You can’t judge a book by its cover—especially when it comes to textbooks.
You might glance at a textbook and think things like “too formal” or “too academic,” but you’d be dead wrong in many cases.
Never underestimate the value of a good Portuguese language textbook.
Especially if you’re trying to make sense of your everyday colloquialisms, verbs, grammar patterns and the many linguistic nuances that you’re going to be exposed to throughout your learning.
There’s a textbook out there for every learner. Sure, when it comes to textbook learning and Portuguese there are more choices available for Brazilian Portuguese learners. Even so, everyone studying Portuguese can reap the benefits of the knowledge that these provide. Plus, there are options for European Portuguese on the market that you may have previously overlooked.
In fact, there’s a myriad of great Portuguese textbooks around for both major varieties of the language—it’s just a matter of finding one that works for you.
But before we move on to our hand-picked list of some of the very best, let’s take a quick peek at the benefits you’ll get from bringing a textbook into your Portuguese language learning pursuits.
Why Use Textbooks to Learn Portuguese?
By now, you might be thinking, “why bother perusing a textbook when I’ve got so many resources to tap into online?”
Not to worry, we’ve got an answer.
Even if you’re taking the self-learning route, a textbook can greatly help you make the leap to fluency. Here are a few reasons why:
- If you’re trying to establish a good pace for yourself, textbooks will offer you an easy, no-frills way of doing so. Most of them are broken down into thematic units, spreading vocabulary and verbs along a digestible format that you can easily follow in a steady routine.
- On that note, having a solid guide to vocabulary, grammar and verbs that you can always come back to is actually quite handy. Yes, there are Portuguese language apps that will give you information on the go, but when the internet fails, your phone’s battery runs out or you just need a break from screens, a physical reference book can fill the void.
- There are other “no-brainer” reasons for wanting to grasp a good textbook—for one, it’s a single resource packed with writing, reading and listening exercises. Even better: some of the best Portuguese textbooks around make a point of providing their readers with insight into everyday conversations and the culture itself. What’s not to like about that?
Having a textbook is great and all, but you need to know how to use it to its fullest potential. This nicely brings us to our next point.
How to Choose (and Use) Your New Portuguese Textbook
The great thing about textbooks is that you can either use one as your primary source of learning, or you can just keep it as a complementary guide. For instance, a good grammar book could greatly supplement the knowledge you’re getting from FluentU’s videos, while a solid vocabulary resource can get you more comfortable with the exercises you’re getting from your favorite apps, games and online practice exercises.
What videos, you ask? FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
A Portuguese learning program is currently in development, so stay tuned for an immersive, authentic way to learn Portuguese coming soon!
That being said, there are a couple of things to consider before you start searching for that ideal Portuguese textbook.
First and foremost, keep in mind that textbooks aren’t all created equal. Some are better suited for Brazilian Portuguese learners, others primarily focus on European Portuguese colloquialisms, and a selected few offer insight into both. More than that, some textbooks you’ll come across are going to be more comprehensive than others, they may greatly vary in price, or they could be geared towards someone who needs a better grip of the basics.
But don’t fret: finding the right textbook, and using it well, isn’t as daunting as it sounds.
Just remember that your chosen textbook should align with your learning goals, language skills and overall strengths and weaknesses. This is why you should take some time to do a bit of research before settling on any sort of language guide.
It’s always good to read up on book reviews to get a better idea of whether these will fill your needs and help you meet your objectives. To make things simpler, ask yourself these simple questions:
- Where am I at with my learning? Obviously, a book that covers the bare basics of grammar rules isn’t going to be suited for someone at the intermediate level. Likewise, you don’t want to feel like you’re biting off more than you can chew. This is one of those times where reviews will come in handy—you’ll get honest feedback from other Portuguese language learners about how the book caters to different skill levels.
- What‘s my learning style? It matters whether you’re quite bookish, more partial to visuals or sitting somewhere in between. Different textbooks will be better suited to certain types of learners. Have a look through the book’s overview, preview pages and reviews to get an idea of how wordy or image-friendly it is.
- How much time can I dedicate to textbook learning? Remember, the formatting of the textbook needs to align with your schedule. You might find some books that are designed for a two-year course of study and others that break the information down even further. This is something to take into consideration when you’re undecided about buying a series of books or a single reference guide. A summary description on Amazon will give you an idea of the length of time you’ll need to dedicate to the material.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can go into our top choices for textbooks.
The 10 Best Portuguese Textbooks for Focusing On Vocabulary and Grammar
If you’re wanting to build, improve or brush up on your Portuguese skills in general, here are a few well-rounded resources to try that cover a multitude of language topics.
Probably the most renowned book on our list, “Ponto de Encontro” offers a comprehensive look into the Portuguese language at large. It’s used in many colleges and language schools, and boasts being the first book to give teachers the flexibility to teach either European or Brazilian Portuguese.
The book offers an array of activities and exercises that highlight the cultural and social contexts shaping all aspects of the language. Keep in mind that its completeness comes with a hefty price tag but, given its reputation, the investment might be worth it.
Dover Language Guide has a nice selection of Portuguese grammar textbooks to choose from. Among them is the “Essential Portuguese Grammar,” which is great for beginner-intermediate speakers with busy schedules.
As its name suggests, the book’s intention is to provide a concise, highly structured overview of all your grammar essentials, from word ordering to using the right adjectives and verbs. It can be used as a standalone beginner guide or as a supplementary resource for other study materials.
The “Bom Dia” series offers European Portuguese speakers everything they could need from a textbook. These are actually designed for middle and high school students—so if you’re looking for something more user-friendly, with lots of graphics and repetition, this might be the way to go. Choose the most appropriate level for you and make use of the CDs and language test modules that come with the book.
Living Language is better known for their Brazilian Portuguese textbooks, but they’ve got resources for European Portuguese learners too. Their “Ultimate Portuguese: Basic-Intermediate” book is worth checking out if you want to see the contrast between European and Brazilian Portuguese conventions.
It comes with 40 exercises that present a mix of conversations in both of these types of Portuguese, as well as your standard breakdown of grammar, pronunciation and cultural nuances.
On a similar note, if you’re better at learning by association, consider trying out the “Portuguese: A Reference Manual” textbook. This one is quite comprehensive, offering cultural context from a linguistics point of view.
Not only do the authors compare and contrast both major varieties of Portuguese, they also provide references to Spanish that are quite useful for native English speakers who want to get a better feel how Latin languages operate at large.
Want something more specific to verbs? Try some of the next items on our list.
Once again, we’re going to kick things off with the best known resource guide for Portuguese verbs.
The “501 Portuguese Verbs” is quite popular because it’s handy, reasonably priced and quite complete. It’s a paperback book comprised of full verb conjugations and practical examples for context.
If you want to add a bit more vocabulary into the mix, the “Portuguese Verb Tenses” series could help. This one is targeted for Brazilian Portuguese learners, but it can be useful if you’re learning European Portuguese too—its focus is on how verbs are categorized, structured and conjugated so the linguistic differences don’t come too much into play.
Our last pick for verb textbooks is best suited for early beginners. “Practice Makes Perfect: Basic Portuguese” gives an overview of the present tense for some of the most essential verbs.
There are other books in this series too. If you want to test the waters with a smaller sample of terms, these might be worth pursuing. They cover both European and Brazilian Portuguese.
Grammar and verbs are essential, but knowing the right words is too. On that note, we’ll move along to the final choices on our list.
These go beyond your standard Portuguese language dictionary, by the way. We want to give you context to accompany your word usage, and these two textbooks provide exactly that.
“Portuguese Vocabulary for English Speakers” is one of those books that does exactly what it says on the cover. It’s a reasonably priced paperback book with a list of 9,000 words that are categorized by topics for easy access. This one has been designed with European Portuguese learners in mind and it offers phonetic transcriptions to help you nail the pronunciation.
Likewise, “A Frequency Dictionary of Portuguese” brings you a list of essential words that you would use on a day-to-day basis. This one is quite handy if you want insight into both Brazilian and European Portuguese, as the book provides an even split of vocabulary terms for both.
While these are among the very best textbooks for Portuguese learners, there are plenty of others around.
As long as you take the time to research, you’ll find the right book for yourself—and it will nicely fit with your abilities, skills and objectives.
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