The 14 Best Textbooks for Portuguese Language Learners
Never underestimate the value of a good Portuguese language textbook.
There’s a textbook out there for every learner.
But before we move on to my 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.
- General Textbooks
- Grammar Textbooks
- Verb-focused Textbooks
- Vocabulary Textbooks
- Why Use Textbooks to Learn Portuguese?
- How to Choose a Portuguese Textbook
1. “Ponto de Encontro”
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.
2. “Bom Dia”
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.
3. “Ultimate Portuguese: Basic-Intermediate”
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.
4. “Portuguese: A Reference Manual”
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.
5. “Falar… Ler… Escrever… Português: Um Curso para Estrangeiros”
A lot of learners already speak Spanish or other Romance languages when they decide to tackle Portuguese, and so they can already understand the written language quite a bit when they start. If that’s the case for you, then this Portuguese-only guide might be perfect.
It focuses on Brazilian Portuguese and features dialogues that are followed by notes on grammar, vocabulary and culture.
There’s also an accompanying “Livro de Exercícios” (workbook)—check the link for availability.
6. “Complete Portuguese”
This textbook features 24 chapters, each of which introduces you to realistic situations that you might encounter when you find yourself in a Portuguese-speaking country.
You listen to the chapter’s dialogue on the CD first, and then again while reading it in the textbook. This is followed by notes on vocabulary, grammar and culture that are meant to help you apply the language yourself.
This book by itself is perfectly adequate for beginning learners who want to get to a conversational level of Portuguese quickly.
“Complete Portuguese” teaches both European and Brazilian Portuguese, but there is also a version available that strictly focuses on Brazilian Portuguese.
7. “European Portuguese Grammar” or “Brazilian Portuguese Grammar”
These are two variations of the same book that allow you to choose which dialect you want to focus on. If you’re new to language learning, these two options are great stress-free guides to Portuguese grammar.
These books refuse to even employ terms like “noun,” “pronoun” and “conjugation.” Rather, they set up other categories of words and rules for how they can work together to impart meaning.
While that could be problematic if you want to use these books in conjunction with other books or with teachers who are unfamiliar with the method, their slow, friendly, hand-holding style will be comforting for some.
8. “Essential Portuguese Grammar”
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.
9. “A Grammar of Spoken Brazilian Portuguese”
This oldie-but-goodie is easy to come by used and for cheap, as it often gets assigned in university classes.
I found it to be great fun, as it’s the only guide I’ve ever used that focuses on the grammar of spoken Brazilian Portuguese.
This is probably not the first book you want to start with, unless you already have a lot of experience learning languages and/or a good understanding of grammar terms. But it’s great for intermediate learners and beyond who are looking for shortcuts to improve their listening and speaking with Brazilians by studying a bit of the grammar of the language as it’s actually spoken.
10. “501 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.
This is great for when you just need a quick reference to how a verb is conjugated and used.
11. “Portuguese Verb Tenses”
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.
12. “Practice Makes Perfect: Basic Portuguese”
This textbook 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.
13. “Portuguese Vocabulary for English Speakers”
“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.
14. “A Frequency Dictionary of Portuguese”
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.
Why Use Textbooks to Learn Portuguese?
- They help you establish a pace. Most textbooks are broken down into thematic units, spreading vocabulary and verbs along a digestible format that you can easily follow in a steady routine.
- You build a solid foundation. Having a solid guide to vocabulary, grammar and verbs that you can always come back to is actually quite handy.
- Most textbooks are an all-encompassing resource. Most of the time, a textbook is a single resource packed with writing, reading and listening exercises.
How to Choose a 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 another program, like FluentU.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.