Can’t go a whole weekend without catching the latest flick?
Love the plethora of movies available at the push of a button on all your gadgets and gizmos?
Well, you’re about to love them even more.
Let’s set the scene now.
It’s movie night and your popcorn is hot and fresh. You’re ready to sit back, relax and let the talented actors and directors of the awesome Portuguese language flick you just chose entertain you for the next 120 minutes.
But if you’re studying Portuguese, you’re getting so much more than 120 minutes of entertainment. Films provide you with listening practice, cultural context and a whole lot of motivation to keep learning.
In fact, if you haven’t been tapping into this awesome study resource, you’re truly missing out!
Whether you’re a keen learner of Brazilian or European Portuguese, we’ve got plenty of handy tips to help you make the most of your chosen flicks.
We’ll begin by zooming in on a few helpful pointers.
How to Get the Right Balance with Movies
Learning Portuguese with movies isn’t something a beginner can dive into head first. Rather, the experience should be something that you build up to.
Don’t let this discourage you, though. Think of movies as the practical reward for all the ground work you’ve been doing on the theoretical side of things. In other words, treat it as an essential tool that will help you consolidate all that vocab and grammar you’ve been getting from your study resources like textbooks, online tools, immersive software programs or, if you’re more advanced, your favorite Portuguese-language blogs and YouTube channels.
So before you start adding new movies to your “must watch” list, take the time to really close in on those fundamentals. Don’t forget to train your ears with listening exercises so you can get used to the native accent, too.
Once you start building up your confidence in listening and basic comprehension, navigating through movie-based studies will be a cinch.
As you watch and listen, you should be able to see various word patterns and sentences cropping up—which in turn will not only help you learn by association, it’ll also give you some context to add to those grammatical structures you’ve been so diligently revising.
One final note—watching things once, then never again, isn’t going to do you any favors. In fact, it’s recommended that you watch your chosen film two to three times so that you’re able to get the gist of the general plot line and dialog exchanges.
So this is why we strongly encourage you to make a habit out of incorporating movies (a weekly movie night is the best way to approach this), helping you establish an immersive learning environment in the comfort of your living room.
Now that we’ve given you plenty of food for thought, it’s time to fill you up with movie-based study hacks.
How You Can Learn Portuguese with Movies
1. Focus on Something Familiar
Start out by choosing a few of your favorite blockbuster movies and tracking down their dubbed versions.
Now, grab the localized movie title and do a search for it with either the word “dublado” (for Brazilian Portuguese searches) or “dobrado” (for European Portuguese alternatives) accompanying it. That’s it—nice and easy!
A word of warning for European Portuguese learners, though: In Portugal, dubbed movies tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Usually dubbing is reserved for shows, movies and cartoons geared toward a younger audience. To help make things easier, here are a few hit flicks that are dubbed in both dialects:
“Harry Potter e a Pedra Filosofal” (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”)
Harry Potter fans will be pleased to know that dubbed versions are available in both Brazilian and European Portuguese. For those who might not have seen it yet, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is the first installment of the film series.
It follows Harry Potter as he discovers that he’s a famous magical wizard and embarks on his first year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Watch the dubbed Brazilian Portuguese trailer here and the subtitled European Portuguese trailer here.
“Os Simpsons: O Filme” (“The Simpsons Movie”)
It may not be a children’s show, per se, but “The Simpsons Movie” still received its own European Portuguese voice-over. The 2007 American comedy film, based on the iconic TV series, follows Homer Simpson and his family as they’re kicked out of their hometown of Springfield after Homer accidentally pollutes the water supply and the town becomes encased in a giant dome.
“Monstros S.A.” in Brazil; “Monstros e Companhia” in Portugal (“Monsters, Inc.”)
“Monsters, Inc.” is a computer-animated movie by Walt Disney and Pixar that centers around two monsters, Mike Wazowski and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan. The duo work at Monsters, Inc., which is a company that generates the city’s power by scaring little children.
Confusion arises when a little girl enters the factory (children are viewed as toxic among monsters). Now Sulley and Mike need to find a way to return her home before it’s too late.
Note the subtle difference in titles for this one. The word “Inc.” was translated in Brazil as “S.A.” (short for sociedade anônima), while Portugal opted for the traditional “companhia.” For what it’s worth, both of them mean the exact same thing (company). Watch the Brazilian Portuguese trailer here and the European Portuguese trailer here.
2. Move on to Subtitled Flicks
Let’s go for something local now.
The first time you watch a new movie, focus on getting to know the plot and context of the film.
Then, over the next few playbacks, try to take in as much as you can without reading the text on the screen. The idea is to gradually wean yourself off the subtitles so you’re relying on your own comprehension.
Here are a few more suggestions:
“Mistérios de Lisboa” (“Mysteries of Lisbon”)
This costume drama initially focuses on an orphan trying to uncover his mysterious past, then branches out to include various inter-connected plot lines, narrations and stories.
The award-winning film is based on a novel with the same name by Camilo Castelo Branco and is a notable 272 minutes long. In some countries the movie was screened as mini-series because of its length.
“O Lobo Atrás da Porta” (“A Wolf at the Door”)
This is a dramatic thriller that’s centered around the kidnapping of an innocent child. As the police individually interrogates each of the abducted girl’s parents, it’s revealed that the father has a lover—who’s subsequently brought in for questioning. As police inquiries continue, a web of lies, vengeance, love and deceit begins to unravel.
Led by the Spanish director Carlos Saura, “Fados” is a documentary that fuses cinema, song, dance and instrumental performances to tell the history behind the fado—Portugal’s most emblematic musical genre. The fado is a musical tradition that’s been around since the 1820s, and the movie uses Lisbon as a backdrop to capture the style’s origins and melancholic undertones.
“Moro no Brasil” (“The Sounds of Brazil”)
Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki goes on a musical journey across Brazil, the country he considers his second home. The documentary, which received the English title “The Sounds of Brazil,” taps into the diversity and uniqueness of each region’s musical styles—from the renowned genres like samba and bossa nova to the hidden treasures that are mostly unknown to the masses.
3. Remember That Engagement Is Key!
Learning Portuguese with moves requires active, continual participation.
Pausing a film mid-scene to look up a word in the dictionary will distract you from the wider picture. Passively listening will add nothing to your linguistic skills, and trying to multi-task while you’re watching the movie will likely make you miss out on important pieces of information.
What we’re trying to say is that you need to fully engage with the content. Keep a notebook handy so that you can quickly jot down any words you’re unfamiliar with. Listen actively, always trying to keep up with what’s going on. If you hear a word that you recognize—repeat it! That alone will greatly assist with pronunciation.
Still scratching your head as to how one engages with a movie? Try a musical out for size. Listen carefully to the song lyrics, try to sing along after watching a couple of times and use them as memory aides as you see the plot unravel on screen. We’ll give you a few musical suggestions to hit the ground running:
“Branca de Neve e os Sete Anões” (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”)
The 1937 Disney classic is a great choice because it ticks the “something familiar” box, has dubs in both Portuguese dialects and you can even find the the soundtrack on iTunes. Watch the full European Portuguese version here and get a sneak preview of the Brazilian Portuguese opening sequence here.
“A Menina da Rádio” (“The Radio Girl”)
This classic musical from Portugal, with a title that roughly translates as “The Radio Girl,” tells the story of two rival shopkeepers and their children who are madly in love. As one of the shopkeepers decides to pursue his dream of creating his own radio station, he relies on the musical talents of his daughter and son-in-law to fulfill his vision.
The film’s title is both an ode to the Brazilian Carnival, as well as a celebration of the historic studio that produced it—Atlântida Cinematográfica—which was the most successful film production company in Brazil from the 1940s to the 1960s.
It’s a satirical musical comedy that follows a producer as he tries to make a movie about Helen of Troy. Tensions arise as the cast decides they would rather do a comedic take on the story despite the fact the producer hired a historian to help him write the script.
And that’s a wrap! Now that you’ve finished watching some great flicks, make sure to practice those skills and keep browsing for the next blockbuster hit that’ll help you speak Portuguese like a pro!
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