Learning European Portuguese

With more than 200 million native speakers, Portuguese is ranked 5th among world languages and spoken as a second language in many countries. Portuguese is an official language in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, and São Tome and Principe.

Learning European Portuguese will undoubtedly alter your experience abroad in many ways. You’ll achieve a sense of belonging, confidence, and freedom that will bring forth opportunities many people don’t experience due to fear and language barriers. We will discuss how learning European Portuguese will improve your life in Portugal.

Benefits of learning European Portuguese

Make new friends

One of the reasons ex-pats return to their home countries or move to another place is the lack of meaningful connections in their new home. Not knowing Portuguese can create barriers for newcomers and make it difficult to meet local people. Although it’s great to socialize with other immigrants, you’ll feel more at home and get a sense of Portuguese culture when you cultivate relationships with people tied to the land.

Expand your job pool

How often have we found the “perfect” role, only to realize you need a specific language skill to qualify? If you’re bilingual or multilingual, chances are that particular pre-requisite won’t phase you. Unlock more opportunities to effectively and confidently communicate with more people by sharpening your language skills. Want to work for a Portuguese company? Chances are high that you’ll need to communicate in Portuguese.

Be more relatable

People explain things best in their native tongue and often revert to it while experiencing extremes in emotion, like anger, frustration, exhaustion, surprise, and excitement. Plus, some phrases aren’t translatable verbatim. The more you understand the Portuguese culture, the more new words make sense, and the more you connect with those around you. You will begin to appreciate and adopt local customs making you more relatable to your new acquaintances. Avoid being left out of jokes or speaking to new acquaintances because you’re nervous about speaking. Even if you’re learning Portuguese as an adult, many people you’ll come across have been in your shoes, and will be patient and encouraging.

Increase your dating options

If you’re in the market to find a romantic interest, then knowing the local language reduces the awkwardness of relying on translator apps or third parties to communicate. You’ll also feel less anxious when interacting with their friends and family, especially if they don’t speak your native tongue.

Communicate effectively

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t verbally defend yourself because you were unsure if your words would get lost in translation or because you weren’t 100% sure what the other person was trying to convey? It happens all the time, but the more you become comfortable with the language (and different dialects), the better choices you’ll make in all aspects of your life, from planning to shopping to knowing what you want and being more persuasive.

Imagine how much easier your life will be when you can ask for, comprehend, and accurately give directions and feedback. No subtitles while watching a movie? No problem! Have an urgent issue to resolve at a bank, government office, or while taking care of responsibilities—have no fear. Although some realtors speak a second or third language, rental and home ownership contracts are in Portuguese. There’s also a chance that some landlords will only communicate in Portuguese. Stay ahead of the game and save yourself time and money by learning Portuguese.

methods for learning European Portuguese

Immerse yourself in the language

You can do this by changing your phone settings, chatting with coworkers, neighbors, people you interact with while running your errands, and strangers to increase your exposure to the language. Repeat what you’re learning out loud as often as possible. Read, write, and eventually start thinking in the new language. Another way to immerse yourself is to change the language settings from your native language to Portuguese. You’ll begin to receive information in that language and familiarize yourself with everyday words.

Focus on Portuguese Entertainment

Learning should be fun! Listen to audiobooks, music, and podcasts in Portuguese daily. Visual aids help as well. Watch shows and movies using foreign audio and subtitles. Google Chrome has a great extension called Language Reactor. The extension allows you to listen to the audio and simultaneously read subtitles in two languages, allowing you to highlight and save new vocabulary. The extension works well with Netflix and Youtube. You can also re-watch some of your favorite shows or watch the news in Portuguese to ease the pressure and learn vocabulary faster.

Be a Kid Again

Embrace your inner child; play your favorite childhood games or watch kids’ shows. The language is simple, with exaggerated gestures. I learned how to receive and give instructions by playing board games. For example, I learned how to say “my turn” (or your go) and “you’re cheating,” plus accurately better describe people while playing the game Guess Who. I also learned to use basic things like the names of animals, parts of the body, and how to express emotions while watching cartoons.

Participate in lessons given in Portuguese

Stay fit, educate, and entertain yourself in Portuguese by joining sports teams, taking cooking, fitness, or dance classes, or by participating in whatever hobbies interest you. You can use that knowledge as a buffer while re-learning familiar terms in Portuguese.

Join a language exchange

Not only is it a great way to meet new people, but you’ll get to hear different Portuguese accents, speeds, and jargon. Diversity is a great way to keep topics interesting in general. You can practice with partners that are learning, just like you, or native speakers—and in exchange, you can help them practice another language.

Millions of people speak English, but you may not be fortunate enough to come across people that can help you with translation everywhere you go. You’ll need to understand Portuguese to fulfill your most important tasks like handling official paperwork, setting up accounts for utilities, even finding accommodations, hiring service people, and shopping. If you move to an environment that prevents you from reverting to your native language—you’ll improve your language skills dramatically.

Tips to aid your Portuguese learning

Listen and repeat

Think about how children learn their first language. It begins with hearing words in repetition and listening to the tones. They focus on body language for emphasis and pitch. As their knowledge expands, they become more attentive. You will notice improvements in their comprehension as they react using vocal and physical responses before learning how to structure complete sentences.

Ditch the grammar (at least at first)

Just as we communicate with children, we learn how to read between the lines (or seemingly random words) to figure out what they’re trying to convey. For example, you’re having a light conversation with a two-year-old. You can catch a few words but most of what they’re saying sounds like gibberish. Along comes one of their parents to decode the message, and you wonder how you were supposed to figure out that’s what they were saying. Eventually, the child learns how to form more complex thoughts and sentences through repetition, correction, and formal education, and with little pressure.

Get comfortable with making mistakes

Native speakers can discern other native speakers from new language learners and understand that you’ll make mistakes (lots of them). The truth is, just like a child, you’re not going to grow as fast without overcoming your mistakes.

While you’re learning a language, you’ll come across three types of people:
(1) the person that laughs at you, (2) the person that listens to you but doesn’t want to discourage your effort by correcting you, and (3) the person that has no problem teaching you the correct words, phrases, and pronunciation.

You will learn exponentially from all three encounters (even the first type). Embrace the experiences, even the embarrassing ones. Let those smirks and giggles fuel you to do better, and hopefully, you’ll laugh at your mistakes, too. You’ll appreciate how far you’ve come as you progress in fluency.

Take formal classes

Taking classes is a fantastic way to learn from professionals and other language learners. In more formal settings, lessons can be structured based on your goal. For example, you can find classes on business terms and etiquette or learning key phrases for traveling or assimilation. Here you’ll be more receptive to constructive feedback and feel reassured that your peers are in the same boat.

Participate in a language exchange program

You practice Portuguese one on one with a teacher, or a peer. The exchange can be free, or you can pay a small fee.

Use apps

  • RTP Portugal
  • Linguee
  • Memrise
  • Youtube: (Practice Portuguese, Portuguese with Leo, Portuguese with Carla, Portuguese Lab, Listen and Learn Portuguese with Maria, and Talk the Streets)
  • Netflix or other streaming websites (Switch the audio to European Portuguese and turn on the subtitles in either English or Portuguese.


Learning European Portuguese as an adult has its challenges—especially if it’ll be your second language—but it’s not an impossible feat. The point is to practice the language and experience Portuguese culture as much as possible, and hopefully, you’ll make some friends along the way. And who knows, perhaps you’ll add other Portuguese speaking dialects to your language journey after mastering European Portuguese!

You might also enjoy

Scroll to Top