So you want to learn Portuguese.
But not just any Portuguese.
Despite the already large (and ever-growing) number of Brazilian Portuguese speakers around the world, you want to learn the language of Portugal.
The language of that trendy destination that just keeps on giving.
The language of all those kings and queens since 1139.
The language of nostalgia, rebellious modernist poetry, fado and colorful streets!
If this is the case, then you have probably realized by now that every time you get excited about learning European Portuguese and click on a Portuguese language learning resource, it turns out they only offer the Brazilian option.
Since Brazil has a much larger number of native speakers, it is only natural that European Portuguese resources are harder to find.
But learning European Portuguese has its advantages as well! So to help you out, we have put together the perfect resource guide for the European Portuguese learner.
What Are Some Advantages of Learning European Portuguese?
- If you are considering living or working here (and you probably will be after visiting!), you will be happy to know that most Portuguese people understand and speak English very well. However, European Portuguese is an essential tool for getting around in Portugal—understanding important documentation, adapting more quickly, creating a deeper connection with your colleagues and understanding what’s going on around you.
- Portugal is currently the setting of an exciting startup movement that includes interesting tech projects! Why not open your new business here?
- With a complex history that includes periods of war, conquest and invasion, living under dictatorship and going through several revolutions, it is not surprising that Portuguese music, literature and culture have so much to give. Learning European Portuguese is key to understanding Portuguese culture—our humor, our colloquial expressions and our entertainment!
- Portuguese from African countries such as Angola, Cabo Verde and Guiné-Bissau actually shares more similarities with European Portuguese than Brazilian Portuguese. For this reason, if your interest is in having a wider reach, European Portuguese could be your choice.
- You will get familiar with a Romance language that has been described by foreigners as a creative mix of Spanish, Russian and Polish! Who wouldn’t want to know more about a language like that? Plus, it may help you learn other Romance languages (or non-Romance languages) in the future.
This post provides several accessible resources you can use to boost your European Portuguese skills, from videos and books to major news resources the Portuguese use themselves!
Learning European Portuguese? Get Fluent with This Resource Guide!
1. Start Your Journey with Trustworthy Online Resources
The deeper you dig on the internet, the more likely you are to eventually find out that several resources claim to teach European Portuguese, only to confuse learners by including Brazilian expressions or vocabulary that nobody will actually use in Portugal.
Additionally, some YouTube channels that claim to teach European Portuguese often lack image or sound quality and clarity. In the end, it is good to stay alert and choose your online resources wisely. Here are a few resources for learning European Portuguese that qualify as smart choices.
This project specializes in European Portuguese, offering a podcast with creative episodes about Portuguese history, everyday dialogues, articles and transcriptions for your listening and reading practice.
You will also find animated video archives organized by topic—learn how to order a pizza, the typical dialogue that goes on at a hospital, useful English-Portuguese cognates and animated storytelling about Portuguese myths and legends!
The website includes a short introduction to the program. Full-access will cost €12 per month, with the possibility of cancelling at any time. Practice Portuguese even gives you the opportunity to try a few exercises for free, without ever needing to log in or provide personal information!
Once FluentU has its Portuguese program up and running, you will be able to come here to learn both European and Brazilian Portuguese (as well as other regional variations) with fun real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, vlogs, speeches, news and more.
What sets FluentU apart from other programs (and also makes the mixture of accents and dialects less confusing) is that because it makes use of authentic content and real-life context, the regional differences in pronunciation and vocabulary are more obvious.
FluentU covers all levels and provides interactive captions where you can access definitions in each video, so you never need to worry about being left behind by your learning materials. Cultural notes are added to the definitions and video descriptions when necessary, which will help further clarify any regional information you need to know—such as whether a particular expression is specific to Portugal, or where the speakers in a video are from.
While looking through the YouTube and music resources that are listed below in the next two sections, keep in mind that these are the exact type of authentic content that FluentU makes more accessible to learners—it essentially opens up the Portuguese internet to you as a learner, even if you can’t handle native-level content on your own yet.
While this platform may not seem as fun and appealing as less traditional options, Instituto Camões is possibly the most credible organization you can find for European Portuguese learning, since it is intertwined with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Portuguese e-learning courses offer year-round opportunities for beginners and advanced learners alike.
Instituto Camões’ online courses typically last for 12 weeks (and vary in price, but their self-learning course is 180 €) and you can study at your own pace with full access to all course content and features. Click here to see what you will be learning for each level. Mind you, the page is in Portuguese (yes, ironic)!
2. Dive into the World of Portuguese YouTube
Perhaps you have been told how precious YouTube can be when learning Portuguese.
But have you been following the right channels?
Well, look no further!
Too often, language learners will get stuck on videos that are made for language learners, rather than challenging themselves with videos that were created by native speakers for native speakers!
And wouldn’t it be a shame to completely overlook the creative community of Portuguese YouTubers?
Wuant is an absolute legend in Portugal.
Any teenager or young adult who is into YouTube will know who he is.
Some hate him, some love him. His energy and ability to laugh at himself—as well as his spontaneous, energetic videos about diverse topics such as memes, curiosities, conspiracy theories and science—have made him popular.
You might want to watch his videos if you are used to this style of content in your native language, and want to challenge yourself to keep up with very fast, very informal Portuguese as it is spoken by most young people today. Keep in mind that Wuant’s channel is likely to include slang, swearing and vocabulary you might not want to use around your parents or in your next job interview!
Fashion hauls, weekly vlogs, makeovers, giveaways, “what I eat in a day,”… feeling like subscribing already?
The host of this channel is a young mom who shares frequent fashion, lifestyle and beauty advice. Her videos could come in handy if you are interested in learning basic European Portuguese vocabulary about these topics, but also if you need a slower pace to start getting used to the sound of the language.
Compared to other YouTubers, she still speaks rather quickly and informally, but in a manner you would encounter when meeting somebody new or hanging out with a Portuguese friend for coffee. Get comfy with one of Portugal’s most popular beauty YouTubers!
If you often find yourself picturing your next creative dessert, planning delicious meals for your weekend or just craving some awesome food inspiration, look no further! You. Must. Follow. 24Kitchen.
You can choose from a variety of smaller programs, but “Cozinha com Twist” (“Kitchen with a Twist”), hosted by Filipa Gomes, is definitely one of the most popular right now. Her ’50s look, combined with a sweet, welcoming attitude, has made her one of Portuguese TV’s most recent talents!
The best part? The combination of images with the voice of a Portuguese narrator will help you explore new vocabulary related to food and cooking. Among other things, this means you will become familiar with establishing a sequence with connectors like primeiro (first), depois / a seguir (after that) and finalmente (finally). Because you will be watching professional content, the sound quality is as high as can be, giving you the perfect listening experience!
Carina’s personality agrees with her look—sober, down-to-earth and casual.
Her channel addresses issues related to lifestyle, fashion, makeup and daily habits, but rather than keeping it superficial, Carina often posts videos about deeper issues in a series she calls “Carina de Verdade” (“Carina for Real”). Here, she has spoken about topics as diverse as loneliness, maturity and hypocrisy, positivity and negativity and even aging!
Carina’s urban and mature vibe will give you slower, extremely clear, yet informal European Portuguese speech that will guide you through common language—vocabulary about daily habits, colloquial expressions, clothing and travel. Her channel is ideal if you need a first contact with the language without getting overwhelmed right away!
Up for a challenge?
How about a healthy dose of incredibly theatrical, humorous, sarcastic Portuguese?
Because Mariana is a comedian, her Portuguese diction will often be exaggerated, and she will sometimes play with different accents, proverbs, colloquial expressions and even memes. For this reason, her channel might not be ideal if you are trying to learn new vocabulary or if you have just started learning European Portuguese.
Beginners can still benefit from her channel by using it to explore the variety of sounds you are bound to hear in Portuguese. Once you reach an advanced European Portuguese level, you will start catching up with her jokes on Portuguese society, families, old aunties and clichés!
Also, never underestimate the usefulness of reading comments. They will slowly help you understand what videos are about, and what people generally think about the topic at hand. Two in one!
3. Ride the Wave of Contemporary Portuguese Music
Music and language learning go hand-in-hand, as has been scientifically proven. To what extent is still up for discussion, but you can start taking advantage of the way your gray matter reacts to the vibrant language learning tool that is… awesome music!
Here are a few tips to take into consideration when using Portuguese music to learn the language:
- Don’t worry too much about understanding every single thing as you listen. Get used to the sound of the language, focus on understanding a couple of words you already know, or words that might sound similar to those in your native language. Relax and enjoy!
- Focus on the titles first. This is a fantastic trick if you tend to feel overwhelmed or confused when confronted with large amounts of information. Translate the titles first, and then move on to the lyrics of the song. Just by translating titles of songs you often listen to, you are sure to start learning new words in no time.
- Try singing along. Once you are used to the sound of the language and have full access to the lyrics, try singing as you go! You might think you sound silly at first, but you will be singing like a true Portuguese fadista in no time!
- Recognize that Portuguese music in general is also influenced by the music of other Portuguese-speaking countries—mostly Brazil, Angola, Cabo Verde and São Tomé e Príncipe. For this reason, you are likely to find songs that mix genres and different variations of Portuguese.
- The Portuguese have music for every possible taste, so take advantage! Alright, so we have been talking a lot about fado, the traditional Portuguese music genre. But you are mistaken if you think that is the only style the Portuguese have to offer!
Let’s check out just a few.
Agir has recently gotten under the spotlight with both hip hop and beautiful pop songs! Since the rhythm is pretty fast in this genre, it is perfect for advanced learners to challenge themselves to understand words in between the chaos.
While this type of music is great for beginners who want to begin getting used to the sound of the language, as it is typically slower in rhythm and speech, just be aware that it is not a good idea to trust the vocabulary fado songs use, since it is often outdated.
If you are a pop and/or R&B lover, you will be glad to know there have been several young singers developing the art of pop in Portugal in recent years! Popular names include Carolina Deslandes, HMB, Bárbara Bandeira, D.A.M.A. and ÀTOA.
Needless to say, as soon as you start exploring, lots of other bands will show up and you can find your own personal gems. It is also a smart idea to start listening to Portuguese radio stations in order to get the hang of what the population is listening to and interested in. You will also get the chance to hear several radio hosts and personalities in Portuguese and improve your listening skills!
4. Discover the World of Kickass Portuguese Literature
I am nothing.
I’ll never be anything.
I couldn’t want to be something.
Apart from that, I have in me all the dreams in the world.
The above (translated) words by Fernando Pessoa, arguably the most famous modernist Portuguese poet, can be found in several Portuguese streets and on the walls of coffee shops and stores. This fragment of a poem can be found on notebooks and planners on sale in several bookstores. And for good reason!
Portugal is famous for its poets and novelists, who have been extremely rebellious and revolutionary. Although some of our most famous writers wrote in an older version of the Portuguese language, as was the case of Luís de Camões, a 16th-century poet, most of the greatest names in Portuguese literature belong to the 19th century onward.
The good news? The Portuguese language hasn’t changed much since then, so you will be able to understand all of it if you are an intermediate-advanced Portuguese learner!
Here are a few types of Portuguese literature you can check out.
Fan of realism and of long descriptions, as well as witty criticism of society? Go for writer Eça de Queiroz and his greatest hit “Os Maias: Episódios da Vida Romântica” (“The Maias: Episodes of Romantic Life”), a novel about the shocking affair between a young aristocrat and a lady—with a major plot twist we won’t reveal!
This book is mandatory study in high schools all over Portugal, so it could be a fantastic topic for future conversations with Portuguese friends.
For fans of imagination, rule-breaking poetry and the modernist craze, the choices are endless, as modernism was a major movement in Portugal. However, Fernando Pessoa (as well as his many heteronyms), José Régio and Almada Negreiros are absolute giants. Be aware that they are all poets, and often address topics as complex as loneliness, religion and atheism, aging, their contemporary environment, societal expectations and the passage of time.
If you must choose one, go for Fernando Pessoa. Start with the poems “Tabacaria” (“The Tobacco Shop”), “Autopsicografia” (“Autopsychography”) and “Mar Português” (“Portuguese Sea”). These works are so absolutely famous that every Portuguese person will be able to quote at least one line. And the good news? Pessoa’s work has been translated into English and is available around the web!
Up for more recent literature and engaging stories? Try José Saramago, the first Portuguese winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1998. Start with “Ensaio sobre a Cegueira” (translated to English as “Blindness”), a novel about the survival of a man in a world that suddenly goes blind—literally blind.
Valter Hugo Mãe is also a recent phenomenon and is considered to be one of the most promising living Portuguese authors, having written “A Máquina de Fazer Espanhóis” (literally “The Spaniard-Building Machine”) and “O Remorso de Baltazar Escorpião” (“Baltazar Serapião’s Remorse”)—both about the complexities of aging, friendship and love.
Not only will these authors help you take your European Portuguese to the next level, challenging you with metaphors, wordplay and complex thought—but they are also fantastic ice breakers and act as an open door into everyday Portuguese culture!
5. Go Short and Sweet with Portuguese Magazines and Newspapers
Perhaps you love reading, but books are not particularly your thing.
No time? Too much focus required? Need something lighter?
Go for magazines and newspapers.
Magazines and newspapers are a fantastic option if you want bite-sized chunks of information without having to focus. Whether you’re a beginning or an advanced learner, you may find it beneficial to print some articles that seem to be to your interest and underlining any new words and expressions you are not familiar with. This will help you practice reading without the need to finish an entire book or dedicating hours of your time!
Here are some popular options among Portuguese people.
Jornal de Notícias and Diário de Notícias for your daily news
While there are several newspapers for the latest news in Portugal, these two selections are trustworthy and will give you the chance to access smaller, accessible portions of information in European Portuguese. First of all, you get frequent exposure to vocabulary about the weather, employment, sports, transportation and technology. Secondly, the fact that the articles are short and meant for the wider population to understand means you are likely to be able to read a couple of articles even if you have started studying European Portuguese recently!
Whether it’s the opening of the latest restaurant or the most interesting culture and science news, these two popular magazines are likely to report it all in clear, brief European Portuguese.
Choose from categories like Economics, Culture, Politics, Science and Health to get the latest bits of information on what is happening around the world. After accessing a certain number of articles, you may be asked to create a login account, but your access will remain free and unrestricted.
Máxima, Women’s Health Portugal and Men’s Health Portugal for health, fitness and well-being
With everything from the latest wedding trends to advice for first-time runners and even strategies for dealing with anticipation stress, this selection of magazines will give you a daily dose of short, accessible articles in European Portuguese related to fashion, well-being, family, nutrition and relationships.
For beginners, these resources are a chance to start getting familiar with basic vocabulary that might come in handy while talking to Portuguese speakers, as most of the sections explore fears, habits and emotions human beings around the world can relate to!
National Geographic Portugal for science
Would it be a good idea to bring extinct species back to our planet?
Are birds more intelligent than we have been giving them credit for?
National Geographic Portugal will give you access to several articles written in European Portuguese, with the advantage of also letting you in on several curiosities about our planet, wonderful new species, animal behavior and awe-inspiring landscapes!
6. Start Talking to Actual European Portuguese Speakers
Regardless of how much we read or listen to music, talking to others is still the best way to get yourself out there and start improving quickly.
Even if you still do not feel confident enough, know that the pain of having to go through a couple of awkward silences is nothing compared to the joy you will feel when you actually get your message across!
While you do not necessarily need to speak to native Portuguese people, it is a good idea if you need some help with pronunciation and word choice.
When it comes to understanding the “backstage” of the language, it is also a good idea to speak to other language learners who managed to master European Portuguese and share experiences!
Whether you are an actual couchsurfer or you could never picture yourself sleeping on someone else’s couch for days, this is a trustworthy cost-free platform to begin speaking to new people.
Most users who are not looking for accommodation still want to make new connections and are pretty open to sharing experiences, especially if they are visiting your city and want to see some new faces. Find some Portuguese (or European Portuguese-speaking) travelers who are walking around, and dare to say hi!
iTalki is its own whole universe for meeting other language learners and teachers.
You can use the platform for free, and it gives you a choice between simply talking to Portuguese people for fun or getting actual classes with a teacher. You can also choose from a wide variety of prices. In your profile, you are free to mention what type of support or experience you are looking for, what languages you speak and at what level, and what languages you are trying to learn at the moment.
Get ready to widen your circle!
Did you take notes on the above and prepare your resources?
Now you can start exploring new waters!
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