A lot of people complain that there aren’t that many books and courses for learning European Portuguese. Well, there are quite a few. 15 or so, in fact.
Now, in comparison to some of the apps and websites that exist for learning other languages, many of these books feel a little dry. There’s a big focus on grammar, and the audio conversations can be a little dull.
You’ll notice that many of these courses correspond to a language level on the CEFR scale (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). The scale goes A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2.
Speakers with an A1 or A2 level in Portuguese (or any European language) are considered to be basic users, B1 and B2 are intermediate users, and C1 and C2 are proficient users. Regardless of whether you’re planning on taking an exam in Portuguese or not, these letters will help you to find the books and courses that you need. If you’re just starting out, or if you’ve never sat down and properly learned Portuguese, you’re probably at the A1 level which covers things like introducing yourself, ordering food at a restaurant, and asking for directions.
Below, you’ll find the 15+ books and courses that focus on European Portuguese in no particular order of quality.
Get Started in Portuguese Absolute Beginner Course
- Level: A1/A2
- Cost: $30/25
Get Started in Portuguese is part of the Teach Yourself series, a series of books similar to the “For Dummies” books that cover a range of subjects including beekeeping, accounting, and screenwriting.
This book and accompanying CD is designed to take absolute beginners to an A2 level of Portuguese (or solid Novice High proficiency level of ACTFL). This is the higher level of basic, and the minimum requirement level to gain Portuguese citizenship.
Pimsleur Portuguese (European) Level 1
- Level: Beginners (does not correspond to CEFR)
- Cost: $119
Pimsleur European Portuguese is a basic introduction to Portuguese using the Pimsleur Method, a repetitive focus to language learning that’s almost entirely audio-based. It’s ideal for listening to in the car, on a bus, or when walking the dog.
The Pimsleur Method has its followers and its critics. You will learn all of the phrases that you are taught, as you will constantly be repeating them, however many people find the amount of vocabulary you learn limited for the number of hours you put in.
$119.95 for the entire course, it’s expensive. You can purchase groups of lessons at a time (e.g. 1-5, 6-10, etc.) for around $22, and then decide whether it’s for you, before committing to the entire course.
- Level: Beginners (does not correspond to CEFR)
- Cost: $80/£70-£90
Michel Thomas is another audio-based method of learning a language. He has courses available for several languages including French, Spanish, German, Arabic, and Japanese.
The format for a Michel Thomas course is usually a recording of Michel Thomas teaching two students the essentials of a language while you listen in. As he asks them to repeat phrases, there are little gaps where you can join in and repeat the phrases as well. You’re not supposed to try to memorise anything you hear – no homework is one of his mottos – it’s all meant to come naturally through repetition.
Unfortunately, the students he picks always seem to be slow learners and often make mistakes. I don’t know if this is purposely done so that you can feel better about yourself, but it can be quite annoying to listen to (but funny when you can hear the rising anger in his voice).
For European Portuguese, there are several Michel Thomas courses: Start, Total, and Perfect. Each one builds upon the previous although, since he revises what was covered in the previous course, there can be a lot of repetition.
Total and Perfect both cost around $80/£70-£90, while Start costs around $20/£16.
Plataforma de Português Online
- Level: A1, A2, B1, B2
- Cost: FREE
Plataforma de Português Online is a free online platform that covers Portuguese levels A1, A2, B1, and B2.
This course covers the vocabulary and grammar you need to reach each level of proficiency. It lacks some important features, however. The most important is probably spaced-repetition; something which apps like Memrise and Duolingo incorporate. This basically means that once you learn a word, it keeps reminding you of the word and checking to see if you remember it. Some apps will not only keep showing you the word, or a picture of the word, but they’ll ask you to spell it or say it. With the current platform, there’s a list of vocab (e.g. words you might use at the supermarket) and you are supposed to learn them and then click done when you’re finished.
It’s a good platform, but to make it a great platform you’ll need to incorporate other tools like Memrise.
eLearning from the Camões Institute
- Level: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1
- Cost: €180-320 per level
The Camões Institute offers a number of distance-based courses in European Portuguese. The cost includes oral interaction with a tutor, which is something most other courses don’t offer. Of course, you could take another course and find a tutor to practice with separately.
These courses are very thorough, but they can also be quite expensive. Especially, if you take several courses. Courses available include:
- Portuguese for Foreigners – Level A1
- Portuguese for Foreigners – Level A2
- Portuguese for Foreigners – Level B1
- Portuguese for Foreigners – Level B2
- Portuguese for Foreigners – Level C1
There are self-learning, basic, premium options for each of these courses. The main difference is the level of tutor interaction: with the premium level, you get 12 oral interactions with a tutor as opposed to the 6 you get at basic level. With self-learning, you get none.
Course costs depend on the level you study at. For A1, the costs are: €180 for self-learning, €250 for basic, and €320 for premium.
The Camões Institute also have a range of Portuguese courses for specific purposes including Portuguese for Business, Introduction to Legal Portuguese, Creative Writing – Advanced, Journalistic Writing, and Portuguese for the Hotel Branch.
At the end of each course, you receive a certificate of completion. If you want to obtain a Foreign Language Elementary Diploma (DEPLE) for your CV or own records (e.g. A1, B2, etc.) then you will need to sit a separate exam at a Portuguese as a Foreign Language Assessment Center (CAPLE).
e-LOCAL from the University of Coimbra
- Level: A1
- Cost: €20
e-LOCAL is an EU initiative between several EU countries where you can study an A1 level course in Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, and Portuguese. Access to E-LOCAL costs €20 for a year’s access to one course.
More information at ces.uc.pt
Ponto de Encontro: Portuguese as a World Language
- Level: –
- Cost: $150
Ponto de Encontro is the Portuguese textbook used at several major universities including Berkeley, Texas, and Harvard. This book looks at Portuguese as a world language — it doesn’t specifically focus on European Portuguese, and is designed in a way that both Brazilian and European Portuguese learners can learn Portuguese from the same textbook.
For the book itself, the cost isn’t prohibitive (around $20), but when you factor in the cost of the access card which gives you access to videos, audio, and other teaching material on Pearson’s MyLab, the cost jumps to around $150.
Colloquial Portuguese: Beginner’s Course
- Level: A1/A2?
- Cost: $43/£34
Colloquial Portuguese: Beginner’s Course contains 13 lessons, as well as a guide to pronouncing Portuguese words. No prior knowledge of Portuguese is required, and the book is suitable for both classroom learning and self-study. The book (and accompanying audio CD/MP3s) cover Portuguese for common situations (such as going to the supermarket) while also delving into Portuguese grammar at the same time.
No indication is given as to what level Colloquial Portuguese takes you to, but beginners implies no higher than A2.
- Level: All levels available
- Cost: Varies depending on teacher
Italki is a network of language tutors who teach over Skype. It’s an ideal solution for those that need a teacher to guide their study, but can’t meet with a teacher face-to-face.
There are several Portuguese teachers on there, including a handful from Portugal (be sure to select Portugal in the ‘from’ section otherwise you will end up with a lot of Brazilian teachers in your list). Lessons are affordable: somewhere between $10 and $20 per hour (the rate is set by the teacher). Many offer a 30-minute trial for a couple of dollars, so you can try a few before deciding which to commit to.
You can purchase structured lessons (many of which correlate which preparing for language exams), or you can pay for informal tutoring where you both talk and the teacher corrects you. Many have a bundle of lessons (e.g. 20 lessons that take you to A1 level Portuguese) that you can buy up.
If you want to practice speaking with Portuguese speakers from other parts of the world like Brazil and Mozambique, it’s easy to find tutors from these parts of the world.
Português em Foco
- Level: A1/A2
- Cost: $36/£28
Português em Foco is a textbook and CD combo that will take you to somewhere between an A1 and A2 level of Portuguese.
Passaporte para Português
- Level: A1, A2, B1
- Cost: $45/£35
Passaporte para Português is a course that aims to take Portuguese language learners from absolute beginner to B1 level in around 180 hours of study – equivalent to an hour a day for six months.
Dialogar em Português
- Level: A1, A2
- Cost: $32/£25
Dialogar em Português covers A1 and A2 level Portuguese. Like most other courses at this level, the lessons are structured around everyday situations such as eating out at a restaurant, transport, and shopping. A CD accompanies the book.
Olá! Como está?
- Level: A1, A2, B1, B2
- Cost: £43
Olá! Como está? covers levels A1 – B2. The package includes an audio CD.
- Level: A1, A2, B1, B2
- Cost: Around $50/35 per level
Avançar em Português
- Level: B2
- Cost: $14/£25
Avançar em Português covers B2 level Portuguese. The coursebook is accompanied by a CD.
- Level: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2
- Cost: Around $33 per level
Português Atual is a series of textbooks (with a CD) that covers each of the levels in the CEFR framework. Book one, Português Atual 1, focuses on A1/A2 Portuguese. Book 2, Português Atual 2, focuses on B1/B2. Book 3, Português Atual 3, focuses on levels C1 and C2.
Books & courses that didn’t get included:
There were a few books that we found, but didn’t end up including in this list for various reasons. They are:
- Portuguese in 3 months (Hugo in 3 Months) – the new books didn’t include a CD, and nobody knew where you could get it.
- Practicar Portugues Nivel elementar and Nivel intermédio – These books may be out of print as they weren’t as easily available as the other books.
- Basic Portuguese (Practice Makes Perfect) – This was written by Sue Tyson-Ward, who also authored Get Started in Portuguese which we did include. This book seemed considerably less in-depth, particularly when it came to grammar. It also lacked an audio component.