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PORTUGUESE LESSONS

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Portuguese Language Guide

Learning a new language does not only mean expanding your social circle or gaining new job opportunities: it expands the limits of your world. If you decide to learn Portuguese today, for example, you’ll be able to interact with over 250 million people who live all over the planet!

Why learn Portuguese today, then? First, because knowing a second language will broaden your professional horizons. Brazil is becoming an economic powerhouse, which means that learning Portuguese is essential if you plan to take your business to Brazil or partner with companies based in this South American country.

Plus, fluency in Portuguese will enable you to dive deep into the Brazilian, Portuguese, Angolan, and other Portuguese-speaking cultures. Needless to say, you’ll also enjoy your trips to Portugal, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Brazil, and even Macau to the fullest! While English and Portuguese have different grammar and pronunciation systems, they share a lot of aspects, such as the Latin alphabet, many sounds and tone groups, and vocabulary such as piranha or zebra!

So, if you have decided to take the leap and start learning Portuguese, we are sure the following language guide will help you acquire the language in a comprehensive way. Let’s go!

How Many People Speak Portuguese and Where Is it Spoken?

The Portuguese language is a Romance language (same as Spanish, Italian, or French) that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and, over time, extended all over the world. Today, it’s the official language of many countries, such as:

Brazil
Portugal
Angola
Cape Verde
East Timor
Equatorial Guinea
Guinea Bissau
Macau
Mozambique
Sao Tomé and Príncipe

All these native speakers amount to more than 220 million people, while there are more than 50 million second-language speakers scattered around the world. And most of these native speakers use different types of Portuguese. For example, if you want to learn Portuguese from Brazil, you’ll soon realize it is strikingly different from the European accent, especially in vocabulary and pronunciation. Plus, instead of using the pronoun “tu”, they use “voçe”, which changes the conjugation of verbs.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Portuguese dialects, we suggest that you read the following articles:

Learn the Basics of Portuguese: The Grammar System

The Portuguese grammar system has many features that do not exist in English. While this makes the system hard to grasp and use for those who don’t speak a Romance language, it’s not an impossible endeavor! Let’s break down the most essential Portuguese grammar rules below!

Portuguese Nouns & Adjectives

Portuguese is a gendered language. This means that nouns and adjectives have either a masculine or a feminine gender which is completely arbitrary. For example, a tree is feminine (uma árvore) while the human nose is masculine (um nariz). Most nouns ending in -a or -ção, such as filha (daughter) or comunicação (television) are feminine, while those that end in -o or -or are masculine, like bonito (nice) or ator (actor). However, there's no fixed rule to learn the gender of nouns. Polish up your flashcards and study them by heart!

As regards adjectives, they agree in gender and number with the noun they modify. So, if you want to say that the tree is beautiful, you would say a árvore é linda but an apartment would be o apartamento é lindo. Plus, as you may have noticed already, adjectives always come after the noun and not before. Take a look at the following examples:

Um gato preto.

A black cat.

Um mundo maravilhoso.

A wonderful world.

Uma viagem incrível.

An amazing journey.

Portuguese Verbs

Now comes the most difficult part of learning Portuguese: verb conjugation. Romance languages typically have many more verb conjugations than English. In the case of Portuguese, verbs have two parts: the stem and the ending. For instance, amar (to love) is divided like this:

Stem: am
Ending: -ar

The ending is the part that will change in most cases when conjugating the verb. For example, have a look at the simple present conjugations of amar in the following table (European Portuguese conjugation).

Pronoun Portuguese verb English verb
Eu (I) Amo Love
You (tu) Amas Love
He/she/you (ele/ela/voçe) Ama Loves
Nós (we) Amamos Love
You (voçes) Amais Love
They (eles/elas) Amam Love

As you can see, verb conjugations in Portuguese are many more than the ones we use in English. There are 10 indicative mood tenses (presente, pretérito perfeito, perfeito composto, pretérito imperfeito, pretérito mais-que-perfeito, mais-que-perfeito composto, futuro do presente, do presente composto, futuro do pretérito, and do pretérito composto) while the subjunctive mood has 6 tenses and the imperative mood has 2.

Plus, most Portuguese verbs are regular and end in -ar, -er, or -ir and are conjugated according to certain formulas. Compare the conjugation of the verb falar (speak) to the above conjugation of amar and you’ll notice a lot of similarities!

Pronoun Amar Falar
Eu (I) Amo Falo
You (tú) Amas Falas
He/she (ele/ela) Ama Fala
Nós (we) Amamos Falamos
You (voçes) Amais Falais
They (eles/elas) Amam Falam

So, for these regular verbs, you’ll only need to learn the formulas for each tense and soon you’ll master the conjugations. And if you need help, you can always use free verb conjugators like Conjugator Reverso to polish up your skills. Also, there are many websites where you can practice:

  • PracticePortuguese is a great website to learn Portuguese from Portugal, with hundreds of exercises to conjugate verbs, identify nouns, and practice noun-adjective agreement.
  • Verbos Portugueses has fill-in-the-blanks exercises for beginner and advanced-level students.
  • Conjuguemos is also an excellent tool to put your skills into use and learn regular and irregular verbs in Portuguese.
  • Listening Practice is a great resource to learn not only spelling but also the pronunciation of verbs in Brazilian and European Portuguese.

The Portuguese Definite Article

The Portuguese definite articles are not as easy as the English ones, unfortunately! There are 4 definite articles (a, as, o, os) and they have to agree with the noun in gender and number, as depicted by the image:

O apartamento alto

The tall apartment

Os leões

The lions

A árvore

The tree

As meninas

The girls

Spelling and Accents

Portuguese uses special characters and diacritics, so words like coleção may seem very strange for an English speaker. But don’t worry, with practice you’ll soon master Portuguese spelling correctly.

Let’s start with diacritics. These are 5 and have specific rules on when to use them:

  1. The acute accent (á) as in árvore (tree) shows that the vowel is stressed.
  2. The circumflex accent (â) also shows that the vowel is stressed and it gives it a low quality, as in ônibus or avô.
  3. The tilde (ã) shows that the vowel is nasal, as in nação (nation) or irmã (sister)
  4. The grave (à) shows a contraction of two consecutive vowels such as a + aquela = àquela. It does not indicate stress, so it’s only relevant in writing.
  5. The cedilla (ç) as in cabeça (head) or abraço (hug) is pronounced like an “s” as in sister.

Learn the Portuguese Pronunciation System

Luckily, many Portuguese sounds are exactly like the English ones. For example, the c in cultura is pronounced like a “k” while the c in centro is pronounced like an “s”. But there are many other sounds that are pronounced differently or do not even exist in English. The following table outlines all of them:

Letters When? Portuguese example English approximation
R/ RR Word beginning / middle of the word Resolver / Correto Doesn’t exist. It’s a guttural R that also exists in French & German.
NH Canhão Similar to canyon.
LH To turn the page. Ilha Brilliant
X Word beginning or after diphthong Xampu/ caixa She
Middle of the word Taxi Taxi

Learn Portuguese Skills

Looking to take your Portuguese skills to the next level using motivating, real-life materials? Take a look at the following resources we have compiled for you!

Learn Portuguese Reading

Learn Portuguese Listening

Tools & Apps to Learn Portuguese for Free

Whether you need more practice or decide to study the language on your own, you’ll find dozens of tools and apps to learn Portuguese for free. No matter whether you are an advanced learner or you need to learn Portuguese basics, these resources will certainly help you:

  • Improve your speaking skills using pronunciation dictionaries like Forvo, which feature audio recordings of words and phrases for you to listen to and model after.
  • Would you like to put your Portuguese into practice with native or non-native speakers while making new friends? Join sites like Tandem or Conversation Exchange and virtually meet like-minded people!
  • Looking to learn European Portuguese but all the materials you find focus on the Brazilian accent? Access PracticePortuguese and find an array of videos, songs, worksheets, and grammar exercises to polish your skills from home.
  • And if you still feel you need more practice, you should read our article and discover 5 amazing websites to brush up on your Portuguese for free.
  • To learn a language efficiently, one of the first steps you need to take is to understand your current level. If you are not sure about your Portuguese ability, why not take one of our FREE Portuguese level tests and find out?

Is Portuguese Easy to Learn?

It depends! You’ll find people who claim it’s very easy while others may say it’s nightmarish. In fact, how easy or hard it is to learn a language depends on a number of factors, such as:

What Other Languages You Speak

As we mentioned before, Portuguese is a Romance language. As such, it shares a lot of vocabulary, grammatical structures, and pronunciation rules with Spanish, French, Italian, and even Romanian. So, if you already speak some of these languages, Portuguese will be much easier for you to learn than if you only speak English.

Your Motivation

Learning Portuguese represents a big effort on your part that will not be sustainable over time without motivation. Why do you want to acquire the language? Have that objective in mind at all times! If you want to be fluent in Portuguese for professional reasons, for example, visualize yourself attaining the position you always wanted. Having a professional Portuguese tutor with you every step of your language journey will also be helpful, as they will remind you of all your progress whenever you get stuck or feel frustrated.

Your Learning Methods

Learning the endless Portuguese conjugations can be a drag, but endlessly repeating the verb forms is not the only way to learn. Why not experiment with and learn Portuguese with an online flashcard maker and see if you remember new language items better in this way? If you love music, you can also use Spotify playlists or apps like LyricsTraining and use songs in Portuguese to help you learn vocabulary. Just think about your preferences and look for suitable materials online. Or let your teacher do it for you!

And if you are not convinced, you can always read our article and discover 4 reasons why Portuguese is not as hard as you may think!

Start learning Portuguese with our native tutors!

Portuguese Survival Phrases & Idioms

In addition to memorizing and understanding complicated grammar and pronunciation rules, you’ll need something else to be fluent in Portuguese: conversational phrases. There are certain structures and expressions that will help you navigate your way through a conversation. Some of these are basic, like greetings, while others are more advanced, like idioms. Explore some of them below!

Survival Phrases

These are expressions that will help you get by in a Portuguese setting if you know nothing (or very little) of the language. They include greetings, polite requests, asking for help, and more! Find some of the most useful survival phrases in the table below. And if you’d like to learn more, you can read our article with some of the top Portuguese survival phrases!

Greetings Hello / Hi Olá / Oi
How are you?/ How are you doing? Tudo bem? / Como você está?
Good Morning/afternoon/night Bom dia / Boa tarde / Boa noite
Thanking others Thank you! Thanks! (You're welcome) Obrigado(a)! / 'Brigado(a)! / De nada
I appreciate it. Agradeço.
Asking for repetition Sorry, can you repeat? Desculpe, poderia repetir?
I don't understand. Can you say that again? Não entendo. Você poderia repetir?
What do you mean by...? O que você quer dizer com…?
Rejecting an invitation No, thank you Não, obrigado(a)
I'd love to, but I'm busy right now. Eu adoraria, mas estou ocupado(a) agora.
Thank you, I have other plans. Obrigado(a), mas tenho outros planos.
Asking for help Where is... the bathroom/the kitchen? Onde fica…o banheiro/a cozinha?
Can you help me with... my luggage/my phone? Você poderia me ajudar com…minha bagagem/meu telefone?
There is a problem with/ I have a problem with... Tem um problema com/Tenho um problema com…

Idioms

Idioms are phrases that make no sense if interpreted literally but that have their own meaning. In English, these would be phrases like “break a leg” or “a piece of cake”. Portuguese has many idioms, and these are some of the most used ones:

Idiom Meaning
É muita areia para o meu caminhão. I’ve got too much on my plate.
Cair a ficha. To finally understand something.
Comprar gato por lebre. To have been fooled.
Torcer o nariz. To strongly disagree.
Ficar a ver navios. To wait for something that never comes.
Partir o côco a rir. To laugh a lot.
Pão pão queijo queijo. It is what it is.
Falar pelos cotovelos. To speak too much.

Would you like to discover even more Portuguese idioms? Have a look at our article with 7 of these phrases and how to use them!

How to Learn Portuguese Quickly?

There’s no definite answer to this question, but the best and fastest way to learn Portuguese is the one you like the most. If you cannot stand learning with a coursebook, for example, you may want to find another method that you find more exciting. Some options include:

So, find in the table below a comparison of benefits and drawbacks of learning Portuguese with a teacher or alone:

Learn Portuguese With our Native Teachers Learn Portuguese Alone for Free
Planned lessons with a clear objective Yes No
Commute time Zero: Our teacher goes to your home or office or you can take online classes. Zero
Conversation Speak to a native speaker and develop conversation skills No speaking practice.
Flexibility Flexible schedule Complete
Have to spend money Yes It depends (you may need to pay for the subscription of an app)
Ask questions and clear up doubts Yes No
Get personalized feedback Yes No
Identify strengths and weaknesses Yes Yes

All in all, both options have their advantages and drawbacks. While learning on your own gives you more freedom and flexibility, it can be challenging to advance without the guidance of an expert, especially if you are only a beginner. Plus, learning conversational skills will prove difficult if you don’t have anyone with whom to practice. Just reflect on your needs, requirements, and expectations before making an informed decision!

If you have decided to take the leap and learn Portuguese today, sign up for our Portuguese lessons, be it online or face to face, and start learning the language interactively. And if you need more resources to practice, remember you can follow us on social media and access our weekly-updated blog!

dunnhumby
Language learned: Portuguese in Toronto.

Duralee Fabrics LTD
Language learned: Mandarin Chinese in Huntington.

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