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Learn Portuguese Online – A Beginner’s Self-Study Guide

Learn Portuguese

Did you know that only 5% of Portuguese speakers live in Portugal? Fascinating, right?

Portuguese is a Romance language, whose history dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries as a colonial and trade empire. As a result, Portuguese is spoken in many countries—aside from Portugal—such as Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde among others. With over 250 million speakers, Portuguese is among the most spoken languages in the world.

If you already know how you want to learn Portuguese online and want to cut to the chase and read our reviews and recommendations for various Portuguese resources, you might want to check these posts:

Whether you’re traveling to a Portuguese-speaking country, want to connect with native Portuguese friends and family, have an interest in Portuguese history and culture, or you simply enjoy the language, being prepared and knowing what resources best match your needs and learning preferences is always advised.

Learn Portuguese with this self-study guide. How to learn Portuguese for Free? On your own? Best way and easiest way? How to speak Portuguese? Find out here.

How to Learn Portuguese Online On My Own

The easiest way to learn Portuguese on your own, without signing up for an in-person class or hiring a tutor, is to use an app-based course. This gives you flexibility to set your own study schedule, but it also provides a clear framework for the progression of your learning. Having a ready-made course is a lot easier than trying to put together all the fundamentals of the language from scratch on your own!

Best Way to Learn Portuguese

The best course or method can vary widely from person to person. Everyone has their own learning style and reasons for learning a foreign language.

Here we’ll pay close attention to resources to help you learn to Speak Portuguese, as this is the most common reason why people learn the language. Still, a lot of the resources in this list will also help you learn to read, write, and understand spoken Portuguese as well.

If you’re a beginner or advanced learner there will be something here for you!

Learn Portuguese Through Immersion

One great way to learn Portuguese is through immersion. Immersion means you learn by using the language instead of simply studying it.

Most Portuguese courses leave you to study the language. You’re taught grammar rules and then given a list of unrelated Portuguese words and their English translations. Then through a series of fill-in-the-blank or matching exercises, you’re supposed to use the grammar rules and try to remember the word or sentence. There’s no context for the sentences and they’re often useless when it comes time to actually talk to a real person.

An immersion-based course on the other hand will get you using Portuguese even before you know any grammar or English definitions. You’ll listen to a conversation or story and start using the phrases from there to produce your own sentences either through writing or speaking. You’re only taught grammar after you’ve had some time to produce your own phrases and use the language.

This makes it a lot easier to communicate in your target language. You won’t have to translate from English to Portuguese in your head every time you want to say something. Learning through immersion also helps you understand grammar better. As you use the language you start to pick up grammar intuitively. You might not know the finer points and exact rules, but by listening to and speaking Portuguese you’ll get a feel for what’s correct and what’s not.

Download a Portuguese Learning App

Apps are ideal for learning a foreign language on the go. They make it easy to practice Portuguese throughout the day anywhere you have your phone. There are a ton of language learning apps out there these days, so it can be hard to decide on which one you should use. Because of this Portuguese learners often suffer from shiny object syndrome. They fall prey to catchy marketing and jump from app to app thinking the next program they use will be the app to help them learn Portuguese faster. As a result, they never stick with any one app long enough to see any progress.

Listen to Portuguese Podcasts

A common problem when learning Portuguese is understanding native speakers when they speak. If you’re new to the language it can be really difficult to pick out the meaning of words and phrases even if you already know them. The average native Portuguese speaker talks fast and doesn’t make an effort to slow down or repeat themselves just because you’re learning Portuguese.

The best way to counter this problem is to listen to as much Portuguese as possible. Podcasts are perfect for this! If you’re just starting out in your language learning journey, then a podcast specifically for Portuguese learners will be a great starting point. You want to listen to a Portuguese podcast that is challenging enough to develop your listening skills, but not so advanced that you feel lost and don’t understand anything.

Watch Portuguese TV and Movies

Not all of your language learning should take place in a textbook or course. It’s important that you use Portuguese in as many different ways as possible. One of the more fun ways to practice Portuguese is to watch movies or TV shows in the language.

There are a couple of methods you can use to incorporate Portuguese media into your language-learning routine. The first is to read the plot or synopsis of the movie or show you’re about to watch. After you’re familiar with the major parts of the story, watch the movie or show without any subtitles.

This method helps you understand what’s going on in the story so that you can spend more time trying to listen and understand the Portuguese you hear. Because you know the overall context of what’s going on, you can sit back and observe what Portuguese phrases and words are used.

The downside of this method is that it spoils the plot. If you’re a film or television buff this might not be the technique for you!

The second method is to take a short scene from a film or show you’ve never seen before, and play it back a few times without subtitles. As you watch the scene, try your hardest to make sense of what’s being said. Make a note of the words and phrases you understand, and use them as clues to figure out the ones you don’t.

After that, you can play back the scene with Portuguese subtitles. It’s possible that after reading the subtitles you’ll recognize some phrases you know but weren’t able to understand. That’s completely okay. It’s a normal part of listening practice!

If you’re still stumped and can’t understand what’s being said, you can watch the clip once more with English subtitles. It’s a good idea to write down the words you didn’t understand so you can go back and review them later.

These two methods are great for learning Portuguese with movies and TV shows. Unfortunately, though it’s not always easy to find movies or shows in Portuguese with subtitles. It’s also not always easy to constantly switch between subtitles and no subtitles.

Learn Portuguese Pronunciation

While you don’t need perfect pronunciation to become fluent in Portuguese, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of developing a good Portuguese accent.

Being able to correctly pronounce Portuguese words and phrases will 1) make it easier for native speakers to understand you, 2) make it easier for you to understand native speakers, and 3) make it easier to remember new words that come up during conversations.

The good news is that anyone can learn correct Portuguese pronunciation. There’s no special talent involved, and it doesn’t matter if you were born in a Portuguese-speaking country or not. Pronunciation is simply knowing how to position your tongue and mouth while speaking Portuguese words. It’s a physical skill that anyone can learn, assuming they can listen to the sounds and get feedback when they repeat them.

Theoretically, you can use any recording of a native speaker to practice your Portuguese pronunciation. Ideally, though, you should listen to slower recordings at first so that you can focus on listening to the specific sounds of words. Even better if you find audio of a native speaker slowly pronouncing each syllable of a longer phrase before saying the phrase altogether.

Book Online Lessons with a Portuguese Tutor

Lessons with a Portuguese teacher can be a huge boon to your Portuguese learning. A teacher will be able to help you when you’re stuck. They’ll have experience teaching native English speakers and will know what parts of Portuguese will be most difficult for you. They’ll also know what techniques or resources helped their past students and they will recommend them to you as needed.

A good Portuguese teacher will also be able to help take some of the pressure off of language learning. If you’re learning Portuguese on your own, it can be hard to figure out what your next steps should be. A teacher can listen to what your language learning goals are and provide you with a roadmap for reaching them. They’ll likely have resources that you either don’t have access to or are unaware of.

Listen to Portuguese Music

No matter which language you’re learning, music is always a fun way to practice your skills and even expand your vocabulary. But with Portuguese, you have really great music to choose from. Brazil in particular has a colorful musical heritage with genres like samba, Bossa Nova, Axé, and a lot more!

One simple way you can learn Portuguese with music is by listening to a favorite song and seeing if you can understand what’s being sung. After you listen to the song a few times, read the lyrics. Look up any words you don’t know. Then sing the song to help you remember the new words.

You can also use the free site LyricsTraining lets you watch music videos in Portuguese while simultaneously quizzing you on the lyrics. As the song plays, the lyrics are shown but with some missing words and phrases. It’s your job to fill in the blanks correctly as you listen to the song.

It’s a fast and fun way to practice your Portuguese listening skills!

Easiest Way to Learn Portuguese

Besides moving to Brazil or Portugal to learn in true immersion, the easiest way to learn Portuguese for most people is to work with a class or a tutor. This gives you accountability, support, and lessons tailored to your particular learning level and skills. Of course, this does cost more than using an app or doing it all on your own!

How Long Does it Take to Learn Portuguese?

The Foreign Services Institute estimates that most English speakers need about 600 hours of serious study to gain basic fluency in Portuguese. While that may sound intense, Portuguese is actually ranked as a Category One or relatively easy language for English learners to master!

If you can study two hours every day, you will probably reach a working fluency in Portuguese within one year. This does vary based on many factors, like whether you live or work with Portuguese speakers, whether you already speak other languages and your own personal motivation.

How to Learn Portuguese for Free

The best way to learn Portuguese for free is to make use of free online resources like the PortuguesePod101 podcast mentioned in this article. YouTube also has lots of resources for a Portuguese learner, ranging from native speakers offering helpful lessons on pronunciation to movies and TV shows in Portuguese.

It is not as easy to find a reputable full course in Portuguese for free. If you want to learn on your own, you will need to piece together your own learning curriculum.  You may find good resources such as a textbook or even access to a learning program through your local public library, too.

You’ll make mistakes as you go, but that’s also part of the learning process. By incorporating these resources and strategies into your study plan and maintaining consistency, you can develop fluency and confidence in speaking Portuguese.

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