13+ Ways to Learn European Portuguese for Free (Or As Cheaply As Possible)

/ Last Updated: July 24, 2023 / 28 Comments

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It’s definitely difficult to learn a language without spending any money, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t cut down costs by using free resources.

Thankfully, there are lots of free resources for learning European Portuguese (yes, European Portuguese as opposed to Brazilian Portuguese — so we won’t be mentioning Duolingo). This includes YouTube videos, podcasts, and apps. In this article, we’ll show you the best ones.

This allows you to save your hard-earned cash for useful resources like a Practice Portuguese membership (which is actually incredibly reasonably priced) or 1-on-1 lessons with a private tutor on iTalki (again, very reasonably priced). 

Use 50 Languages to learn Essential Phrases (Free)

50 languages screenshot

To actually learn a language, you need to learn to construct sentences (I want, you want, etc) but when you first hit the ground in Portugal, you’re going to want something a little more practical than that. 

Tourist phrasebooks are the answer. These are packed with all the phrases you’ll need for everyday life, such as at the supermarket or at a restaurant, and the best part: some of these resources are free (or very affordable). 

50Languages has hundreds of useful phrases in European Portuguese, complete with audio clips that tell you how to pronounce them. It’s available as a website as well as an app for both Android and iOS. There’s also an accompanying course on Memrise

If you prefer, the Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, Rick Steves, and Berlitz all produce phrasebooks which you can find on Amazon – or you can usually pick them up secondhand on eBay or potentially for free at your local library. 

Take Advantage of Discounts (Cheap)

As mentioned, some things are worth paying for – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to pay full price. Take advantage of the discounts many great course providers offer, like: 

Find Cheap Tutors Online (Cheap)

Many people sign up for group classes, assuming that 1-on-1 classes will be more expensive. This is true, but did you know that you can find affordable European Portuguese tutors online?

Italki is a fantastic website for this, although Preply and Speechling are also worth looking at as well. On iTalki, for example, Portuguese tutors start from around $10-12, particularly if you opt for a ‘community tutor’ as opposed to a ‘professional teacher.’ This is a great way to get conversational Portuguese practice and get 1-on-1 feedback on all the mistakes you’re making. 

Find a language exchange partner (Free)

Sites like iTalki might be cheap, but a language exchange partner is free. Here, you find someone who’s learning your native language and you meet up (in person or over Skype) and practice speaking and correcting each other’s mistakes. 

Finding the right language exchange partner is a little like dating – it’s sometimes hard to find someone you click with – but it’s all worth it in the end. And, thankfully, there are lots of websites and apps that make this easier like HelloTalk and Tandem.net 

Use Memrise (Free)

Memrise is a flashcard app that’s free to use (with a paid subscription option as well). You can use it to make your own flashcards of all the words and phrases that you want to learn, but you can also browse courses made by others. And there are a surprisingly large number of courses that cover European Portuguese.

Memrise has their own flashcards, for example, or there are lots of flashcards made by community members covering topics like the top Portuguese words, advanced Portuguese words, and basic conversational phrases

You can view a full list of flashcards for European Portuguese here

Another popular option is Anki, however, Memrise is much more user-friendly. 

Use Conjugemos for Learning Grammar (Free)

conjugemos screenshot

Conjuguemos is a website that offers verb drill exercises, ideal for testing your Portuguese grammar skills. It offers points for correct answers, tracks scores, and has a high score page. The whole process is gamified, which goes a long way to making learning Portuguese grammar fun. Another option is Verbix

Conjuguemos is available from the website conjuguemos.com. There is no app currently, but you can use the app in your phone’s browser (although it works better on a computer).

Textbooks = Affordable Courses (Cheap)

portugues em foco book

There are some fantastic online courses that cover European Portuguese, but some of them cost hundreds of euros. Textbooks, on the other hand, typically cost around €20-30 each. And you can sometimes find second-hand copies on Amazon and eBay. 

Now, it has to be said that the online courses are definitely more enjoyable and it’s often nicer to learn with video rather than reading, but if you’re willing to slog through some material that’s sometimes a little dull, you’ll be able to take yourself from A1 (absolute beginner) to C2 (fluency) using traditional Portuguese textbooks. 

YouTube is Your Friend (Free)

subtitled youtube video

Between subtitled videos (which are often hard to find) and content produced by Portuguese language teachers, there’s a wealth of information to be found on YouTube. 

Some examples include:

  • Easy Portuguese – Real life video conversations, complete with subtitles. Unfortunately, there are only around 5 videos as they are all fantastic. 
  • Talk The Streets YouTube channel – A fantastic YouTube channel where Liz Sharma covers real life Portuguese lessons e.g. pronunciation mistakes, slang, and practical tips for day-to-day life e.g. making an appointment. 
  • Mia Esmeriz Academy – Portuguese tutor, Mia Esmeriz, also has lots of informative videos on her YouTube channel that cover topics like common verbs, typical Portuguese words and phrases, and cultural videos that discuss Portuguese traditions, songs the Portuguese love, and much, much more. 
  • Learn European Portuguese Online – Portuguese-American Sandra Carapinha has another great YouTube channel with lots of useful (and free) content covering topics like essential phrases, pronunciation and videos covering Portuguese culture.

TedX is Another Option (Free)

You’ve probably come across Ted videos on YouTube, but did you know that TedX conferences (its grassroots offshoot) also take place across Portugal? That’s right. There have been TedX conferences in Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Braga, Coimbra, and even the island of Flores in The Azores.

Many of these videos get uploaded to YouTube or the Ted website, and a small portion of them even have subtitles as well. The content is often a little challenging, making it more suited to intermediate or advanced learners. 

Here are just a few of those videos:

Note: If you enjoy listening to Ted talks, you’ll also find plenty of TedX talks that were recorded in Brazil as well.

Watch Subtitled TV on RTPPlay (Free)

RTP, the Portuguese TV channel, has some subtitled content on its iPlayer. The programs aren’t always the most exciting programs in the world but, as well as giving you the opportunity to listen to European Portuguese (with Portuguese subtitles), this is a good opportunity to see what Portuguese TV is like.

Available programs include Portuguese comedy Nelo e Idália, literature discussion program Literatura Agora, and a telenova style series Água de Mar.

A list of RTP programs that are available for streaming, along with other suggestions of subtitled videos that you can watch, can be found here.

Listen to Portuguese Podcasts (Free)

There are some useful podcasts out there, which can be split into three categories: podcasts that offer a lesson-based approach, easy content aimed at language learners, and interesting, real-life podcasts that are suitable for language learners. 

Lesson-based Podcasts

A few Portuguese teachers have podcasts which take a lesson-based approach. Some examples include:

Portuguese Podcasts with Translations

The following podcasts usually post audio content and then provide a transcription alongside it. 

Real-Life Podcasts

The easiest podcast is probably Portugueses no Mundo, which is suitable for intermediate level learners and up. It features interviews with Portuguese people living around the world. The content is interesting and the questions and answers are often very similar, so it’s very easy to understand the context. 

Listen to Portuguese Songs (Free)

Another fun way to learn Portuguese is by listening to songs. This isn’t always as helpful as listening to dialogues – people aren’t going to sing at you and lyrics are often written in quite a poetic way – but it’s a way of getting an insight into Portuguese culture. 

The easiest way to begin is to search for popular Portuguese songs on YouTube or Spotify or look up the lyrics. Alternatively, Lyrics Training offers a gamified approach where you have to listen and type what you think you hear. 

There are even more resources for Brazilian Portuguese (Free)

Yes, you’re learning European Portuguese but even though you won’t want to speak Brazilian Portuguese, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with how it’s spoken. Why? Because you’ll meet a lot of Brazilians in Portugal and you may want to travel there one day as well. 

Thankfully, there’s even more content for Brazilian Portuguese than there is European Portuguese so you won’t have to look too hard. Some free resources include:

  • Easy Languages – The Brazilian Portuguese version this time, which has even more content. 
  • Netflix – Portugal doesn’t produce a huge number of TV shows or films, unfortunately, but you’ll find a lot of content on Netflix 
  • Youtubers like Juliana Selem who has many videos in Portuguese, complete with subtitles 
Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

You can contact James by emailing james@portugalist.com or via the site's contact form.

Originally published: August 2017 & Last Updated: July 24, 2023.