Study in Your Jammies: Learn Portuguese at Home with Immersion and Resources
You can learn Portuguese right from the comfort of your home.
Learning Portuguese from home is pretty amazing!
This blog will help you figure out if this option is the right one for you, and introduce a few ideas and resources for bringing the learning to you.
- The Pros and Cons of Learning Portuguese at Home
- Learn Portuguese at Home with Immersion
- Online Resources to Help You Learn Portuguese at Home
- Putting It All Together
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
The Pros and Cons of Learning Portuguese at Home
Just like any language-learning method, there are pros and cons to learning Portuguese at home. Here are some things to consider if you’re interested in learning Portuguese from the comfort of your jammies:
Pro: There are many cheap and free options.
Everyone loves a good deal. And when it comes to learning Portuguese at home, you won’t have to empty your pocketbook.
When you travel, you have to invest in airfare, lodging, local transportation and food—not to mention all the souvenirs you’re going to buy. (You know you can’t come home from Brazil without Havaianas or from Portugal without a small rooster figurine.)
And if your trip is specifically for learning Portuguese, you’ll have to stay for quite some time before you get a handle on the language.
But when you learn Portuguese at home, you only pay as much as you want to. There are plenty of free resources you can use, or you can invest in some paid resources—but even then, you’ll be paying less than you would to stay in a foreign country for months.
Pro: It’s easy to adapt to your schedule.
Like most people, you probably have a hectic schedule that you have to coordinate around work, family, socializing and various other activities. And unfortunately, this may mean that you simply don’t have the time to use traditional learning methods like taking classes, because you just can’t fit them into your schedule.
But you can always find five minutes to learn Portuguese at home, in between activities. That’s the beauty of learning the language at home: It’s convenient.
When you’re in rush hour traffic, it’s easy to play a Portuguese language learning podcast. When you’re cleaning the house, you can listen to some music in Portuguese and try to pick out words you’ve learned.
Everyone has some downtime somewhere and that’s where you can fit in your Portuguese language learning time.
Pro: It gives you more choices.
If you travel to Portugal to learn Portuguese then realize you’d rather learn Brazilian Portuguese, it’s too late to back out. Or maybe you pay for a local course that advertises a native speaker as a teacher but find out once you start that it’s taught by a British guy who’s never even set foot in a Portuguese-speaking country, it’s probably too late by then, too.
But when you learn Portuguese at home, you get to experiment and try out different options.
Maybe you come upon the Cape Verde accent and the way it’s mixed with some creole, and you decide that’s the one you’re going to learn.
Maybe you discover that you learn better with audio resources than written ones.
The internet can provide you with all sorts of resources that can help you find what you want and what works for you—before you spend too much money.
Con: Getting fluent may take longer.
Be aware that when you learn Portuguese at home, your learning process may take a little longer. You’re not going to become fluent as quickly because you won’t be immersed from day to night like you would if you were living in a Portuguese-speaking country.
If you can only fit in five minutes of learning per day, you’ll learn the language but at a decidedly slower rate than if you were hearing it at every waking moment.
On the other hand, you also won’t tire your brain out from the constant immersion, either—as many people do when they learn in a foreign country. So take it at your own pace!
Con: You’ll be missing out on some face-to-face practice.
Unless you live with or near people who are fluent in Portuguese, your access to Portuguese speakers who could help you practice might be limited. Learning Portuguese at home limits you a little bit in that regard.
But luckily, you can use the internet once again to find online talking buddies or a tutor (more on both options later in this post) or you can even look for a local authentic Brazilian store you can visit.
Con: There’s less contact with the culture.
Perhaps the most fun part of a language is learning to work the culture into the language. It’s one thing to be able to communicate in a language but it’s another to adopt the gestures, tones and attitudes that go along with it.
When I first learned Portuguese, I was an American trying to speak Portuguese. But after living in Brazil for over a year, where I picked up the gestures and got a feel for the language, I was at times mistaken for a Brazilian because I learned how the culture made the language fun and beautiful.
It’s difficult to get to this level of fluency not just with the language but with the entire cultural package that comes with it when your interactions are limited to the internet.
That’s why, if you do decide to learn Portuguese at home, it’s important to immerse yourself in the language and culture as much as you can. Let’s find out how to do this!
Learn Portuguese at Home with Immersion
When I took my fifth year of Spanish classes, I probably worked in a dramatic sigh somewhere when I found out we had to do five hours a week of “immersion” homework per week on top of other daily assignments. These immersion activities included reading Spanish texts, listening to Spanish music, watching TV or movies in Spanish and having conversations with native Spanish speakers.
What seemed at first to be a tedious assignment turned out to be an extremely valuable lesson in language learning (and sparked a lifetime love for reggaeton music). When I participated in these immersion-like activities, I found myself catching on to the culture and way of speaking Spanish like a native.
But this is the Portuguese language blog so you might be wondering what Spanish has to do with anything. In truth, learning any language using immersive techniques has proven to be extremely effective. If you want to cover every aspect of a language—reading, writing, speaking and listening—immersion is the way to go.
So like my Spanish learning, assign yourself immersion homework and you’ll see the benefits quickly!
The key is to use materials that are made for Portuguese people, not learners. There are many ways you can immerse yourself in Portuguese at home:
- Listen to music in Portuguese. Put it on and dance around your living room or follow the lyrics and try to sing along.
- Read material made for Portuguese people. Find articles to read in Portuguese. Buy some children’s books if you’re a beginner. Or get a Portuguese translation of your favorite book and read it side-by-side with your English version. Just read!
- Find a Portuguese language-language learning buddy. If it’s an option, go out in your community and a find people who speak Portuguese. If you have no Portuguese friends, don’t fret: You can find many native Portuguese speakers online who’d love to participate in a language exchange with an English speaker.
- Watch a Portuguese TV show. Streaming websites like Netflix and Hulu offer some shows in Portuguese, or you can just turn on Portuguese subtitles or audio for any show that has the option available.
- Watch movies in Portuguese. Whether it’s a Disney movie or a made-in-Brazil movie, these will be great introductions into hearing the flow of the language and seeing how certain phrases are used in context.
Online Resources to Help You Learn Portuguese at Home
Using immersion is an excellent way to learn but to have a well-rounded knowledge of Portuguese, you’ll also need to incorporate some more structured learning of Portuguese grammar and vocabulary.
Thankfully, this can also be done from home and doesn’t have to break the bank!
There are many websites online designed for teaching Portuguese more formally, from online Portuguese courses to online Portuguese grammar resources.
Here are some of the most effective methods and resources for learning Portuguese right from home:
Working with an online tutor is a great way to learn Portuguese at home.
Like a language exchange, it’ll give you the chance to practice the language with a real native Portuguese speaker. Unlike a language exchange, your teacher will be experienced and be able to explain the intricacies of grammar and questions like “why do you use that word here but not there?”
A Portuguese tutor can introduce new concepts at a pace that works for you, help you develop proper pronunciation and correct any grammatical errors you may make.
Here are some websites where you can find an online Portuguese tutor:
- Live Lingua: This tutoring program offers one-on-one Portuguese Skype lessons with Portuguese-speaking natives. The cost per lesson is between $25 and $29.
- Verbalplanet: This website also offers Skype lessons with native Portuguese speakers but prices are more competitive and lessons are tailor-made to fit your language learning goals.
Additionally, many tutors offer a free trial lesson so you can try one out before you commit.
- TutorMe: This program has a monthly fee that includes 24/7 on-demand help, or you can pay $1 per minute for tutoring sessions. You can also read up on your tutor and see if they’re a good fit for you.
This is a great service if you plan on studying intensively and often need questions answered quickly because it allows you to search for helpers who are “online now.”
The great thing about podcasts is that they don’t require your full attention: You can listen to them while doing other things.
This means you can turn any busy work into a Portuguese study session just by turning on a Portuguese or Brazilian podcast! Stuck in traffic? Your car can be your own private classroom. Doing laundry? Fold those clothes to the rhythm of the Portuguese language.
Portuguese podcasts are great for auditory learners and for those who don’t always have a chance to sit down and study formally.
Here are some great Portuguese podcasts that you can listen to right now:
- PortuguesePod101: This website has over 1,180 audio and video lessons where you’ll learn Portuguese along with cultural aspects.
The program also offers flashcards and detailed lesson notes online so you can supplement your listening once you do get a chance to sit down and study.
- Practice Portuguese: This is a free podcast covering European Portuguese that’ll teach you vocabulary and local expressions. There are podcasts available for every level, from beginner to advanced.
- Portuguese with Carla: This is another European Portuguese podcast where you’ll learn with a variety of themes, grammar tips and memorization tricks.
I mentioned earlier that it’s a good idea to learn Portuguese with materials created for Portuguese speakers, but instructional videos and websites are also excellent tools for learning the foundation of the language under your belt.
If you’re a visual learner, you can find lots of videos on YouTube teaching Portuguese words, grammar concepts and even how to have a conversation. Here are a few beginner-friendly channels to check out:
- The Travel Linguist’s Portuguese 101: This playlist has 20 lessons geared towards absolute beginners that teach useful words and phrases.
- FluentU: This immersion program turns authentic Portuguese videos into interactive and engaging lessons through various exercises, personalized quizzes and multimedia flashcards.
- Portuguese Lab: You can find plenty of European Portuguese lessons here on everything from reading comprehension to grammar and vocab with this channel.
- Street Smart Brazil: If you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese instead, try out this channel, which focuses on the language as it’s actually used by native speakers.
For learners who need to see something spelled out for them (literally), Portuguese teaching websites provide a great option. Many look and feel like traditional textbooks, with bite-sized lessons, plenty of examples and even practice exercises, but are usually free.
Below are some excellent websites to get started with:
- Learning Portuguese: This aptly named website teaches all aspects of Portuguese including verbs and tenses, pronouns, basic vocabulary like greetings and so much more.
Check out the comments section for each page to see questions that are often answered by the site’s creator for an extra boost of learning.
- BBC Learn Portuguese: Learn Portuguese with the British Broadcasting Corporation! Although this website is no longer updated and isn’t as robust as the BBC’s other language-learning pages, it’s still a treasure trove for all things Portuguese, from phrases and lessons to cultural notes about Brazil.
- Learn Portuguese with Rafa: While it might not be as visually polished as the other sites, this one’s a fantastic place to learn about both Brazilian and European Portuguese, the respective cultures and even fun bonuses like traditional recipes.
Putting It All Together
A well-rounded at-home Portuguese learning program will combine all these aspects of learning.
For instance, you might learn a grammar concept on a YouTube channel or website, reinforce and practice the concept with your tutor, then try to pick it out when you listen to your favorite podcast, watch a Portuguese movie or play some Portuguese music as you wash the dishes.
This kind of learning will build on itself until you suddenly find that you forgot to turn on English subtitles in a show but you didn’t even realize—because you understood every word!
Learning Portuguese at home can be an enriching part of your day! And it will take you closer Portuguese fluency without ever needing to leave the house.
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)