Progressive Portuguese lessons from the beginner to advanced level
I had no preconceptions of what PortuguesePod101 would be like before giving it a go. Having only previously used Memrise and Duolingo to learn Portuguese, I was pleasantly surprised at all the platform had to offer.
Although the layout could be improved, the content was really useful and the presenters clearly explained grammar points, the vocabulary used and the cultural context of Brazil. They chat together in a really nice way which makes it entertaining to listen to them!
It’s a really good resource for beginner and intermediate learners who are looking to improve their knowledge and understanding of Portuguese. There is a huge range of content on the platform which is fun and interesting to explore.
The gradual progression from beginner to intermediate to advanced was well done and well-thought-out although writing and speaking Portuguese was largely neglected throughout the lessons.
The beginner lessons focus more on grammar, and advanced levels include lots of information about Brazilian culture
On the PortuguesePod101 platform, there is a huge database of audio and video lessons which cater to absolute beginners looking to learn their first words in Portuguese, right up to advanced students hoping to improve their reading and listening fluency.
The beginner lessons are mainly in English with a couple of Portuguese words sprinkled in while the advanced lessons are entirely in Portuguese. The beginner lessons are around 5-8 minutes long while the intermediate podcasts are usually around 10-15 minutes in length with the advanced lessons being around 3-4 minutes each.
There are lots of different audio lessons available at each learning level and they certainly do cover an incredible range of topics and scenarios that you are likely to encounter if you visit Brazil.
The beginner and intermediate levels focus a lot on grammar while the advanced lessons offer an in-depth exploration of different parts of Brazilian history and culture.
While you can learn a lot about Brazilian culture from PortuguesePod101, no resource is as good as Semantica for learning about the culture.
Apart from that, the structure of the lessons does not vary much, if at all, as they usually always follow the same format.
At the beginning levels, you are introduced in the video to different words and phrases which you can follow using the video transcripts and the vocabulary and grammar notes which accompany each lesson.
You can also take a quiz to see if you remember the content and how to spell words. This is almost exactly the same as in the intermediate lessons, though here more Portuguese is used during the conversations.
What is useful is that there are a huge number of vocabulary lists you can access on the platform which have already been created around a certain topic such as ‘Christmas’ or ‘Encouraging phrases’ for example.
They are very useful and it is worth exploring the extensive list. These are not just individual words but also useful phrases.
Another great feature is that below each audio lesson, you will find a list of the vocabulary used. If you are struggling to remember some of the words or find some of them particularly useful, you can simply add them to one of your ‘word banks’ where you can then memorize them later on.
This feature is not a part of the Basic subscription plan, only the Premium and Premium Plus plans.
Signing up is quick and easy but they’ll spam your inbox
PortuguesePod101 proudly tells you that it only takes 7 seconds to sign up for a lifetime account and it definitely is very quick to get started with learning Portuguese.
What I didn’t like though is that you are immediately advised to sign up for a ‘one-off incredible unbeatable offer’ without even having tried any of the features.
You’ll also constantly see links to the different plans as you explore the platform further. Ignoring that however you select your level and from then on it’s quite simple to follow the lessons, one after the other.
The early beginner lessons often focus on small parts of Portuguese pronunciation and grammar such as how to use ‘Where?’, ‘What?’, ‘When?’ and ‘Why?’ for example.
Click on the play button and the music begins – you’re ready to start learning!
The presenters introduce the topic and the video highlights the phrases or words you’re learning with the English translation accompanying it.
Attached to each lesson, are further resources which will help you master the topic you’re working on.
There is a list of the vocabulary used, lesson notes on any grammar points explored and a lesson transcript which helps you to follow the dialogue in the video.
There is also a small quiz on each lesson where you can practice writing the words and memorizing their meanings.
If you explore the vocabulary list of each lesson you will see that every new word has its translation next to it. They also usually give a couple of example sentences of how it is normally used. I found this to be a really helpful feature. They go into a lot of detail throughout the platform and that is what makes it such a well put together and valuable resource.
At the bottom of each lesson is a comment section where the teachers always kindly answer any queries that students may have.
The number of students commenting slowly diminishes the further you progress through the levels!
I’m not sure though if that is an indication of more advanced learners turning to other resources to continue their language learning.
If you find that the beginner level is too easy for you, you can instead select a higher language level. Although it should be simple, I often struggled to figure out where to go on the platform.
After a couple of days, my Dashboard was a convoluted mess of various ‘pathways’ and lessons I had selected at one time or another.
It’s not a very slick or attractive interface and a big banner seems to always remain at the top of the page, advertising their premium plan. I also received quite a lot of emails from them encouraging me to sign up.
In contrast to the PortuguesePod101 website on both the PC and mobile phone, the app was better and easier to use.
Audio lessons with lots of extra tools
After working your way through the beginner level, you will find that the intermediate lessons consistently follow pretty much the same format.
Whereas the beginner lessons each look at particular words or phrases around a topic, the intermediate ones focus on a dialogue that helps to flesh out the grammar and subject in a bit more depth.
The presenters introduce the topic and setting before you hear the dialogue play at a normal speed. After that, the dialogue is played exaggeratedly slowly so you can clearly follow the pronunciation of each word.
It was hilarious to hear the first time but also proved to be very useful!
They then go through and translate the dialogue line by line before discussing any grammar points, vocabulary used and the cultural setting of the dialogue. The lesson concludes with the audio being played one final time.
A number of very useful resources accompany each lesson:
- a list of vocabulary
- an in-depth look at the grammar used (with further examples of how the grammar can be used in other situations)
- a lesson transcript and a PDF you can download encompassing all that was included in the lesson
- A short quiz
The early intermediate lessons use a lot of English while the later ones transition more and more into Portuguese.
I thought that was a good feature as the advanced levels would otherwise come as a bit of a shock! Here, you listen to around three minutes of quickly spoken Portuguese.
PDFs are again attached so you can easily follow the audio. In these later lessons, a translation of any new vocabulary is available but grammar is no longer explored and from what I could see, it is mainly Portuguese text present in the PDF.
The intermediate and advanced levels are very successful at immersing the learner in Brazilian culture and they really do prepare you for all situations.
You will find information on anything and everything ranging from how renting works, to setting up a bank account and ordering office supplies!
The advanced lessons are often about one particular aspect of Brazilian culture and they also explore different parts of Brazilian history. While I think the culture notes are well-made, no resource will expose you to Brazilian culture as well as Semantica does.
On top of the lessons, there are a huge number of vocabulary lists that you can access.
These focus on a plethora of topics and you can learn lots of useful words and phrases that relate to all aspects of life in Brazil. It is very simple to add words from around the platform to ‘word banks’ which you can easily create. This too is a great feature.
As aforementioned, one thing I did not really like was the layout of the website/app and my Dashboard is now a mess of the all the different parts of the platform that I explored.
One good aspect though is that the audio of the lessons continues playing even when you’re looking through the lesson notes or following the dialogue through the PDF.
If you pause the app on your phone, I found that receiving WhatsApp messages bizarrely triggers the lesson to start playing again. It sometimes came as a surprise to me when Portuguese would randomly start playing from across the room.
A lot of the content on PortuguesePod101 follows the same format and I imagine that if you paid for a two-year plan, it would eventually become a bit tedious.
New content is regularly uploaded but, although useful, it does not divert at all from the norm.
There is also a ‘Bonus’ level on the platform and, if you click on it, there are a few other options you can explore.
The ‘Inner Circle’ and ‘News’ features are helpful if you want study tips but there is nothing related to Portuguese per se. Here, the only useful part is the ‘Portuguese Vocab Builder’ which again offers a huge range of vocabulary lists for you to explore.
The audio lessons here are simply Portuguese words read out, with the English translation following on.
All in all, the lessons offer a fantastic range of content.
You will definitely improve your reading, listening and comprehension skills as well as further your understanding and knowledge of Portuguese grammar and of Brazilian culture itself.
The lessons certainly progress in terms of difficulty and are well-thought out in terms of content, grammar and what you are meant to achieve from them.
On Memrise and Duolingo, for example, you do learn vocabulary but in a disconnected manner and there is nowhere near the same emphasis placed on grammar as with PortuguesePod101.
A consistent problem though is that writing plays only a small part in all of the lessons.
There is also no way to connect with other students and speaking only features if you pay for the Premium Plus plan.
I’d suggest students visit italki both for writing and speaking practice. There is a notebooks section where you can, for free, submit writing samples and get feedback from Native Portuguese speakers.
In addition, you’ll find tons of people interested in language exchanges, and lots of teachers offering lessons, often for less than $10/hour.
That being said, I do think the range of content on PortugesPod101 is very useful and well worth exploring.
The prices vary significantly depending on the plan and duration
Basic subscribers get access to all of the lessons, PDF lesson notes, 100 core words, Portuguese key phrases, a dictionary and all of the vocabulary lists.
For Premium subscribers, you gain access to the review quizzes and the flashcards and word banks I mentioned above.
You can also customize them which is useful and build different lists of what you would like to improve on. There are lots of premade flashcard decks addressing a diverse range of topics so it is very easy to start learning about a particular subject straight away.
Subscribers can also access a list of the 2000 most common words in Portuguese and the very useful line-by-line audio dialogue feature. You also unlock a grammar bank database, a vocabulary sideshow, and a Portuguese audio dictionary.
Premium Plus subscribers get all of the premium features plus a personalized learning curriculum and 1-on-1 access to a teacher. They also get an ‘ongoing professional assessment’ and receive different weekly assignments. I’m not entirely sure though what those actually entail…
Each of the subscription plans is cheaper if you sign up for two-years straightaway.
The Basic plan is, therefore, $4/month rising up to $8 if you pay month by month.
The Premium plan is $10/month if you sign up for the two years and $25 if you pay a month at a time.
The Premium Plus plan is $23/month if you subscribe for the two years and $47 if you pay month by month.
There are also three, six and 12-month plans with varying costs available.
Which plan offers the best value?
I would say that the Basic plan is definitely good value for a beginner or intermediate learner and, for only $8/month, you would certainly improve your knowledge, understanding and use of Portuguese grammar and vocabulary.
You would also further your comprehension of spoken Portuguese and gain lots of insights into Brazilian culture.
The way the presenters delve into grammar and the vocabulary used is very helpful. The production quality, the lesson notes and vocabulary lists also all make this a really good option.
The Premium Plan is also not a bad option considering the extra features you unlock.
I don’t think they are absolutely necessary to help you learn the material but I can definitely see some people finding them to be very useful.
You ultimately have access to all the lessons anyway with the Basic plan so the Premium one just affords you a couple more ways to engage with them.
For the amount it costs, I think there are better options out there then paying $47/month for the Premium Plus plan. Advanced learners will appreciate the resources on PortuguesePod101 but it would be much cheaper to find a tutor yourself from italki.
For all the subscriptions plans, I do think it would be better to use PortuguesePod101 in tandem with another resource that enables you to practice writing and speaking in Portuguese.
I was very impressed with what PortuguesePod101 had to offer and found the content to be very useful and informative. I really liked the emphasis they placed on the grammar and each lesson did set out to teach you something – it didn’t seem like there was any filler material.
They explored a lot of different subjects and the progression in difficulty from beginner to advanced was clear to see. They also teach you a lot about Brazilian culture which I thought was great. However, no resource can really compare with Semantica when it comes to teaching you about Brazilian culture.
The only downside for me was that the user-friendliness could be improved as it was annoying constantly getting lost.
There could also have been a bit more variation in how the lessons were structured and possibly a feature where you can engage with other students.
I think it is a great platform for beginners and intermediates interested in learning Portuguese.
You would probably want to complement PortuguesePod101 with another resource, however, to improve your writing and speaking skills.
While there is quite a lot of material for advanced students, I’m not sure if the Premium Plus plan is the best value around.
The Basic and Premium plans at $4/month and $10/month respectively (if you do sign up for two years!) definitely do give you a lot of return for your money.
It is worth signing up for the one-week free trial to see how you find the lessons, whether the learning method works well for you and ultimately if you think any of the subscription plans available suit your learning goals.