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How to Speak Portuguese in 7 Simple Steps

Learning how to speak Portuguese is a rewarding endeavor. It’s a beautiful language that gives you access to some incredible places to visit or live.

Plus, Portuguese is a “critical language,” a term used by the U.S. government that indicates a strategically important language in need of more speakers.

In this article, I’ll show you how to effectively improve your Portuguese speaking skills in seven steps. I’ve included plenty of fun tools and resources to make sure you’re well-supported in your learning journey.

Contents


1. Choose a Portuguese Dialect

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The first step to learning Portuguese is deciding whether you want to focus on the Brazilian or the European dialect. Your decision will depend entirely on your motivations for learning the language.

For instance, if you want to study Portuguese to improve your work prospects, the Brazilian dialect might be more attractive as Brazil’s market reach is much larger than Portugal’s on a global scale.

On the other hand, if you’re keen on moving to Europe sometime in the future, the European Portuguese dialect could be more favorable—especially if you get hired by a firm with an office or clients in Portugal.

Of course, there are other factors that influence people to learn a language, such as a keen interest in a particular culture. Ask yourself why you want to learn Portuguese and use that to guide your choice of dialect.

2. Start with the Core Basics

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Language learning takes time, and you need the right foundation before you can build up to fluency. At the beginning stage, your aim is to master some basic Portuguese vocabulary.

Since you’re starting from scratch, here are the key things to focus on initially:

3. Download a Portuguese Language Learning App

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Apps have become a popular choice for language learners because of their low cost, interactivity and ease of access. There are lots of options out there, each offering their unique take on language learning.

Below are four apps you can try to get started.

BabbelBabbel logo

Babbel is a subscription-based service that offers Portuguese lessons. The app focuses on all aspects of language learning: reading, speaking, listening and writing.

Courses are organized according to topics and additional features include everyday dialogues and audio lessons. Check out our Babbel review here.

FluentU

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FluentU teaches Portuguese with authentic content such as movie clips and music videos, making it ideal for those who learn best from visuals and audio. Each video has interactive captions that let you look up words while you watch.

FluentU also offers multimedia flashcards and personalized review quizzes to help you remember what you learn. Check out our FluentU review here

Duolingo Duolingo logo

Duolingo is a free option that’s quite popular with beginners. The app’s games are designed to help learners progressively develop their basic vocabulary and grammar skills.

This is a good option if you’re just starting out and want to quickly learn new words and phrases. Check out our Duolingo review here

MondlyMondly logo

Mondly is another free option you can try. Its daily 5 to 15-minute lessons are designed to help you focus on key phrases as pronounced by native speakers.

Some of its techniques include matching images with words, as well as exercises that get students to work on basic sentence construction and reconstructing conversations. Check out our Mondly review here

4. Sign up for a Portuguese Course

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You can certainly get a good foundation in the Portuguese language without the help of a structured course. However, taking a course will help you make steady progress and stay on the path to fluency. 

There are some free courses available, but investing in a paid course will boost your motivation to stay consistent and not give up. This may be especially helpful for learners who tend to start new projects without finishing them or get distracted easily.

Here are 28 excellent online Portuguese courses, with options for every learning style and language level. Maybe you can find a friend to sign up with you so you can hold each other accountable and have fun studying together!

5. Immerse Yourself in the Portuguese Language

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The best way to learn Portuguese is by exposing yourself to the language as much as possible. There’s a myriad of resources online that’ll allow you to immerse yourself in your chosen dialect. Take a look at some examples below.

Podcasts

You can learn so much about the language and culture through Portuguese podcasts. They cover everything from the local cuisine to traditional customs, history and politics.

Initially, it’s best to focus on podcasts specifically made for Portuguese learners, like PortuguesePod101 (Brazilian Portuguese) or Practice Portuguese (European Portuguese). 

Once you’ve sharpened your listening skills, you can shift your attention to podcasts made by and for native Portuguese speakers, like Brazil’s NerdCast—good for film buffs—or Portugal’s Pop Up, which covers pop culture.

Podcasts also make ideal practice tools for shadowing, the practice of repeating something as it’s spoken. Your goal is to be completely in sync with the audio you’re shadowing, matching pronunciation, speed, tone and pitch. 

YouTube Videos

YouTube is a great place to hear Portuguese as it’s really used by native speakers, and many videos offer subtitles in Portuguese, English or both. Check out some of the best YouTube channels for learning Portuguese here

If you’re a beginner or intermediate-level learner, you can find channels made for Portuguese learners like the PortuguesePod101 channel. If you’re more advanced, you can watch authentic content like the videos created by YouTubers Angie Costa or Pierre Zago.

Listen to and repeat the dialogue in these videos, breaking it down word by word or aiming to imitate the overall sound and flow rather than individual words.

Movies and TV shows

Portuguese movies and TV shows can help learners of all levels engage with the language. They’ll contextualize your everyday vocabulary and give you insight into Brazilian and European Portuguese cultures, from local customs to how people interact.

Streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu offer plenty of Portuguese content. You can also find English-language movies dubbed or subtitled in Portuguese, such as the popular film “The Avengers”:

As for TV shows, if you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese, you’ll want to check out some of the local telenovelas. For European Portuguese, you can watch series like “Os Nossos Dias” (“Our Days,” 2012) and “O Sábio” (“The Wise Man,” 2017) on the RTP Play website.

Music 

Listening to Portuguese music is one of the easiest ways to engage with the language daily.  You can easily find your favorite music genres in Portuguese. For instance, if you’re a rock fan, you could search for “rock português” (Portuguese rock) or “rock brasileiro” (Brazilian rock).

Once you’ve discovered some good songs, look at their lyrics. Song lyrics can be useful tools for learning how colloquial terms are used by native speakers. Read the lyrics a few times, look up any unfamiliar terms and try to pronounce each word individually.

Here’s a helpful breakdown of a classic Portuguese song: 

For an added challenge, try listening to a few Portuguese radio stations. Check out Brazil’s Jovem (Young) Pan FM or Portugal’s RFM for mainstream music.

Reading materials

Reading is an important part of language learning. It’ll teach you new words, improve your spelling and help you understand the grammar. You’ll find a trove of reading materials online: books, magazines and even audiobooks.

Beginners might benefit from investing in an easy-to-read bilingual book. Language Lizard or Books by the Bushel are good places to find a variety of English-Portuguese children’s books that all readers, young and old, can enjoy.

As you get more advanced, you can try reading news and current affairs to learn more complex vocabulary and formal language. With international news articles, you can check whether you understood what was reported by reading the same news item in English.

Key news sites to look at include BBC Brasil and Uol Notícias (Uol News), which are both in Brazilian Portuguese, as well as Diário de Notícias (News Diary) and Notícias ao Minuto (Minute News), which are in European Portuguese.

6. Participate in a Language Exchange

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The internet has made connecting with like-minded language lovers so much easier. Apps like italki and Tandem, for instance, offer the opportunity to chat with native speakers in any language you want to learn.

Italki even offers lessons with Portuguese tutors, so you can practice with someone who can help you pinpoint the specific aspects of your speech you need to improve. And you’re not just limited to these two resources: There are many other language exchange options to check out!

If you prefer face-to-face interaction, look for language exchange meetups in your areaMeetup.com is a good source for this. You could also search local Facebook language exchange groups or scour other social media channels to identify helpful leads.

7. Keep a Dictionary and Translator On Hand  

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A good Portuguese dictionary and translator app will help you when you get stuck on a word or phrase. This goes for when you’re watching a Portuguese movie or TV show, reading a book in Portuguese or even chatting with a native speaker. 

Most dictionary and translator apps these days have an audio playback function. Any time you’re learning a new word and you look it up, listen to its pronunciation and repeat it out loud a few times. This will help you with memorization and pronunciation.

Most apps also have other special features to help you learn new words, so take advantage of those! 

Tips for Improving Your Portuguese Speaking Skills

To get the most out of these steps for speaking Portuguese, here are a few ground rules to follow:

  • Know your goals. Think about the level you’re currently at, and identify the key things you’d like to improve on. Maybe it’s your pronunciation, verb conjugation or conversation flow. Make a note of your goals and progress to keep you on track and help you visualize how far you’ve come.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Remember that errors are part of the learning process. The more you speak, the easier it will be to identify where you’re tripping up and correct errors on your own.
  • Don’t be shy. It’s natural to feel a little timid—sometimes even embarrassed—when speaking in a language other than your own. But don’t let that be a hindrance! If you need an initial confidence boost, practice by yourself first before putting your speaking abilities to the test in front of others.
  • Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask others for their opinion or advice. Whether you’re talking to a language tutor or a friend who’s a native speaker, knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you reflect on what you need to work on.
  • Be consistent. You won’t improve unless you’re reviewing and repeating things to yourself on a regular basis. Aim to speak in Portuguese at least once a day. You can start with a few minutes of speaking to yourself first, then build up to longer periods of talking both to yourself and others around you.

 

Learning how to speak Portuguese isn’t easy, but a bit of planning can go a long way.

With these steps and tips, you can improve your Portuguese skills and make steady progress towards fluency. 

Boa sorte (good luck)!

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Portuguese with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized Portuguese lessons.

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Portuguese language and culture over time. You’ll learn Portuguese as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:

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FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.

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Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

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Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

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The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Click here to check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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