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10 Tips for Learning Portuguese

Portuguese is a beautiful, Romance language spoken by almost 300 million people across the world. It is ranked 5th among world languages for the most number of native speakers and it is the official language in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal, and São Tomé and Príncipe. 

Learning Portuguese can be useful for your career (such as becoming a teacher at LatinHire!) or if you plan to visit one of the countries mentioned above. 

Check out these ten tips below to help you learn Portuguese! They can also be applied to other languages as well. 

Vocabulary and Grammar

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1) Start with basic words and accumulate vocabulary. 

As with any language, you want to start off learning the names of the most common objects as well as verbs. Walk around the house with a sticky pad and label whatever you see with its Portuguese word. Google the most common 500 Portuguese words and take some time to memorize them. These words make up a large percentage of everyday conversation. 

You can use a flashcard application that has spaced repetition to help you with remembering new vocabulary. An application like Ankidroid works great because depending on how well you know the words, it’ll test you for the same word at spaced intervals for maximal retention. 

2) Learn basic grammar with a grammar book or website.

As you’re accumulating more Portuguese words, start learning basic grammar. There are various books and websites that can walk you through the grammar and give you exercises for practice. The Practice Makes Perfect series is great as each chapter breaks down a particular grammar rule and you’re given answers at the back to all the practice problems. 

If you find a grammar rule difficult to remember, write it on a sticky note and stick it somewhere you look at often. It is recommended to use a small notebook to record vocabulary and a different notebook to take grammar notes. 

3) Learn common phrases and create your own phrases. 

Once you’ve acquired some words and understand basic grammar, start putting sentences together with all you’ve learned. Begin with simple sentences with just a subject and a verb in the present tense and then create more complex sentences with prepositions and other tenses. 

You can use a phrasebook like the Lonely Planet series to learn common phrases and questions for daily use and travel. You can also look online for simple Portuguese dialogues, and record the phrases that you think will become handy during daily conversations. 


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4) Listen to podcasts and Portuguese music. 

Listening to podcasts is a great way to train your listening skills as well as to learn something new. If you’re doing an activity that does not require active attention, you can listen to a Portuguese podcast at the same time. For example, before going to bed, while walking your dog or commuting to work!

Here are some podcasts that you can try: 

  • Beginner podcasts: Todo Mundo Pod, Portuguese Lab Podcast, PortuguesePod101
  • Intermediate podcasts: Café Brasil, SBS Portugues, Dragões de Garagem, Não Ouvo

Listening to Portuguese music is also a good way to practice your listening skills. This is a more passive activity than listening to podcasts, so you can do this throughout the day, even while you’re working or studying.

5) Rewatch series/movies you’ve already seen, but this time in Portuguese.

Rewatching series and movies in Portuguese is a great way to help you focus on language acquisition as you’re already familiar with the contexts of the movie. It is recommended to keep a small notebook open as you’re watching and record words/phrases that stand out to you or that you want to look up the meaning of. 

If you have a Netflix subscription, you can turn your binge-watching into a language learning experience with two Google Chrome Extensions. NFLXMULTISUBS is an extension that allows you to turn on subtitles of two languages at the same time and LANGUAGE LEARNING WITH NETFLIX gives you a fully translated dialogue on the side of the screen as well as auto-pause after every sentence to give you time to learn some new vocabulary/phrases before continuing with the show. 


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6) Speak speak speak as much as you can. 

Right from the get go, you should try to speak as much as you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s to other people, to yourself or even to your cat. Get used to saying words in Portuguese and try to imitate the sounds you hear from native speakers. If you notice that you don’t know the word for something, it’s the perfect opportunity to look it up and record a new word in your vocabulary notebook. 

There are various applications available on your phone to connect you to native speakers so you can practice languages together. Find people who want to practice the languages you know in exchange for practicing Portuguese. You can also find some meetup events in your area for language learning. Mundo Lingo is a great international language exchange group.


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7) Read books and articles in Portuguese.

If you are a beginner in Portuguese, start with reading children’s books. There is an application called Beelinguapp that allows you to read short stories in two languages. Once you become more advanced, you can try to read novels. Just like with rewatching movies in Portuguese that you have already seen in English, you can reread some books in Portuguese that you’ve already read in English.

If you’re not a fan of reading books, but enjoy reading the news or scrolling through social media, you can also switch to reading articles in Portuguese and following more Portuguese content on social media. 


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8) Write a daily journal in Portuguese. 

Writing a journal in Portuguese is a great way to train yourself to think in Portuguese. You can write about your day, your thoughts and things you’ve recently learned. Aside from the goal of language learning, writing a journal is also a great way to keep a record of what you do daily so you can look back on it many years later. As you’re writing, you’ll often come across thoughts and ideas that you don’t know how to express in Portuguese. This is a good time to look up new words and record them in your vocabulary notebook!

General Tips

9) Create a Portuguese environment. 

Immersion is always the most effective way to acquire a new language. However, if you don’t live in a Portuguese-speaking environment, you can create your own immersion by changing what you’re exposed to daily. The key is to consume whatever you already consume in Portuguese. For example, if you enjoy reading about travel, find travel bloggers who write in Portuguese. If you like to watch crime documentaries, watch them in Portuguese. If you can find a Portuguese version of whatever you consume in your native language, switch over! 

10) Study daily, even if just for ten minutes.

Just like going to the gym, getting started with your daily language practice is the hardest part. However, it’s crucial to keep the momentum going when you’re learning a new language because that’s how you build your foundation and your language muscles. Progress is made with little steps over a long period of time. 

Even if you only have 10 minutes a day to practice Portuguese, use that 10 minutes to review what you learned or learn some new words or phrases. Make it a goal to study for at least 10 minutes a day. By setting the bar super low, you’ll at least start the studying process and once you get started, you’ll likely continue studying for a longer time! 

We hope these 10 tips for learning Portuguese will help you on your language learning journey! If you have any other tips you’d like to share, please add them to the comments below! 

Ellier Leng
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