Remember the story of Achilles’ heel?
When Achilles was a baby, his mother dipped him in a river that gave him the power of invulnerability.
But one day, a poison arrow hit him in his one weakness—the spot on his heel that his mother had held him from.
Okay, poison arrows, supernatural rivers… what could this possibly have to do with your Portuguese studies?
Well, everybody has their own Achilles’ heel.
If you’re a Portuguese student, maybe your weakness is listening comprehension. Maybe you struggle with pronunciation or maybe you just haven’t practiced writing enough.
Portuguese language courses are the river you should jump in. These courses can be incredible assets in your Portuguese-learning arsenal, especially because many of them target specific learning goals.
Not sure where to start? We’ll help you identify your language weak spots and then show you which Portuguese language courses can help solve them.
How to Overcome Language Learning Weaknesses
Step 1: Identify Your Weaknesses
On my first high school French exam, I aced everything except the listening comprehension section. I didn’t get any of those questions right.
This exam was great feedback for me because it said: You’re good at the other stuff, but you need to work on understanding what people are saying to you. Portuguese language courses will give you the same crucial feedback so you can home in on your own language weaknesses.
In some cases, it’ll be a matter of noticing which types of exercises you continually struggle with. Other courses might offer structured proficiency assessments.
Once you know where your language weaknesses lie, you can move on to solving them.
Step 2: Prepare Yourself
I was terrified of roller coasters when I was a kid. Absolutely terrified. It wasn’t until I was 15 or so and my brother dragged me onto one that I learned they’re actually quite fun.
This was a kind of exposure therapy—by pulling me onto the roller coaster, my brother put me in a situation where I was forced to confront my fear, and nothing bad happened. It turned into a positive experience.
I didn’t know how to do this for my language studies. I knew my weakness, and I knew how to get better at it. But I didn’t like the feelings associated with practicing it. I didn’t like not being good at it.
Seneca—who’s always right—wrote, “If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.” Or: If you would rather not fail the listening comprehension section of your exam, you should practice.
If you’re terrified of speaking Portuguese and don’t want to flub when it comes time to visit Brazil, you need to train. How? First, identify why you’re terrified. Is it because you hate making mistakes? Because you get embarrassed when you can’t remember a word?
Then change the narrative. Say, “I’m going to practice speaking and my goal is to catch five mistakes.” Or, “next time I practice reading Portuguese, my goal is to write down ten words to look up later.”
Step 3: Employ Deliberate Practice with Language Courses
Of course, the hard part about all of this is actually doing it.
Fighting your weaknesses is like learning to run long distance. The first few times are hard, but it gets easier every time.
Deliberate practice is the act of identifying skills you want to learn and then designing practice sessions to target them. One of the best ways to use deliberate practice to learn Portuguese is through online language courses. Online courses are great because they’re portable, accessible and give you instant feedback on your progress. We’re glued to our screens enough as it is—aproveitamos isso (let’s take advantage of that)!
How can you use online courses for deliberate practice?
First, you’ll have to select which course you want. You might want to use more than one, but I recommend starting with just one for now. We’ll show you some excellent options below.
Next, make a commitment. Pledge to complete one lesson every day. Or spend 15 minutes on the course before bed each night.
Finally, you need some positive reinforcement. Put yourself back in situations where you’re getting feedback from other people about your improvement. It’ll make you want to practice more.
8 Portuguese Courses for Mastering Any Language Weakness
Which language course should you pick? Fortunately, each course has its own learning philosophy that targets one of the four language skills. Now that you’ve identified your weakness, you can pick a language course for deliberate practice that’ll be best at addressing that weakness.
Targeted Weakness: Listening Comprehension
This resource from the experts at Innovative Language Learning provides Portuguese audio and video podcasts of practical situations such as getting around, scheduling appointments and ordering pizza. The podcasts are created by a team of expert language educators, and they’re fairly prolific—there are more than 1,000 for you to explore.
The platform’s goal is to provide engaging and relevant audio for you to build your listening skills.
Plus, along with the podcasts, you’ll also get flaschards, PDF lessons notes and other learning tools. There’s also an online community of language learners so you can try out those new comprehension skills in real time!
While it’s helpful for a range of language skills, FluentU is a particularly great way to learn to understand native speakers. A Portuguese program is currently in development, which will offer authentic Portuguese videos like movie trailers, news reports, funny YouTube clips and more, and then transform them into interactive learning experiences.
Each video comes with interactive captions you can use to get in-context definitions of any word you don’t recognize. Think of them like supercharged subtitles helping you learn real-world Portuguese as you go.
FluentU’s innovative “Learn Mode” also provides flashcards and exercises, which ensure that you’re actively learning from what you’ve watched. You should feel your comprehension skills grow quickly as you use this tool—and the built-in progress tracking will show you just how much you’ve developed.
Targeted Weakness: Speaking
As its name suggests, this course from the Irish polyglot Benny Lewis wants you to start speaking as soon as you begin learning the language.
Speak from Day One implements many of the ideas, techniques and “language hacks” discussed in his popular TEDx talk. The eight-module course is designed not only to help you quickly build up your vocabulary and get talking, but also to overcome some of the anxiety and stress that many beginner learners feel.
Note: Speak from Day One doesn’t teach you a specific language. It was created to be adapted to whichever language you’re learning. So this is a good course for helping to set up your learning regimen before you dive into the nuances of Portuguese pronunciation.
Babbel teaches a range of language skills, but it’s particularly useful for speaking. It aims to get Portuguese in your ear and exiting your mouth as soon as possible. One of its key features is a pronunciation tool built in, which allows you to test out your speaking skills.
Babbel is also an an efficient course to target your speaking weaknesses—they skip over words in Portuguese that are so close to English you can recognize them without any training, like organization and organização.
Rocket Languages focuses more on getting your pronunciation as close to perfect as possible, and the entire course is geared around improving your pronunciation with a tool called “Rocket Record.” This tool uses voice recognition technology to allow you to record your speaking and compare it to native speech.
Rocket Languages is also specifically designed to identify and target your stumbling blocks. It’ll remember and re-teach the words or phrases you struggle with until you master them.
This course also features a transcription component, where you hear a native speaker and have to jot down the words they’re saying, which allows you to squeeze some listening practice in!
Targeted Weakness: Reading
LingQ wants to get you reading, saving words and coming back to them.
Pronounced like “link,” LingQ is designed to get you forming connections between known and unknown words and phrases. It presents you with short dialogues or paragraphs of text, with the unknown words highlighted for you.
This means that unknown words never slip by you (as can happen when reading a book or a news article) and that you get a lot of practice reading Portuguese in a natural context.
Targeted Weakness: Writing
Writing is the hardest skill to cover in an online course because one student’s writing can be vastly different from another’s. To truly master Portuguese writing, it makes most sense to have an expert correct you (such as in the traditional classroom model), but that doesn’t mean you can’t get any writing practice outside that environment.
Many of the courses covered above also feature a transcription or writing component, but check out the following for more targeted practice.
This university-level course is a bit more self-guided. You’ll find the assignments and course materials offered through MIT’s beginner Portuguese course, which you can browse freely and complete on your own schedule.
The course syllabus itself is online but most of your time will be spent offline, working through the exercises specified in the syllabus. The coursework is heavily centered on written assignments. A follow-up course, which requires four pieces of writing based on short stories, can be found here when you’re really ready to advance your writing.
I recommend this as a supplement to your other courses, or for review, since it’s a bit difficult to work through all by yourself if you don’t already have a good grip on the language. That said, it has been done—you can learn a lot from how Scott Young did his MIT challenge.
Although not entirely devoted to writing, Busuu has a feature where you can write some content and send it off to native speakers for corrections/notes. This also one of the few apps where you can download content to your device in advance, making it ideal for frequent travelers.
On their website, Busuu claims that 22 hours on the premium version of their app is equivalent to a semester of college classes in that language. It’s certainly cheaper!
Are you ready to undo that Achilles’ heel? With these targeted Portuguese language courses, you can turn your biggest language weaknesses into your strengths!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Portuguese with real-world videos.