Portuguese learners, it’s time to turn up the volume.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a keen learner of the Brazilian dialect or a curious student of the classic European renditions—music is bound to conduct you into fluency.
How, you ask? It’s actually quite simple.
So, without further ado, let’s hit play on this post.
How Portuguese Songs Will Help You Become Fluent
First up, let’s take a closer look at how music can help the everyday language learner.
A simple breakdown of the benefits of musical learning is all it takes to prove this point.
First of all, everyone knows music is catchy. But did it ever occur to you that this can be a great memorization tool? Whether it’s a song that’s stuck in your head or a line of lyrics that you’re learning, you’ll be adding to your existing knowledge base simply by paying attention to your chosen Portuguese-language tunes.
On that bright note, song lyrics can be instrumental (pun intended) in helping you contextualize all the vocabulary you’ve been learning. You’ll be seeing how colloquialisms, slang and everyday words come together to paint a picture, form a message and capture the story each song has to tell.
What makes things even better is that music is highly accessible. You can stream it online, boot up your favorite playlist on your car’s stereo or plug in some headphones to your smartphone to jam to some cool sounds on your daily commute. In many ways, music is present in every aspect of our lives.
And you know what? Singing is a fantastic way to get some pronunciation practice. Songs expose you to how words are meant to be enunciated, so joining in and belting it out will definitely get you closer to owning your native accent of choice.
Now that we’ve covered our basics, it’s time to set our learning metronomes to a five-beat medley.
Learn Portuguese with Music: 5 Tips and 10 Portuguese Songs from Different Genres to Get You Started
First, we’ll share five tips that can turn any listening sesh into a learning experience.
Then, we’ll dive into 10 Portuguese songs from a variety of different genres.
Ready? Let’s get started!
5 Snazzy Tips That Will Resonate with Every Portuguese Learner
1. Find songs you truly enjoy listening to
Even the most eclectic musical souls are going to be turned off by songs they dislike. Which is why it’s crucial that you focus on finding music that you’ll look forward to playing over and over again. Since music taste can be quite subjective, starting with genres you’re familiar with—like pop, rock, hip-hop or R&B—can offer some extra motivation.
That being said, remember that cultural understanding and language learning go hand-in-hand: You need to know what makes the locals tick in order to get what they’re saying. So make sure you’re also taking the time to discover some genres that are unique to Brazil and Portugal—hang tight, as this is something we’ll be covering later in this post.
Apps and sites like YouTube, Spotify and Pandora will definitely help you source some cool sounds. Jazz it up, get creative and see where different keywords can take you (even an English-language search is likely to get you some good hits).
Here are a few examples to get you inspired:
- Try these YouTube playlists from Brazil and Portugal. You’ll find many more like these just by searching for “músicas brasileiras” or “músicas portuguesas” on the website—pretty straightforward, right?
- If you’re a Spotify user, check out this Portuguese music compilation or this Brazilian alternative.
- Pandora listeners could take a look at (or have a listen to) this Brazilian music list or this Portuguese station.
Actually, you’re likely to find musical gems in places you’d least expect. For example, Reddit has proven to be a great resource for tracking down Brazilian and Portuguese music; if you’re ever stuck for ideas, just take a look through the r/somluso and r/brazilianmusic subreddits.
Feel like making a challenge out of it? Try plunging into a more advanced lyrical journey: tune into any online radio station from Brazil or Portugal and try to source some new chart-toppers from those live streams. Naturally, this approach is best suited for advanced speakers whose ears are already attuned to the native accent—a beginner might not yet be quite ready to catch song lyrics from this immersive process. But even if you’re a beginner, you can still enjoy some good tunes!
Not feeling too adventurous? Ease yourself into your musical feat by searching for songs in your favorite genres, as we mentioned above. For instance, if you’re a rock music fan, you could try searching for “rock brasileiro” or “rock português,” depending on which language variety you’re learning. Likewise, if you’re a rap/hip-hop fan, you search for “rap brasileiro/português”; if you’re more attuned to pop music, you could try “música pop brasilieira/portuguesa”; and if R&B is your jam, a search of “R&B brasileiro/português” could give you some interesting results.
When you’re ready to diversify your listening with traditional or localized genres, you can always check out some of our previous recommendations. We’ve got a nice list of Brazilian songs and various Lusophone hits for you to check out, as well as a nice overview of some famous Portuguese language singers.
2. Set up a system and learning routine for listening to Portuguese music
So you’ve compiled your ideal playlist—great! Now it’s time to put it to good use.
You’ll greatly benefit from tracking your progress right from the outset. Knowing how much you already understand and where your comprehension is lacking will not only help you identify how often you should practice, it’ll also let you know how far you’ve come just by listening to music.
The best way to keep a record of your achievements is to simply write things down. Grab a notebook, listen to each song a couple of times and jot down any familiar words that jump at you. It doesn’t need to be something extremely structured unless you’re the kind of person who needs to see things flowing in a logical manner. If you need something more organized, try dedicating a page for each song that you’re playing back. Then do the same at the later stages when you’re reassessing your vocab skills.
Every time you listen to a new song, identify any words that you’re already familiar with. That will also help you notice unfamiliar words that repeat a lot, which will help you focus your vocabulary learning efforts.
Once this step is completed, you’ll be ready to close in on the finer details of each song.
3. Track down those lyrics—and translate them!
Song lyrics will put your vocabulary into context. That’s why knowing exactly what is being sung and how the words are being presented in music is such an important part of your melodic learning journey.
Finding lyrics is relatively straightforward, too. A Google search for “[song title] letras” is usually all you’ll need to hit the jackpot. Alternately, you could always try your luck on a lyrics site like Letras e Músicas Portuguesas Online (for popular songs from Portugal) or the site Letras (for Brazilian music and international songs).
On the first few listens, have the lyrics in front of you so you can get the gist of what you’re hearing. Then, grab a notebook and jot down any unfamiliar Portuguese phrases you’ve stumbled across. Take notes on how these phrases are used (for example, write down the entire sentence or line), as this can help you make sense of your grammar essentials.
Again, having something you physically go back to will come in handy. Print the lyrics out, or write them in your notebook—for the latter, make sure to leave enough space to note down your translation. Having an English translation side-by-side will ensure you’re getting the gist of the words you’ll soon be singing along to.
Don’t worry too much about getting your translation perfect. Simply look up any terms that need clarification, and take the time to analyze how they’re used in each song you’ve selected. Essentially, as long as you can generally understand what each verse is trying to convey, you’re all set!
For an extra challenge, get someone to erase random words out of the lyrics so you can fill in the blanks while you’re listening. This is a good way to test your listening skills and hone your spelling. Or, just use FluentU for this! (More on this below.)
4. Get creative in your song discovery
There are loads of ways to find new songs to add to your playlist:
- Learners using the FluentU program are already one step ahead—with its awesome collection of native video content, the program is sure to aid you in your musical discovery. Make sure to note down the names of the artists you’ve been exposed to so you can get familiar with their music.
FluentU will also help you retain the vocab, grammar concepts and natural flow of the language that you learn through Portuguese songs thanks to interactive subtitles, adaptive quizzes, video-enhanced flashcards and more.
A Portuguese learning program is currently in development, so stay tuned for an immersive, authentic way to learn Portuguese, coming soon!
- If you’re grooving out to some cool Portuguese tunes on YouTube, try clicking on suggested videos to see what new leads are out there.
- Those who like to get their music through streaming services like Spotify or Pandora should take a look at what music suggestions come up as they craft their Portuguese learning playlists, or simply start a radio station with a Portuguese song you like and let the algorithm take it from there.
5. Put your skills to the test
As you know, listening is only part of the equation.
In this final step, you’ll be relying on your vocal chops as well as your Portuguese comprehension.
It helps to break a song into manageable sections as you’re trying to get in tune with the lyrics. Try singing along to the first few verses a few times. Once you’re confident with that, move on to the chorus, then the next set of verses and finally the bridge. If you prefer, start with the chorus first—that’s the part that gets repeated the most, after all! There’s plenty of room to experiment at this stage, so feel free to play around with different approaches.
Want to turn things up a notch? Record yourself singing. Whether you go for a video or an audio recording, it all counts. This will enable you to identify whether you’re pronouncing things properly, or if you need to do more work to perfect your accent.
As you become more familiar with all the Portuguese language songs on your playlist, go ahead and test your skills against other educational apps and resources—that way, you’ll know how far along you are on your path to fluency.
Now that you know how to use songs to learn Portuguese, we’re ready to get on to some music recommendations.
Learn Portuguese with Rap Songs
Brazil and Portugal are both keen embracers of rap music. In Portugal you’ve got “rap tuga” or “hip-hop tuga,” a unique style that’s been making waves since the late 1980s-early 1900s.
Groups like Da Weasel and solo artists like Boss AC are among the local greats leading this movement. Here’s a peek at their music:
“Casa (Vem Fazer de Conta)” (Home [Come Pretend]) by Da Weasel
A song reflecting on life, love, relationships and the notion of being at home. This rap tune doesn’t have a lot of slang but it does have a lot of essential, everyday vocab for its listeners.
“A Bala” (The Bullet) by Boss AC
This song uses the imagery of a bullet (bala) to offer a critical perspective of gun violence. This one has accessible language that offers learners a good grasp on metaphors, imagery and even some onomatopoeia with the “pum-pum” sound of the bullets.
In Brazil, hip-hop saw its peak in the early 2000s. Before that, in the 1990s, Racionais MC’s became some of the country’s most renowned hip-hop groups.
The rise of the internet later gave artists like Emicida the platform that they needed to make the genre the powerhouse that it is today. Here’s a sampler of these two:
“Diário de um Detento” (The Diary of a Convict) by Racionais MC’s
As its title suggests, this is a narration of a day in the life of a convict in jail.
This one’s a bit more challenging, and as such best suited for intermediate-advanced learners: it contains a bit of slang (like podecrer, which means “you best believe it”), onomatopoeia (rátátátá for the sound of rifle shots and tic tac for a ticking clock) and a few local and cultural references to analyze.
“A Chapa É Quente” (Literally: “The Plate Is Hot”) by Emicida featuring Rael
“Chapa quente” is a slang term used to denominate someone who’s dangerous—so A Chapa É Quente would basically be referring to a dangerous situation that’s heating up (“quente”).
This song talks about conflict, violence and social inequality, and was nominated for the 2017 Latin Grammy Awards’ Best Urban Song category.
Expect to learn a lot of colloquial language and slang from this one.
Finding more beats: look up “rappers brasileiros” to discover more Brazilian rappers; “rappers portugueses” to find more artists from our lusophone friends—it might even give you leads beyond Portugal; and “rap tuga” or “hip-hop tuga” for even more from Portugal.
You can also try “hip-hop brasileiro” for all your Brazilian hip-hop needs.
Rock Out with Portuguese Rock Songs
Rock music is very popular in Brazil and Portugal alike. Both countries have a massive trove of artists to discover in this genre—from old-time pioneers like Portugal’s Rui Veloso and Brazil’s Raul Seixas, to successful bands like Portugal’s Xutos & Pontapés and the Brazilian Legião Urbana.
Check out some of these artists’ repertoire:
“Anel de Rubi” (Ruby Ring) by Rui Veloso
This song deals with the heartbreak that comes with loving someone and not being loved back. Its words are descriptive and flow like a one-way conversation—it might be useful if you’re trying to brush up on your European Portuguese personal pronouns.
“Metamorfose Ambulante” (Errant Metamorphosis) by Raul Seixas
This is one of Raul Seixa’s most famous hits. The song’s lyrics are rather complex, but it’s basically all about the way the singer’s ideas, opinions and perspectives are always morphing and changing.
It’s ideal for advanced learners wanting to challenge themselves with nuanced language and imagery.
“O Homem do Leme” (The Man of the Helm) by Xutos & Pontapés
Here’s another hit with complex lyrics. The song tells the story of a man at the helm of a boat (leme) as he escapes from repression and forced ideologies.
It’s a good tune for intermediate-advanced learners to learn a few terms related to seaside voyages that they might not have previously been exposed to.
“Eduardo e Mônica” (Eduardo and Mônica) by Legião Urbana
This classic Brazilian rock song tells the story of two people (Eduardo and Mônica) who fall in love, despite not having a single thing in common. With this one, Brazilian Portuguese learners will be exposed to some slang, cultural references and the occasional nod to Brazil’s capital city (Brasilia, the couple’s home)
Rock some more: search for “grupos de rock brasileiros” for Brazilian rock groups or “grupos de rock portugueses” for more from Portugal.
Alternatively, look up “rock brasileiro” and “rock português” respectively to get a bigger-picture view of the genre.
Go for the Classics with Traditional Portuguese Songs
Both Portugal and Brazil offer a breadth of traditional music.
Among Brazil’s best renowned is bossa nova, a genre popularized in the 1950s and 1960s that blends musical styles like samba, jazz and blues. Here’s a taste of one of bossa nova’s greatest hits:
“Chega de Saudade” (Enough Missing) by João Gilberto
The late João Gilberto is largely regarded as one of the pioneers of bossa nova music. In this song, he sings about sorrow and saudade (that feeling you get when you miss someone deeply).
With this one, learners will get to see how diminutive words like peixinhos (little fish) and beijinhos (little kisses) are used, as well as see plenty of repetitive phrases being employed to convey the singer’s sorrow.
Similarly, fado is one of the first genres that people think about when talking about traditional Portuguese music. Hailing from Lisbon, this musical style can be traced back to the 1820s and is known for its melancholic lyrics.
Here’s a contemporary fado song to get you inspired:
“Uma Casa Portuguesa” (A Portuguese House) by Amália Rodrigues
Known as the “Queen of Fado” (or “A Rainha do Fado” in Portugal), Amália Rodrigues gained international acclaim with her fado songs and became a key figure in the genre’s revival in the twentieth century.
This song is a poetic ode to the traditional Portuguese household. As such, learners can expect to brush up on daily terms relating to the various parts of a house, as well as food, the seasons among other words that paint a picture of hospitality and wholesomeness.
Loving the classics? See what you can find when you search “cantores de bossa nova” (bossa nova singers), “cantores de fado” (fado singers), “musica tradicional portuguesa” (traditional Portuguese music) and “musica popular brasileira” (popular Brazilian music—that’s a whole genre in itself!)
That’s plenty of music to get you buzzing for now!
Use these selections as entry points into the world of learning Portuguese with songs. So gather up your hit list and make sure to practice until your abilities take you to the top of the charts!
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