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10 Tips for Learning European Portuguese
I started learning Portuguese 6 years ago at the ripe old age of 37. My lack of foreign language proficiency started at school. I found myself in a new school where the students had been studying French for over a year. My old school had yet to start language learning. I sat in the class completely confused by everything the teacher said. Disheartened and shy, I found myself completely unable to catch up.
Despite my initial bad experience in language learning, I grew up desperately wanting to learn a foreign language. I was fascinated by the multitude of tongues, the unusual sounds and rhythms. I flirted with Spanish, Romany, Japanese and Irish but nothing captured my attention. It wasn't until I heard Portuguese that I knew it was my language. Suddenly I knew I could learn a language.
This brings me to the first important point when studying a language:-
Learning a language takes dedication and time. Without motivation to succeed, it is likely that your patience will falter as well as your confidence. There can be many reasons why you might want to learn Portuguese such as:-
You love the culture and plan to visit regularly
You want to understand the lyrics in Fado music
You're planning to move to Portugal
You need to spend time in Portugal on business
You want to read some of the great Portuguese literature
Your partner is Portuguese (I can personally attest that love is a great motivation!).
My journey with Portuguese began by falling in love - not only with someone from Portugal but with the country itself, the people and the culture. The language to me sounds like music, rich and expressive. Learning Portuguese helps me to think differently, to make new connections in my native English tongue.
My first tip is simply to listen to Portuguese as much as possible. Initially a new language often sounds like a string of jumbled noise. You cannot hear where one word begins and another starts. After a while though, you will notice how certain words repeat and you start to build up a feel of what these words might mean. For example the words hello (olá), goodbye (adeus) and thank you (obrigada/obrigado) might jump out at you. The purpose of listening is to tune your ear to the sounds of the language.
I discovered one of the best ways was to listen to Portuguese radio online whilst I was busy doing something else on the computer. If you go to RTP's website you'll find links to the online stations. Go to Radio at the top of the page then click 'Direito' to listen. I listen to Antena 3 as it has a good mix of popular and traditional music.
Another really useful way to tune in to Portuguese is to watch Portuguese television. If you click on 'TV' then 'programs em direito' you can watch some of the programmes shown on Portuguese television. News items are very useful as you will perhaps have some idea of what is being discussed from seeing the news already in your own native language.
Start learning some basic words and phrases. You can find plenty of resources online to learn these. Whichever resources you use, it is best to always listen to a native speaker. The BBC website has a great beginner section for learning Portuguese called 'Talk Portuguese'
Join Lingq.com. There are various grades of membership from free to paid. After being a free member for some months I eventually became a paid member. You will find a multitude of resources for learning Portuguese (and many other languages) from native speaker sound files to flashcards, to a library of written material. I cannot recommend this site highly enough.
Change all your social media sites into Portuguese. This is a very quick way to learn certain words and phrases without even trying. On Facebook for example, just scroll down to the bottom of the right hand corner beside the chat function and click on the little world button. This will bring up a list of languages. Choose European Portuguese and away you go. You will soon find that you know the word 'gosto' (I like)! If you get stuck and need to use Facebook help, you can always change back to English for a few minutes. I also recommend changing your mobile phone into Portuguese if it gives you the option.
- Television and Radio in Portugal
- Portuguese English dictionary | translation Portuguese English | Collins
- BBC - Languages - Portuguese - Talk Portuguese - A video introduction to Portuguese
BBC Languages - Learn Portuguese in your own time and have fun with Talk Portuguese. Learn Portuguese with BBC Languages. Talk Portuguese is a free online video course for beginners. Portuguese phrases with audio, quizzes, video clips, handy grammar
- LingQ - The future of language learning
Dramatically increase your vocabulary so you're comfortable & confident in any situation. Get help from a personal tutor. Study online 24/7 and meet people from around the world.
Listen to Portuguese music. Fado music and music derived from Fado is still very popular in Portugal. there is of course modern pop sung in Portuguese as well. Some of the artists to try are Mariza, Cristina Branco, Jorge Palma, Madredeus, Oquestrada, Deolinda, Dulce Pontes, Humanos and Ana Laíns. It's a great test of your language skills to learn to sing in Portuguese. If you are looking for lyrics online type in 'letras' along with the band name in Google and you should be able to find them, especially with the more popular artists like Madredeus and Mariza. Read the lyrics as the singer sings them, you will soon start to recognise the words even if you don't yet understand their meaning.
Read a book in Portuguese. It is often possible to purchase popular books such as Harry Potter from your local bookseller in Portuguese as well as in English. Buy a copy of your chosen book in each language. Start by reading the Portuguese book. Maybe you will understand nothing at all initially. Write down a list of words you don't understand (or if you prefer, mark them with a highlighter pen). Then refer to the English version. This is painstaking work initially but you will soon find that maybe after a chapter or two, you are highlighting fewer and fewer words. At this stage you are also absorbing the structure of sentences in Portuguese. Have a good dictionary alongside to check words you don't understand.
Purchase a good 'learn Portuguese' book. There are plenty of books out there. I probably have most of them but one I have found very useful is Hugo's Portuguese in Three Months. It contains plenty of simple explanations and is not too overwhelming.
Record yourself speaking in Portuguese. I would recommend finding snippets of speech online and copy what the person is saying. By comparing your speech to the original native speaker, you will hear the similarities and differences. It is very important to try to produce the sounds correctly else you risk not being understood.
Find a Portuguese class. I took a class in Portuguese at my local adult education college and found it very helpful. A structured class can be very useful to learn vocabulary and grammatical structure. It also provides a safe platform to perfect your spoken skills and connect you to other people who are also learning.
Start using your Portuguese! Often people are shy about using their new found language skill but I encourage you to use it at every opportunity. I have purposefully located little shops, market stalls and restaurants that are run by Portuguese people in my local city so that I can go and try out my skills. You might make a mistake, you may feel silly but until you try you won't know if you can do it. You will be surprised at how often what you say is met with a delighted smile. You can also perhaps find or even set-up a local meetup group for Portuguese speakers and those interested in learning the language.
If you continue to listen and study every day, you will find that you quickly begin to recognise words and phrases until you reach a point where you are no longer translating it your head. Suddenly those words become a natural part of your vocabulary. Occasionally if you study intensely you might find you dream in Portuguese. I have also sometimes found that I 'slip-up' in English and find myself thinking of a Portuguese word before the English word. This is a normal part of the process and shows that you are starting to fully absorb the language.
Don't be put off if you are an adult learner and have never learned another language. Portuguese is a beautiful and it is entirely possible to learn. I love the feeling I get when I realise I have understood my Portuguese friends, when I sing a Portuguese song, when I can make myself understood.
Enjoy learning Portuguese and Boa Sorte (Good Luck)!