Learning a new language can be expensive. And, even though it’s very difficult to learn a language without spending any money, that doesn’t mean you can’t make things cheaper.
When it comes to learning Portuguese, there are lots and lots of FREE resources out there — everything from vocab apps to Portuguese TV shows that you can watch with subtitles. So, if you’re looking to learn European Portuguese without spending a lot of money, or as little money as possible, here are a few resources that’ll help you on your language learning journey.
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If you’re just starting to learn Portuguese, or you’re visiting Portugal as a tourist, these resources are a good place to begin with. They’ll give you some useful phrases that you can use at the supermarket, when asking for directions, at the post office, etc. At some point, you’ll need to progress and learn how to construct sentences yourself but, in the meantime, they’ll help you to get by in Portugal.
Winner: 50 Languages
Even though it’s free, the English-Portuguese version of 50 Languages is very comprehensive for a beginner’s course and as good as any of the traditional travel phrasebooks. It’s available as an app, as a website, or as a collection of MP3s – which are perfect for listening to when you’re driving or at the gym.
As well as covering essential travel phrases for situations at the post office or at a restaurant, it also covers a little Portuguese grammar as well. The app contains games and tests, which you can either play on your phone or online.
It’s perfect for tourists, but also great for those who are just starting to learn Portuguese as it gives you sentences that you can use in everyday life.
Runner Up 1: Rough Guides Audio Download
Rough Guides has a European Portuguese phrasebook, which you can buy from Amazon (paperback or Kindle) but the accompanying audio is actually available to download from their website for free (although it might be worth buying the book as well).
Runner Up 2: Portuguese Readings Audio Phrasebook
Portuguese Sayings is primarily a podcast (see below), but it also includes a very helpful phrasebook (complete with accompanying audio) that covers topics like getting around, staying somewhere, and talking to people.
The Audio Phrasebook for Portuguese Readings can be found at PortugueseReadings.com.
Runner Up 3: Forvo
Forvo’s main purpose is a dictionary, one that comes with audio pronunciation of the word, but it also has a small section with essential Portuguese phrases. These phrases cover a handful of useful topics like shopping, getting around, and even flirting.
Many of the words are read by an elderly Portuguese gentleman who shouts into the microphone, so this is a great way to get a feel of what Portuguese actually sounds like in Portugal.
Forvo’s essential Portuguese phrases can be found here.
Runner Up 4: BBC – Travel Portuguese
BBC Languages has a short course covering basic Portuguese travel phrases. Topics covered include greetings, talking about yourself, and ordering food and drink at a restaurant.
BBC Languages’ mini language course is available from BBC.co.uk
Apps & Fun Websites
Memrise is a flashcard app that you can access online or by using the Memrise app (available for smartphones or tablets). Users can create their own vocab flashcards, or you can access the flashcards that other people have put together.
Memrise has a website, as well as an app for both Android and iOS. There are several European Portuguese flashcard courses available, which you can view here. Read reviews of Memrise from other language learners.
Runner Up 1: Anki
For polyglots and serious language learners, there’s only one language-learning tool: Anki. It’s not as user-friendly as Memrise, which is why it didn’t get the top spot. Like Memrise, it does have some premade flashcards and you also have the ability to make your own.
Runner Up 2: Drops
Drops is a little like Doulingo but, unlike Duolingo it covers both European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. The app (available for both iOS and Android) mainly focuses on vocab, and the vocab is broken into sections: food & drinks, nature & animals, fashion & clothing, etc.
Drops is fine for grabbing a quick Portuguese lesson while you’re commuting or waiting for the kettle to boil. Free users get 5 minutes per day, or you can sign up for the premium version which allows you to use the app as much as you want.
Drops is available for iOS and Android, and it’s also available as a web app. As well as both Brazilian and European Portuguese, you can also learn numerous other languages including French, Spanish, German, and even more obscure languages like Hawaiian.
Runner Up 3: Learn Portuguese Vocabulary – 6,000 Words
This is a slightly simpler but still useful app that covers essential words in categories like family, health, shopping, and transport. It won’t be enough to teach you Portuguese by itself but, combined with other resources that teach you how to put the words in sentences, it could help you to improve your Portuguese. And, unlike Drops, you aren’t limited to just 5 minutes per day.
Runner Up 4: Lyrics Training
This is a fun way to improve your listening skills: Lyrics Training will play a song, and you have to listen to the lyrics and fill in the words that are missing. It’s difficult, but fun at the same time.
Lyrics Training is available both as an app and as a website. Unfortunately, the app version is only free for 3 minutes per day, which is barely enough time to listen to a song, so it’s better to use the web version on your computer.
Runner Up 4: Glossika
Glossika is a new language learning website that covers European Portuguese. Normally you have to pay to use Glossika, but you can sign up for a free trial without a credit card.
The approach that Glossika uses is a little confusing, but it’s worth playing around with it – particularly the translation section of the “extended learning tools” where you can listen to audio and answer multiple choice questions to see if you understand what’s being said.
As great as apps and phrasebooks are, you’ll need some structure to your learning and an online course is designed to be exactly that. It’s hard to find a course that’s both free and good, and so you’ll probably end up spending some money here, but that’s not to say there aren’t any free courses out there.
Winner: Plataforma de Português Online
The Alto Comissariado Para as Migrações (High commissioner for immigration) has a free online course that covers levels A1, A2, B1, and B2. Unfortunately, the website can be quite slow but it’s a small price to pay for being able to access a resource like this for free.
While there are plenty of Portuguese podcasts out there, it can be hard to find podcasts with transcripts — essential if you’re learning Portuguese. Thankfully, there are one or two that do have transcripts and are even aimed at people learning Portuguese.
Joint Winner: Portuguese Readings
Portuguese Readings offers a series of interesting texts (complete with accompanying audio) that cover topics like Portuguese gastronomy and surfing, but also include sample dialogues for situations you might find yourself in like buying a train ticket or ordering at a restaurant.
The podcasts are broken up by proficiency levels, and each level corresponds to the CEFR scale (A1, A2, etc).
While all of the free podcasts listed are fantastic, Portuguese Readings is perhaps the most user-friendly of the bunch.
Joint Winner: Portuguese from Portugal
Portuguese from Portugal is a collection of short podcast episodes (with a written transcript) that covers topics like pastéis de nata, Easter in Portugal, and overviews of different towns and cities here in Portugal. As well as the transcript, each episode also includes an explanation of some of the vocabulary and grammar used, as well as a quick quiz to test you on your understanding of the piece.
Portuguese from Portugal is available to listen to at portuguesefromportugal.com as well as podcasting apps like Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts.
Joint Winner: Say it in Portuguese
Say it in Portuguese is a Portuguese podcast that has a big focus on Portuguese expressions and sayings. The podcast is entirely in Portuguese, and the transcript is available online for free. This means the podcast is not only great for learning the expressions and sayings that it teaches, but also for working on your listening skills and practicing dictation.
Say it in Portuguese is available to listen to at sayitinportuguese.pt as well as SoundCloud and other podcasting apps.
Reading a book in another language is a challenge, but it’s also a worthwhile challenge and one that a lot of people try to do. Generally speaking, it’s hard to find good quality and especially modern books for free (this might be another area where you need to pay) but there are a few options.
There are a few Portuguese books available for free on Kindle, and you don’t need to have a Kindle to read these: you can get the Kindle app for your PC, iPad, or smartphone.
Amazon’s free books vary in quality but, even though classic books like those from Luís de Camões will be better, these modern books will be much easier to read.
Amazon doesn’t distinguish between PT-PT and PT-BR so, if you’re only looking for writers from Portugal, you’ll need to take a look at the author bio to see where they’re from.
You can view the free Kindle books on Amazon.com. You don’t need a Kindle to view them: you can download the Kindle app for your computer, tablet, or phone.
Runner Up 1: Free books from Instituto Camões (with audio)
Instituto Camões has 10+ free books that have accompanying audio on their website, which are a great place to start. The accompanying audio means you’ll know how to pronounce any new words that you learn, and you can also use it to practice dictation as well.
The free books can be viewed at cvc.instituto-camoes.pt. The website is quite old, so it’s not ideal but, of course, beggars can’t be choosers!
Running Up 2: Rosa Estevens’ Books
Rosa Estevens, a former Algarve-based teacher, has written several children’s books in Portuguese. As these are aimed at children, they’re obviously very basic but for some people that’s perfect.
Rosa Estevens’ books are free to download as PDFs from RosaEstevens.org.
Runner Up 3: Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg has a number of free Portuguese books. These books are free because the copyright on them has expired, which also means the language is likely to be very difficult for all but advanced Portuguese speakers. Gutenberg doesn’t distinguish between European and Brazilian Portuguese, so you’ll need to Google the author to see where they’re from.
The public domain Portuguese books can be found on gutenberg.org/browse/languages/pt.
Runner Up 4: Luso Livros
Similar to Gutenberg, Luso Livros contains public domain Portuguese books that are free to read. Because they’re in the public domain, these books are quite old which will mean they’re mainly suited to advanced Portuguese speakers. Books are normally available in several formats, including ePub, mobi, and PDF.
Luso Livros has a website at Luso-Livros.net
Runner Up 5: Projecto Adamastor
Like both Gutenberg and Luso Livros, Projecto Adamastor contains public domain Portuguese books. The site is well-organised and has an impressive collection, however, like the other ebook sites, the language of the books is likely to be quite challenging.
Projecto Adamastor’s book catalogue can be found at projectoadamastor.org/catalogo/
While there’s a lot to be said for taking conversational classes with a Portuguese teacher who can correct you on your mistakes — italki is great for this — the costs quickly add up. The easiest way to get that conversation practice without spending big amounts of cash is to pair up with someone who’s learning your language and help each other out. Because this is such a big part of language learning, there are several apps and websites that specialise in this.
Joint Winner: Hello Talk
HelloTalk is one of the newest and most modern-looking tandem exchange apps. Simply download it and search for people that you can swap languages with. The app is similar to any social networking app, but it also comes with language learning features such as the ability to correct someone else’s mistakes.
There is a paid version as well, which allows you to do an advanced search for specifics like someone’s gender, but this kind of turns it into a dating app rather than a language learning app. Maybe that’s what you’re looking for, though?
Joint Winner: Tandem.net
Tandem is very similar to HelloTalk: both aim to modernise language exhanges through shiny new apps. HelloTalk is slightly easier to use, on the first go anyway, but both essentially do the same thing and that’s make it easier to practice languages over social media.
As well as finding conversational tandem partners, Tandem.net also allows you to search for professional tutors
Runner Up: Talk Talk BnB
If you’re not based in Portugal or a large international city where it’s easy to find other Portuguese speakers, you could set yourself up as a host on TalkTalkBNB.com and invite Portuguese speakers to come and stay with you.
TalkTalkBNB is quite a small website but it does have a couple of Portuguese speakers on there.
Dictionaries & Translation Tools
Yes, there’s Google Translate but what a lot of people don’t realise is that Google Translate translates into Brazilian Portuguese and not European Portuguese. That isn’t a big deal if you’re translating from Portuguese to English (or another language) but it does make a difference when you’re translating into Portuguese. Expect to get a few comments from Portuguese people.
Thankfully, Deepl lets you choose between both Brazilian and European Portuguese.
Deepl is available at Deepl.com. There’s also a desktop version, but currently there’s no mobile app available.
Runner Up: Forvo
Ever learned a word in another language and then said it, only to have a native speaker look at you with a bewildered look? Of course you have: it happens to all of us.
Trying to learn another language by reading it is always a bad idea. If you’re going to learn a new word, make the extra effort to hear the word pronounced as well.
Forvo is an online dictionary that in includes recordings of native speakers pronouncing the word in question. Enter a Portuguese word in the search box, and Forvo will list some audio clips of native Portuguese speakers from both Portugal and Brazil, both male and female, saying the word.
As much as most of us hate it, grammar is an essential part of learning a language. And while you will have to put in the effort to learn Portuguese grammar, thankfully there are a couple of apps and websites that are free and (maybe) a little fun as well.
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.
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).
Runner Up 1: Verbix
Verbix is a handy website that conjugates any verb that you give it. Simply enter a verb (e.g. comer: to eat) and it’ll tell you what the Portuguese is for I eat, you eat, we ate, they will eat, etc.
Verbix can be found at Verbix.com
Runner Up 2: v”ErbuS
v”ErbuS is another conjugation tool for European Portuguese. This tool was created by Coimbra University in 2015 but, with the exception of the very crackly audio, still works really well. It is one of the only verb conjugators that provides audio, however, so beggars definitely can’t afford to be choosers.
v”ErbuS can be found at lsi.co.it.pt/verbos/index.html
Watching films and TV shows is a fun way of learning another language, and it can be an interesting avenue into the culture as well. While you’re have to buy the DVDs to watch most Portuguese films, there are a few TV programs, documentaries, and other web-based videos that you can watch for free. And, some of them even have subtitles as well.
Winner: RTP Play
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.
Runner Up: Ted Talks
Interesting content can make all the difference when learning a new language, and Ted (and Tedx Talks) Talks are definitely interesting.
A few talks in Portuguese that have Portuguese subtitles include:
- Ser mulher negra em Lisboa | Carla Fernandes | TEDxLisboa
- Falar com o inimigo: Henrique Cymerman at TEDxOporto
- A pessoa que conta: Thomas Bakk at TEDxOporto
Runner Up 2: Psy Logic Drawing
Psy Logic Drawing is a Youtube channel that has short, animated videos that cover psychological topics like depression, memory, bullying, and burnout. The videos are all about 3-5 minutes long and have subtitles in both English and Portuguese.
Psy Logic Drawing’s YouTube channel and full list of videos can be found at Youtube.com
Tests & Quizes
Who doesn’t love a good quiz? Mia from learn-portuguese.org has several short quizzes on her website that cover topics like when to use “a” or “para”, when to use “para” or “por”, as well as simpler topics like the months of the year and days of the week.
Know of any other European Portuguese learning resources? Let us, and other Portugalist readers, know in the comments below.
What to read next
- The big, main guide to learning Portuguese
- This guide to courses that cover European Portuguese
- This guide to learning Portuguese completely online