Living in Brazil taught me one very important language lesson: Portuguese listening practice is as important as any grammar book.
I remember thumbing through the Portuguese dictionary and not always being able to find the word I’d just heard.
That’s one reason why listening is so important! Listening will teach you about local slang and idiomatic phrases that you might not discover otherwise.
By listening, I learned my favorite word, which is a gaúcho (gaucho) Portuguese word: largartear (to sprawl out and rest in a sunny spot). It’s so regional that Google Translate doesn’t even know what it means. To discover it, I had to listen to how native Portuguese speakers use it and figure out its meaning from context.
Don’t ditch your favorite grammar book, but be sure to add some audio resources to your study mix so you, too, can discover fun new words you’d never find otherwise.
Let’s learn some ways you can improve your Portuguese through Portuguese listening practice!
Portuguese Listening Practice Tips
As my story illustrates, listening is key in learning a language, including cultural slang and idioms. Not only that, but it helps you learn to use the words and phrases you do know in context.
It can also help you improve your pronunciation: The more you listen, the better handle you’ll have on those sounds we don’t quite use in English (like lh, ão, ãe, nh, em).
Along with the active listening tips below, try to fake Portuguese immersion any chance you get. You can do this by listening to as much Portuguese as you can get your hands on. You might listen to a Portuguese-language podcast or find some Portuguese audio online to play in the background while you fold laundry. Even if you’re doing other things, your brain’s still processing the information you hear.
Of course, depending on your level of Portuguese, you’ll have different experiences with listening. You might not understand more than five words or maybe you’ll only get half of what’s being said.
But don’t worry too much. The understanding will come with time. Research actually shows that language learning is more efficient if the learner isn’t forced to immediately reproduce a large amount of language all at once—so be patient!
For some people, just listening over and over again to the language is enough for them to be able to learn it. For others like myself, you need a bit of extra help. Here are some tips to help you improve your Portuguese listening practice so you can get the most out of it.
I picked up on another word by listening during my time in Brazil: lagarto (lizard). Each time I heard someone use lagartear or lagarto, I’d chuckle a little because I’d imagine that person lying like a lizard in the sun. Picturing this scene for the word helped me remember it better.
If you want to remember something, you need to learn the skill of association.
You might be familiar with this if you’ve ever played an introduction game at the start of a new class or some other social gathering. For instance, each person in the group says their name and their favorite candy. Then the next person tries to remember those facts—and sometimes the favorite candy helps the next person remember the first person’s name.
A similar tactic can be applied to listening. In this case, the association that can help is personalizing the listening subject matter to what’s relevant to you. Think about how the topic fits into your life.
By extension, it’s helpful to choose audio about topics that interest you. Videos can also be useful because they make it easier to associate the words you hear with the images you see.
2. Use subtitles
If you’re a visual learner or you learn through reading, subtitles can be a useful way to get started.
Subtitles will help you parse the various words you’re hearing. Be wary of leaning too much on English subtitles as this can cause you to pay less attention to the spoken language. If you’re able to, use Portuguese subtitles with Portuguese audio.
You can find some movies on Netflix with Portuguese language and subtitle options.
FluentU has a large selection of subtitled videos, as well. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized, fully subtitled, language learning lessons.
But these aren’t just subtitles—they’re interactive references! Just hover over any word as the video is playing to see its definition, an associated image, a sample sentence and even hear the word in use in other videos for maximum context.
A Portuguese learning program is currently in development, so stay tuned for an immersive, authentic way to learn Portuguese, coming soon.
It’s a good idea to listen to various types of audio and switch it up between simple monologues and more complex dialogues. While it’s tempting to just stick with simpler audio, easing yourself into the more complicated listening practice will help you slowly gain confidence and understanding.
You can find easier Portuguese listening practice audio by looking for clips from children’s songs and shows. Disney movies, for example, are great resources because the audio is very clear and the vocabulary is typically simpler.
Then, slowly start challenging yourself by introducing more complex content.
4. Be confident
If you’re confident and willing to switch up your learning techniques, you’re likely to learn faster. So first, let go of your embarrassment and accept that you’re going to mishear.
But also make sure that you’re evaluating your progress every once in a while. Check in to see which Portuguese listening practice techniques are working and which aren’t. Be willing to change your strategy.
5. Listen actively
Here are some pre-listening, during listening and post-listening activities that can help you be an active listener during your Portuguese listening practice.
- Pre-listening activities: Start by brainstorming key words and phrases that you think might come up in the audio. Usually, the title of the audio will give you some hint as to what will be talked about. Start from there.
Then, take some time to learn these words. Try to find audio online of each word so you can get its sound down in your mind.
Personalize the information and the vocabulary you learn. When might you use it? Use your imagination. Think of what might be shown in the video or imagine each of the words you learned in conversation.
- During listening activities: Once you start listening, pay attention to the words you hear and the ones that you know. You can write down words that sound familiar or ones you might want to learn. You can even practice by writing down everything word-for-word.
You may have to listen to the audio multiple times, but make sure you also listen to how grammar is being used, the accent and intonation. I’ve found that pausing the audio and saying what you heard is also helpful.
If you’re advanced, you can pause the audio after each sentence and comment in Portuguese on what you heard. You might also ask yourself questions about what you’re hearing, pick out the main point, predict what will happen, draw inferences or summarize.
- Post-listening activities: After you listen to the audio, review what you’ve written down. Then, try to paraphrase what you heard. Listen again and try some of the other “during listening” activities.
Once you’ve exhausted that audio, take time to learn the vocabulary that stuck out to you.
10 Portuguese Listening Practice Recommendations
Thanks to the internet, you have so many options for practicing your listening. I suggest you start by deciding what you want to learn about. You want to personalize your Portuguese listening practices, so choose topics that interest you.
If you don’t know the Portuguese term for a particular topic, type it into Google Translate and use the translation as your search term. Google Translate isn’t always perfect, but for the purposes of this search, it’s usually good enough.
Remember, people can give you great recommendations if you ask! We’ve gone ahead and recommended a total of 10 great resources for Portuguese listening practice, but there are so many more out there.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Jam with Portuguese Music
Music is great for learning a language because not only can you use it for practice anywhere as long as you have headphones, but you also usually have access to the lyrics.
You can start by reviewing the lyrics or you can listen to the song first and try to pick out words, instead. This’ll also help you learn the words in the lyrics, as music is a great way to memorize words.
Here are some great suggestions to get you started practicing Portuguese audio with music:
This pop group sings relaxing tunes that are quite easy to follow along with.
This duo sing serteneja, a Brazilian type of music. They sing much more upbeat songs, so check out the lyrics and try to follow along.
3. Maria Rita
If you want some classic bossanova sounds, Maria Rita will provide you with all that and more.
Listen Along to Portuguese Podcasts
If you find yourself having a long commute or doing mindless work, then podcasts might be a good fit for you. The great thing about podcasts is that you can find ones on various topics that interest you, so it’s very personalized.
Here are some suggestions for great podcast to learn with:
4. “Mas você vai sozinha?” (“Wait, You Go Alone?”)
If you’re interested in travel, this is a great podcast for you to dive into. You can even choose the episodes based on places you’re interested in.
5. “Imagina Juntas” (“Imagine Together”)
This podcast is about the lives of millennials who are trying to be adults. It covers topics from pop culture, work, money and relationships, among other things.
If you’re more into stories, try this podcast on Brazilian folklore stories.
Tune In to Portuguese Radio
For those who like a broad spectrum of music and don’t want to spend time searching for specific artists, you might try listening to Brazilian radio stations.
Here are some of my suggestions for your radio listening pleasure:
This radio station has a bit of everything, from music to sports to health and fitness.
You can listen to this station all day if you want because they stream their music and shows online.
If you’re learning European Portuguese, there are plenty of continental Portuguese radio options available for you, as well!
Read Along with Portuguese Audiobooks
The great thing about audiobooks is that you can get different levels of text, from children’s beginner books to chapter books for those who are more advanced.
Listening to a book in Portuguese that you’ve already read in English is a great place to start since you’ll already have a general understanding of the story.
Here are some audiobooks in Portuguese that you can listen to for free:
These are classic tales that you’ve probably heard before, so they’re a great place to begin!
This is a children’s book, but you’ll definitely learn some new vocabulary by listening to its translation.
Portuguese listening practice can be frustrating if you’re just starting out, but it’s a great way to improve your vocabulary, your accent and your ability to understand people.
So keep at it and don’t give up!
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