Portuguese is an excellent way to connect with your heritage.
Learn Portuguese Basics: Portuguese Lesson For Beginners
Learning Portuguese Pronunciation, The Portuguese Alphabet And Portuguese Accents
Luckily, Portuguese pronunciation isn’t too confusing for non-native Portuguese speakers, especially because letters of the Portuguese alphabet typically only have one sound associated with them. Though many sounds between Portuguese and English are the same or very similar, the Portuguese language has a unique spelling system and specific pronunciations that must be learned separately from English — including nasalized vowel combinations like ão in words like mão (“hand”) and consonant clusters like nh, pronounced like the “ny” in “canyon” and found in Portuguese words like caminho (“path”), to name a few.
Don’t worry if you can’t master a typical Portuguese accent or Portuguese pronunciation right away; it takes time and practice! The best way to remember these rules is just to practice over and over, especially by reading texts out loud. Watching Portuguese or Brazilian TV and movies or listening to Portuguese-language podcasts, radio and film can certainly help you master Portuguese pronunciation and sound like a native Portuguese speaker.
Learning Portuguese vocabulary isn’t as hard as you might think. It takes time and practice, but you’ll find there are a lot of Portuguese words and phrases that are connected with expressions you already know.
As mentioned above, Portuguese is a descendant of the Vulgar Latin spoken by the common people of the Roman Empire. Though English isn’t in the same language family as Portuguese (English is a Germanic language), more than a quarter of English words come from Latin, so there’s already lots of overlap between English vocabulary and that of the Romance languages, including Portuguese. When you see the Portuguese words diferente, religioso or artista, for example, you’ll probably have no trouble guessing their English equivalents.
Basics Of Portuguese Grammar
Portuguesse Verbs And Portuguese Verb Conjugations
Verbs are key elements of any Portuguese sentence. Whenever you want to express that someone or something does some action or is something else, you need a Portuguese verb.
You can start to recognize when a word you come across is a Portuguese verb by noticing the word’s ending. Portuguese verbs end in one of three endings: -ar (like the verb cantar, “to sing”), -er (like viver, “to live”) or -ir (like partir, “to leave”). This makes it fairly easy to figure out when you’re dealing with a Portuguese verb as opposed to another type of Portuguese word, like a Portuguese noun or Portuguese adjective. However, these are only the endings for the verbs in what’s called their infinitive form — “to do,” “to be,” “to eat” or “to speak,” for example.
To be used in actual Portuguese sentences, these verbs need to be conjugated, which is a technical way of saying that each Portuguese verb requires a special ending depending on the subject of the verb (who or what is doing the action of the verb). There are many Portuguese verbs that are considered “regular” because they all follow the same consistent pattern of conjugation.
For example, for a regular verb ending in -ar, like falar (“to speak”), if the pronoun eu (“I”) is the subject, or the one doing the speaking, you drop the -ar ending from the verb and add the ending -o to the remaining verb "stem," giving eu falo, or “I speak.” For the pronoun ele (“he”), falar becomes ele fala, or “he speaks.” Each subject has its own special conjugation, or verb ending, associated with it, and this applies for all verbs, whether they end in -ar, -er, or -ir — though the conjugations are slightly different for each ending.
There are, however, many Portuguese verbs — and important ones at that — whose conjugations are irregular and must be learned and memorized separately. These verbs include ones like ir (“to go”), ver (“to see”) and ser and estar (“to be”).
Knowing how to conjugate Portuguese verbs is essential to being able to express yourself in Portuguese, and you’ll likely spend a large part of your Portuguese learning journey focusing on the grammar of Portuguese verbs. Once you master them, you’ll be well on your way to speaking Portuguese with fluency.
Portuguese Nouns And Portuguese Gender
Each Portuguese noun has a gender, meaning it’s classified as either masculine (masculino) or feminine (feminino). This doesn’t mean that every person, place, object or idea is inherently male or female; it’s just a system of grammatical categorization that exists in Portuguese and many other world languages that affects how speakers use these languages.
Often, Portuguese gender marking maps to words in ways you’d expect; la mulher (“the woman”) is a feminine noun, so it requires the singular feminine definite article a (“the”), whereas o homem (“the man”) is a masculine noun that requires the singular masculine definite article o. But sometimes these gender assignments can be pretty arbitrary; why is la cadeira (“the chair”) feminine while o sofá (“the sofa”) is masculine? A major part of learning Portuguese nouns involves memorizing their gender classifications, so it’s important to practice this concept.
When discussing Portuguese nouns, we must also talk about Portuguese adjectives. Adjectives in Portuguese, or words that describe the properties and characteristics of nouns, usually follow nouns in the sentence and must “agree” with the nouns they modify. This means that their endings must reflect the gender (masculine or feminine) and the number (singular or plural) of the noun to which they refer. An adjective like frio (“cold”) can modify a singular, masculine noun like o prato (“the dish”) to give us o prato frio (“the cold dish”). But if the noun is feminine, like a bebida (“the drink”), we get the expression a bebida fria (“the cold drink”). If the nouns are plural, the adjective endings change to reflect that, usually by adding an -s and we get expressions like os pratos frios (“the hot dishes”) and as bebidas frias (“the cold drinks”).
There are many types of Portuguese adjectives whose endings have slightly different variations from this example, but the idea is the same — Portuguese adjectives must reflect the gender and number of the nouns they’re describing.
Basic Portuguese Phrases And Portuguese Greetings
To speak like a native Portuguese speaker, there are certain must-know Portuguese phrases and expressions that will help you navigate your way through a conversation.
The best place to start, of course, is with “hello”! There are many common greetings in Portuguese to choose from, the most popular of which include Oi! in Brazil and Olá throughout all the Portuguese-speaking world. You can also choose among bom dia (literally “good day”) if it’s before noon, boa tarde (“good afternoon”) between noon and evening, and if it’s even later, boa noite (“good evening” or “good night”).
You’ll get familiar with basic Portuguese phrases like Como vai (“How are you?”) or the popular Tudo bem? (“Everything good?”), to which you can reply Tudo bem! (It’s an expression so versatile, it can even be used just to mean “Hi!”)
If you’re meeting someone for the first time, you’ll want to talk about who you are and perhaps where you’re from. To say your name, you can say Eu me chamo X, or “I call myself X.” You can also say Eu sou o/a X, or “I am X.” To find out other people’s names, you can ask Como você se chama? or Como te chamas? (literally “How do you call yourself?”).
The way to say where you come from in Portuguese is Eu sou de X (literally “I am of X”), and to ask where someone is from, you can say De onde você ê? or De onde és tu?
To say goodbye in Portuguese , a tchau! is the classic go-to, but there are plenty of other great options like Até a próxima! (“Until next time!”) and Até logo! (“See you later!”).
There are many other other useful conversational Portuguese words, phrases and expressions you’ll get to know as you learn Portuguese, from se faz favor and por favor (“please”), muito obrigado/a (“thank you very much”) and de nada (“you’re welcome”) to Onde fica X? (“Where is X?”) and Você fala inglês?, or “Do you speak English?” When you learn these Portuguese phrases and hundreds more like them, you’ll be better able to communicate with native Portuguese speakers with ease.
Ways To Learn Portuguese
There is no right answer when it comes to how to learn Portuguese — or any new language. With so many options for your language journey, it’s no surprise that choosing a learning style or method can be overwhelming!
Of the millions of people who speak and study Portuguese as a non-native language, you’ll find folks who have used all sorts of resources to learn the language, some free, some fairly cheap, and some more of a financial investment. There’s no right combination, and it’s up to you to decide which methods work best for you to learn Portuguese.
What's The Quickest And Easiest Way To Learn Portuguese?
You’ll find that the fastest and easiest way to learn Portuguese is the way that offers you the least amount of friction — so if you can’t stand shuffling through textbook pages or you get bored flipping Portuguese flashcards, you might want to stick to a method that’s more exciting or engaging. Knowing yourself is key to success. Here are just a few of the ways to learn Portuguese quickly:
- in a classroom setting or with one-on-one instruction from a Portuguese teacher or tutor
- with paid or free online Portuguese courses, classes, software or apps
- with Portuguese media resources like podcasts, playlists, books, movies and TV shows
Learning Portuguese In The Classroom
Portuguese is among the top studied languages in school systems and universities around the world. Portuguese classroom learning is the most popular option for learners in grade school or university settings. It allows more intensive, regular study with feedback from teachers who know the Portuguese language and can correct mistakes as they happen and teach content in an interactive way. Depending on how large a class is and how engaged the teacher is, learning in a classroom might be a less personalized experience, but having other students to talk to and practice with is a valuable resource for a learner of any language.
Though full-time students make up a large proportion of Portuguese classroom learners, plenty of adults enroll in Portuguese classes, too. Many cities and communities offer free or fairly cheap language classes, and you’ll be very likely to find them in popular languages like Portuguese. Though a full-time job might limit your schedule, a commitment to a once- or twice-weekly Portuguese class after work or on the weekends can really improve your Portuguese language skills in a measurable way.
Learning Portuguese With A Portuguese Tutor
Private Portuguese tutoring offers a more tailored learning experience than traditional classroom learning with many of the advantages. Having a skilled Portuguese tutor at hand who can help you perfect your pronunciation and work with you closely on the aspects of Portuguese that cause you trouble is a great way to improve your skills fast — without a teacher needing to split time and attention among multiple students. And Portuguese tutoring doesn’t have to be inconvenient at all; many sessions can and do take place over video call instead of in person.
But the often steep costs of such individualized instruction can be a barrier to many learners. Well trained master Portuguese tutors often charge high hourly rates for their lessons, so finding a top-quality, budget-friendly option can be challenging.
Software and Online Portuguese Courses
There are many top-notch, expert-designed online Portuguese courses and programs that run from reasonably priced to very expensive. They allow you to learn Portuguese on your own time and are often more interactive and engaging than many free courses and resources. Plus, many of the best products out there are constantly updated with new, fresh material, so you can get the most relevant Portuguese learning experience available.
Can You Learn Portuguese For Free?
All of the above options have one thing in common: they cost money. For those learners who want to be more conscious of their budgets or are okay to spend more time finding and working with more cost-effective content, there are still plenty of options to learn Portuguese for free or for cheap!
Free Online Portuguese Courses And Apps For Learning Portuguese
There’s no shortage of free Portuguese courses, apps and content you can find on the web and on your phone. From Portuguese grammar wikis to online forums and Portuguese classes, you’re sure to find hundreds of options that might do the trick. Some of them are better than others in the ways they’re organized and how thoroughly they explain new concepts, so take them with a grain of salt.
Be aware that the tradeoff of a free product is that it usually sacrifices quality. Much of the content that’s in free apps or that’s scattered around the web comes from user-generated translations that are rarely verified and are often inconsistent or riddled with errors. These lessons often focus on writing and reading without much of a way to improve listening and speaking skills. And be wary that free interactive Portuguese lessons like these can often be basic, poorly designed, messy, rigid, and just downright boring — not to mention littered with ads.
That’s not to say these Portuguese resources can’t be helpful! But it’s important to know how and where to fill in the gaps in your language learning journey when certain content isn’t enough.
Learning Portuguese With Native Portuguese Speakers
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who speak different native languages meet up to help each other learn, swapping roles as teacher and student. For example, if you spend one hour teaching a friend who’s a native Portuguese speaker something about English, he or she would then spend the next hour teaching Portuguese to you. This is an effective method when both people are able to commit significant time and thought to the partnership, but keep in mind that not everyone is a good teacher. Explaining why your native language works the way it does is often easier said than done; you might understand English grammar subconsciously and use it flawlessly all the time but not be able to explain to a Portuguese person or Portuguese speaker the rules that govern how you’re supposed to use that grammar.
Immersion Portuguese Learning
Portuguese immersion programs or some form of immersive Portuguese language travel are definitely the most extreme and intensive ways to learn a new language, and they’re not for everyone. (They’re also not technically free if you count airfare to a new place and all the costs of living associated with wherever you go.) But without a doubt, immersing yourself in a new culture and a place that doesn’t speak your language and surrounding yourself with native Portuguese speakers will force you to make rapid progress in Portuguese or another target language as you struggle to communicate and understand those around you.
Of course, you’ll want to start with at least a little foundation in a new language before picking up your life and plunging yourself into a completely foreign locale. Using resources like Babbel, language textbooks and Portuguese classes, and practice with Portuguese native speakers can all help you prepare before you make a big transition through Portuguese immersion.
Useful Portuguese Media To Learn Portuguese For Free Or Cheap
When you don’t have access to Portuguese classes and teachers or even native Portuguese speakers, there are still plenty of Portuguese media resources to help you get on your way to fluency in Portuguese. Most of them can be accessed for free online or from a library or found for very cheap — or even through a subscription for a streaming service like Netflix or Spotify you’re likely already paying for!
Books To Learn Portuguese
If you like to read, you’ll find a whole range of literature written in Portuguese that can help you master the Portuguese language. There are thousands of Portuguese books that make great learning resources for beginner and intermediate Portuguese learners, from short story compilations like Comédias para Se Ler na Escola* and the easy-to-follow Bear comic series to longer, more substantive reads like the more classic novels Os Maias and Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira.
Using books to learn Portuguese is a great way to sharpen your reading skills and to understand how the Portuguese language is used in a whole wide range of contexts, from historical fiction to fairy tales to personal essays to collections of short stories to nonfiction and everything in between. Reading books in Portuguese helps you move at your own pace, and you can stop to consult a Portuguese dictionary if you need extra help along the way. Keeping a language journal of unfamiliar Portuguese words and expressions helps you build your vocabulary. Plus, you can get some extra speaking and Portuguese pronunciation practice by reading the book aloud.
Learning Portuguese With Audio Lessons, Portuguese Songs And Portuguese Podcasts
There are many online Portuguese audio lessons you can find that can teach you the basics of Portuguese vocabulary and grammar without needing to look at a page or a screen. Portuguese audio lessons are great for multitasking; you can listen to them in the car or in the background of another activity, like commuting to work, cooking dinner or taking a walk in your neighborhood.
Similarly, Portuguese podcasts and Portuguese audiobooks are a great way to learn passively while you do something else that requires your visual attention. Luckily, there are lots of audio resources to pick from, and many of them are free. Portuguese podcasts like Todo Mundo Pod are great for beginners, and others like Durma Com Essa take a more in-depth look at Brazilian news and current events with Portuguese that’s more suitable for advanced learners.
And listening to Portuguese songs can be a great learning method, too. With songs, a chorus or group of lyrics is often repeated more than once, giving you plenty of opportunities to hear lyrics over and over. You can find many playlists of Portuguese songs on Spotify that are often organized by proficiency level, too, from beginner playlists to more advanced ones.
It’s important to keep in mind that to really master a language, you’ve got to do more than just listening to it; you’ll probably want to supplement audio with ways to practice writing, reading, and speaking Portuguese, too.
Learning With Portuguese TV Shows And Portuguese Movies
Watching Portuguese movies and Portuguese TV shows is an excellent way to connect with the Portuguese language in a fun, engaging format. You can find a lot of good Portugese-language content of all different genres and for all learning proficiency levels on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
When you’re watching, you can choose to display subtitles in Portuguese for some extra reading practice. Try to avoid watching media dubbed in your native language, as you won’t end up hearing any Portuguese! If the dialogue is too fast, you can pause what you’re watching to give yourself a chance to process what you’re hearing and look up and write down unfamiliar words. And when you use movies and TV series to learn Portuguese, don’t be afraid to break them up into chunks to give your brain some rest.
Learning Portuguese With Babbel
The goal of learning any language is to have real-life conversations with native speakers. So a language learning app should be designed to get you to that goal in the best way possible. It’s important to dedicate the time and effort to practicing with discipline, but outside of your own personal commitment, you’ve got to have technology that knows how to help you most effectively along the way.
Luckily, Babbel is designed by a team of language experts, educators, and designers who know all about what it takes to get the most out of learning a new language — so you are guaranteed a top-quality Portuguese learning journey that’s capable, engaging, and yes, even fun.
Here are the key ways Babbel Portuguese lessons are crafted to get you having real-life conversations in Portuguese with confidence, and all for less cost per month than your morning coffee.
The Full Spectrum Of Language Learning
Learning a foreign language is an endeavor of many dimensions. It takes a lot of skills and patience to learn how to start speaking on the spot, to write a text to a friend, or to translate dialogue you hear from a TV show in your target language.
We know how to make these elements work together to your advantage. Babbel’s lessons are interactive and cover all the aspects of learning Portuguese — reading, writing, listening, and speaking — with multimedia Portuguese content to train your ears and eyes. Our speech recognition feature even helps you hone your Portuguese pronunciation, too.
Portuguese Learning On Your Terms
One of the best parts of learning with Babbel is being able to fit lessons in seamlessly when you want them and where you want them. Our bite-size lessons take roughly between 10 and 20 minutes to complete and can be squeezed into your already busy schedule, whether you’re on your commute or waiting for a pot of water to boil as you cook dinner.
With Babbel, you can pick and choose the topics and themes that are most relevant to you. Taking a trip soon? Brush up on the Portuguese you’ll need for travel and navigating new places. Need to sharpen your Portuguese for an upcoming business meeting? Our Portuguese language courses have you covered.
The iOS and Android apps are fully integrated with the web application. And your progress is saved in the cloud and synced across all devices — so you can learn Portuguese anytime, anywhere.
Learn Portuguese — And Make Sure It Sticks
What good is committing to learning a foreign language if you’ll forget it before you even have a chance to use it? That’s why your personalized Babbel Review feature is optimized to help you retain the information you’re learning.
It takes advantage of the concept of microlearning, or bringing back information in short bursts to help you hold on to it better. You can practice writing, listening to, and speaking the Portuguese phrases, terms and expressions you’ve learned in your earlier lessons to lock them into your brain.
For Portuguese Learning, Try Babbel
We’re committed to making sure you get the most out of learning Portuguese. We offer a free first lesson in every language so you can get a feel for if Babbel works for you. And if you don’t like it, we have a 20-day money-back guarantee — no questions asked.
Try a free Portuguese lesson with Babbel and see for yourself how quickly you’ll be on your way to speaking Portuguese with confidence — like you’ve always wanted to!