Adding a bit of drama in your life can be a very good thing.
Well, the TV kind at least. But more specifically, we’re talking about Brazilian novelas and drama series.
As you’re about to see, these are an incredible resource for Portuguese learners.
Sit tight and get ready to bring your studies to a whole new frequency.
Come along as we show you how these are going to help you grasp your language essentials and be sure to jot down these recommendations to add to your “must watch” list!
Now let’s get into all the juicy details!
Why Are Dramas a Big Deal?
It may sound obvious, but you can’t separate a language from its people.
Telenovelas and drama series are very much a window into Brazilian society. They tend to influence daily conversations, fashion trends and are even known to shape contemporary family dynamics. So in this sense, they’re certainly an important educational resource for learning about the local culture.
From a linguistic point of view, watching these will also be incredibly beneficial. These shows will expose you to the native Brazilian Portuguese accent, colloquialisms, pronunciation and that natural pace of everyday dialogues.
In other words, you’ll be able to genuinely test your listening and basic comprehension skills against real-life content, which in turn will give you insight into how you’d fare if you were to communicate with your everyday Brazilian.
Advanced learners in particular will thrive with this practical study method. Local dramas should challenge you to rely on your ability to grasp what’s being presented on the screen without the use of subtitles.
But if you’re not quite at that level, don’t fret—this is something to aspire to! Start by sourcing series that have English subtitles to them and, as you progressively improve your understanding, gradually shift your focus away from the written translations.
8 Brazilian Drama Series All Portuguese Learners Should Put On Their Watch List
You’ll find the list of dramas that we recommend (and many more) on Netflix, YouTube and/or Amazon. If you run through our suggestions and are hungry for more, IMDB has a handy list of popular novelas you’ll definitely want to look through.
You can also use the upcoming Portuguese FluentU program to watch clips, trailers and other authentic videos. FluentU is about so much more than videos: You also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.
It’s an entertaining method to immerse yourself in Portuguese the way native speakers really use it, while actively building your vocabulary.
You’ll find plenty of suggestions here to see you through a binge session or two!
3 New Brazilian TV Series You Should Watch Right Now
Obviously, Brazilian entertainment goes above and beyond their famous soap operas. To drive this point home, here are some epic shows that have been hitting the international screens recently.
This sci-fi/drama was the first Brazilian series made for Netflix. Its first season premiered in November 2016 and consisted of eight episodes. Season two is currently in the works—but no launch date has been announced yet.
“3%” takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where all citizens must undertake a grueling test when they reach their twenties. The catch is, only 3% of those who begin this trajectory are going to come out alive.
2. “Magnífica 70” (HBO Now)
“Magnífica 70” is an HBO Latin America production, making its Brazilian debut in 2015. The series’ second season wrapped up in late 2016 and a third is already in the works. Its title, which has been unaltered in the English speaking world, literally translates as “Magnificent 70”— this in itself is a bit of a hint about where the plot might be heading.
The story takes place in 1973 São Paulo, where we meet a bored government censorship worker who unwittingly falls in love with an actress in a movie he has to censor. He eventually finds himself right in the midst of the clandestine movie scene, a love triangle and the ongoing repression imposed by the military regime.
3. “Merciless” (Amazon)
“Merciless” originally aired in its native Brazil from September 19 until December 19, 2014. It’s only reached international screens recently, and has particularly gained traction among viewers in the United Kingdom.
The original title, “Dupla Idendidade” (or “Double Identity”), foreshadows the plot quite well. The crime-thriller drama revolves around a soft-spoken, charismatic young man who is secretly a cold-blooded killer.
5 Classic Brazilian Soap Operas That Should Be on All Learners’ Radars
These are just some of the famous novelas that Brazil has exported across its borders. While the source links we’re sharing don’t include English language subtitles, we’ve provided the translated titles to make it easier to track down another alternative.
1. “O Rei do Gado” (“The King of the Cattle” — 1996)
Since premiering on Brazil’s Rede Globo network in 1996, “O Rei Do Gado” has screened in 30 different countries and has been replayed in its native land twice. The drama’s sensitive portrayal of the social issues pertaining to local agrarian reforms and the Landless Worker’s Movement has always been a key talking point.
The plot revolves around a territorial land dispute among two rival farming families, the forbidden love between a drover and a “landless” member of society and the story of a woman with a mysterious past.
2. “Mulheres de Areia” (“Women of Sand” — 1993)
“Mulheres de Areia” was a remake of a 1973 telenovela with the same name and is one of the most successful dramas to air on Rede Globo’s 6 PM time slot (for a bit of context, the channel’s telenovelas were traditionally broadcast at 6 PM, 7 PM and 8 PM, respectively—in recent years, the 8 PM slot shifted to 9 PM and the earlier soaps usually play at 6:35 PM and 7:35 PM).
The story focuses on two main characters: twin sisters Raquel and Rute, the daughters of a poor fisherman. As a love triangle unfolds, the sisters’ true colors begin to show—Raquel’s vindictive nature in particular is a marked contrast to Rute’s kind disposition.
3. “O Cravo e a Rosa” (“The Thorn and the Rose” — 2000)
“O Cravo e a Rosa” is a period drama that was inspired by William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” and the Edmond Rostand play “Cyrano de Begerac.”
Set in 1920s Brazil, “O Cravo e a Rosa” tells the story of a short-tempered, highly independent rich woman whose life is turned completely upside down as she falls in love with a poor farmer.
4. “Terra Nostra” (“Our Land” — 1999)
With an Italian name that literally translates to “Our Land,” this drama is one of Brazil’s best, most renowned telenovelas, having screened in more than 95 different countries worldwide.
The story begins in the late 19th Century, as a ship of Italian immigrants is making its way to Brazilian shores. Two passengers, Guiliana and Matteo, fall in love during the voyage, only to be separated as they arrive at their new homeland.
5. “Chocolate com Pimenta” (“Pepper Chocolate” — 2003)
“Chocolate com Pimenta” is another Rede Globo telenovela set in the 1920s which was broadcast extensively around the globe—most notably in Portugal, where it topped the nation’s TV ratings and was subsequently screened twice a day.
Its main protagonist is a humble girl, who managed to build herself a fortune after spending her youth working as a cleaner in a chocolate factory. As she comes face to face with all the people who humiliated her in the past, she also reveals to a former flame that they have a son.
How’s that for a good drama fix? We’re sure this list will enable you to immerse yourself in the wonderful Portuguese language. Enjoy your TV watching—and don’t forget to test your new vocab with the FluentU app and your favorite study guides.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn a language with real-world videos.