Feel like you’re not getting enough Portuguese practice?
Then immersion might be the way to go.
And no, we’re not telling you to pack up and move abroad, necessarily.
These days, Portuguese immersion can take a lot of forms, and you can establish an immersion learning routine just with resources you find online.
You can place yourself in an immersive linguistic and cultural situation without even leaving your room!
Someday, of course, you’ll want to actually go to Portugal or Brazil and take in all the various sights and sounds.
But until that day, there are things you can do to make yourself feel like you’re already there, and to benefit your language skills accordingly.
Before we help you get the ball rolling, though, here’s what to expect when you choose to immerse yourself in a language.
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What’s the Deal with Language Immersion?
When it comes to language learning, theory can only ever go so far.
There’s no point in learning new words if you’re not going to put them into practice, right?
Immersion ensures every piece of knowledge you’re getting will stick with you in the long haul.
Imagine spending around 50% of your time reading, speaking, listening and writing in Portuguese. That would be quite a difference from your normal routine, wouldn’t it? The idea is that the longer you spend using the language, the easier you’ll get the hang of it. Because of this, immersion is seen as one of the quickest ways to learn Portuguese.
Do you know what else makes this technique even more appealing? The fact that it will really get you thinking about the Brazilian or Portuguese way of life: the culture, customs, literature, entertainment and everything else in between.
On that note, don’t be tricked into thinking that you need to travel to these countries to be fully immersed in the language. Sure, it helps, but dropping everything to embark on an intrepid journey is not something everyone can afford to do. As mentioned, there are ample online materials around that will help you up the ante with your study, without having to stray too far from home.
Instead, you have the option of holding off on going abroad until you’ve mastered the local lingo—it’s going to be much more impressive than heading towards the cold reality of consistently getting lost in translation.
With that in mind, here are some of our top suggestions for using the internet to jump-start your Portuguese immersion.
6 Super Ways to Learn Portuguese Through Online Immersion
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of immersion, take it in small steps. It won’t be as scary as it sounds once you get the hang of it. Use these ideas and suggestions to ease yourself into a nice, steady study pace.
1. Watch Portuguese-language movies
Even if you’re a beginner, you’ll benefit from this suggestion. Don’t be scared: Start with subtitles if you don’t think you can manage watching a movie or local video with no aides or cues. The majority of films you’ll come across will have them, anyway. Then, as you get used to the language, you can take things up a notch by trying your hand at watching these with no subtitles or captions.
You can get quite creative with this. Try the following:
- For ideas of movies to watch, check out these Portuguese-language blockbusters. Do your own additional research of famous Portuguese-language films (in Portuguese if you’re already at a good level for this), and make your own “must-watch” bucket list.
- Then, go ahead and make Brazilian/Portuguese Movie Night a regular occasion—weekly, monthly, whatever floats your boat.
As long as you do this regularly enough, it will greatly complement the knowledge you get from other immersive learning techniques.
2. Try your hand at a Portuguese immersion course
Lessons can greatly help those who need a more structured approach. You can, if you like, prioritize a course over our other immersion techniques, and use the rest alongside it. Or, you can do it in reverse: Start with a handful of online resources, and work your way up to those immersive lessons.
Portuguese courses aren’t hard to find—you just have to do a bit of research to identify which would work better for you.
Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking:
- If the movie idea mentioned above sparked your interest, or you just like the idea of learning through video content, FluentU creates exercises that are relevant to popular YouTube videos. We’re working on an upcoming collection of real-life Portuguese language videos (think commercials, movie trailers, business talks, among others), with interactive captions and relevant exercises to help you immerse in the language.
- Babbel appeals to the entertaining side of learning with interactive courses for beginning and intermediate learners.
- For those who prefer to immerse themselves in audio courses for on-the-go or hands-free learning, Pimsleur is the most established name in the language-learning-by-listening game, and they have courses for both Brazilian and European Portuguese that you can receive in multiple formats.
- Rocket Languages is another audio option for Brazilian Portuguese that focuses on getting you speaking. You also get the opportunity to chat with other members for support in an online forum.
- For one-on-one Skype lessons with native-speaking tutors, Verbling is a great option. Establishing a schedule that gets you constantly connecting, practicing and talking with a local teacher is always a good way to get immersive.
3. Become a local news reader
Especially if you’re an intermediate-advanced learner, you can’t go wrong with Portuguese language news sites. News articles are written using simple, straight-to-the-point terms, making it easier for native speakers and learners alike to get a clear idea of the content they’re reading. As an added bonus, you’ll get insight into current events that are local in whatever Portuguese-speaking destination you choose to keep up with—which will work in your favor when it’s time to venture abroad.
We recommend you pick a few quality media sites to begin with.
Initially, look for articles on issues you’ve been following closely and know the main facts to: US politics, international affairs, sports news or even Brazil/Portugal current affairs you’ve stumbled upon in English.
Make it your mission to read the Portuguese language take of each news story you’re interested in, gathering knowledge from multiple resources during the week.
The idea is to eventually get into a daily habit of reading articles online from the area, just as you would with English language news—in other words, you’ll be progressing through immersion by keeping up with current events.
4. Embrace the local folklore
Every culture has its own collection of cultures and myths. As you develop a habit of reading in Portuguese, you’ll start benefiting from the immersive effects, and exploring local folk tales will add an interesting twist to the experience.
And yes, you can find these stories online:
- Folclore-online.com has a nice collection of traditional tales from Portugal. The site even introduces its readers to the content by outlining the origin of the word lenda (legend), and how it differs from historical facts and myths.
- Brazil’s Só História takes things up a notch by categorizing local folklore and myths according their state of origin. Quite a clever idea when you consider the sheer size of the country. Similar to Folclore-online, the website introduces its story collection by briefly mentioning how these have been woven into tradition.
Obviously, you’ll need to take a different approach to this than you would with news gathering. Start with one story each week, and make sure to keep a dictionary app handy.
Take it slow in the early stages:
- Read the folktale through once, and note down any words you didn’t understand. If you’ve picked a long story, make sure to break your reading down into manageable lengths (e.g., a couple of paragraphs per day).
- Look those new words up, and read the story again.
- Then, set it aside, and choose another to focus on.
- Ramp up the pace as you get more confident with your reading abilities, and come back to the stories you’ve filed at the end of the month—you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll be able to comprehend by then.
5. Listen to local podcasts
Immersion calls for hearing things spoken at a normal pace, by native speakers. For those of us who can’t connect or practice with Brazilian or Portuguese people, podcasts serve as a gateway into the language and society at large.
The way you approach this immersive technique will vary according to your learning level. Beginners might be better off starting with podcasts that have transcripts they can refer back to, and breaking down their listening into several stages. More advanced speakers can opt for locally-produced podcasts that they can incorporate into a regular (daily or weekly) listening routine.
In any case, you need to be able to allocate some time for active listening, with minimal distractions. If you’re wont to powering up your podcast playlist while driving to work, make sure you also listen while you’re on your lunch break, whenever you have some time to spare before an appointment, or during bus or train travel.
Podcast lists for both types of Portuguese can get quite extensive, but you can always get started with these suggestions:
- History buffs can listen to TSF’s Portugal Passado series, which focuses on local historical points.
- Brazil’s Caixa de Histórias is a great choice for the curious bookworms among us—each episode covers a book excerpt, prompting discussions of the overall themes of the story at large.
- For contemporary discussion topics, like society, politics and culture, Café Brasil is an interesting option.
- Looking for a podcast lesson? If you’re studying European Portuguese, try the Say It in Portuguese or the Practice Portuguese series; those learning the Brazilian style should take a look at LingQ for a similar experience. (You can also check out the main LingQ site for additional learning tools, lessons, courses and community resources.) Podcast lessons are ideal for those at a beginner-intermediate level, as these are going to be spoken at a slower pace.
6. Add a few Portuguese language songs to your playlist
More on the musical side? We totally get that. In fact, listening to popular songs online will definitely help you to get you immersed in the Portuguese language. Music differs from podcasts in that it doesn’t require as much active commitment. Even if you’re listening passively, the words will eventually stick out—before you know it, you’ll be singing along and committing more vocab words to memory.
So, get planning: Find some music that you really like, and create a playlist. If you want to follow up on the lyrics, hit up Letras for Brazilian songs, or Letras e Músicas Portuguesas Online for European Portuguese hits. If it helps, both these sites actually have music you can listen to as well.
Song preference can be a bit of a personal thing—but if you need help getting started, look through this handy list of Portuguese-language singers. Otherwise, you could always explore Billboard Brasil’s Hot 100 or Portugal iTunes Top 100.
Now that you know what to do, it’s time to get creative!
Mix and match each of these online resources to start immersing yourself in Portuguese.
The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it—before you know it, you’ll be spending several hours listening, reading and speaking the Portuguese variety you’ve been studying with so much diligence.
Best of luck, and we hope this helps you reach the levels of fluency that you’re shooting for.
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