According to the The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR or CEFL), ability to speak, write, and understand a language can be broken into six stages: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2.
A1 is the first level, and it essentially means beginner. If you have an A1 level of Portuguese, you should be able to do things like introduce yourself and talk a little about yourself. You should be able to use simple everyday expressions and to interact with other Portuguese speakers on a basic level, provided the other person speaks slowly.
If you’re learning Portuguese to pass an exam, you should work your way through the relevant levels. If you’re just learning Portuguese for yourself, you don’t actually have to follow the A1 to C2 curriculum. You can study Portuguese however you like.
That said, the CEFR curriculum is really good for showing you what to focus on. A1 and A2 cover expressions, vocabulary, and grammar structures that you’re going to need on a day-to-day basis. Even if you have your own methods for learning Portuguese, or you want to push yourself a little harder than A1 or A2 demands, it’s a good idea to look at the topics and grammar covered in A1 and A2-level Portuguese to make sure you’re covering the essentials as well.
Taking a Portuguese class
Some people prefer to self-study, others prefer to take a class. There are pros and cons to the two, and it’s good to work out what’s right for you.
If you’re based in Portugal, particularly in a city like Lisbon or Porto, you’ll have no problem finding individual, group, and intensive courses that’ll take you to A1-level. Likewise, you shouldn’t struggle to find European Portuguese courses in most major cities in Europe and even around the world.
If you can’t find anything locally, or if you think you’d like to study by yourself, the following resources will help you get your Portuguese up to A1-level.
Self-study courses & books
A1 Course – Teachable
Mia’s Learn Portuguese Online course on Teachable is one of several online courses that will teach you an A1-level of European Portuguese.
The course covers essentials like greetings, asking for information, introducing yourself, the alphabet, numbers, as well as more complex things like how to give advice or make comparisons. There’s also plenty of information about Portuguese grammar as well.
Plataforma de Português Online is a Portuguese government website that’s run by the Alto Comissariado para as Migrações.
The course, which is completely free, covers A1-B2 level Portuguese. It’s fantastic that this resource exists, but it’s not without its problems. The course isn’t the easiest to use, and the website is often extremely slow or just times out completely. It mainly focuses on vocabulary, but it does have some Portuguese grammar focus as well.
The Instituto Camões is the main Portuguese organisation in charge of promoting the Portuguese language and culture around the world. Their e-learning platform contains self-study Portuguese courses that covers A1-C1 level Portuguese.
The courses include some group or individual tutoring over Skype, depending on whether you go for the basic or premium version of the course, which could be useful for those that aren’t completely comfortable self-learning.
Portuguese Lab offers an A1 – B2 online course in Portuguese, as well as other paid and free resources like a Portuguese podcast and videos.
Italki is an online platform where you can find language teachers in just about any language, including both European and Brazilian Portuguese. Many offer informal tutoring while others offer structured lessons as well as test preparation for CEFR exams or Centro de Avaliação de Português Língua Estrangeira (CAPLE) exams.
E-LOCAL (Electronically Learning Other Cultures and Languages) is a series of online language courses offered by the University of Coimbra. A1-level courses are available in several languages, including Portuguese, and the courses cost just €20.
If you’re not sure whether it’s the right course for you, you can sample a few of the lessons in the online demo version beforehand.
Dialogar is a website that unfortunately doesn’t seem to exist anymore, however many of the videos are still available on YouTube. A good number of these are aimed at A1-level Portuguese students, and cover topics like grammar, the weather, talking about your family, the body, and more.
It can sometimes be a bit difficult to navigate through the videos, and to find the ones that are specifically aimed at A1-level learners, but that’s a small price to pay for having free access to these videos.
A1-Level Portuguese Textbooks
There are several Portuguese textbooks that are aimed at A1 or A1 and A2 learners of Portuguese. These can sometimes be hard to get a hold of, and they can be a bit dry, but it may still be worth tracking one or two of them down if only just to test yourself.
- Passaporte para Portugues: Pack: Livro do Aluno +CD audio & Caderno de Exerc
- Português em Foco 1
- Dialogar em Português
- Ola! Como Esta?: Pack Ola! Como Esta? – Livro De Textos + CD + Livro De Actividades
- Aprender Portugues: Pack (Manual Com CD + Caderno De Exercicios) (Portuguese Edition)
- PORTUGUES ATUAL 1
Past papers are available from Fnac. You may need to order them into the shop or order them online: I couldn’t find them in the Fnac that I went into.
Other useful resources
A1 and A2-level Portuguese is really all about getting the basics, and learning how to communicate in Portugal. At this level, anything aimed at beginners could probably be considered useful.
The following resources don’t necessarily correspond to the CEFR or CAPLE exams, but are still going to be useful.
- European Portuguese courses on Memrise
- Portuguese phrasebooks (tip:look for phrasebooks that have an audio component).
- The big list of free resources for learning European Portuguese
- Portuguese podcasts
Sitting an A1-level Exam
Once you’ve completed one or more of the courses above, and you feel like you’ve reached an A1-level of Portuguese, you have a couple of options. You could continue onto A2 and then B-level Portuguese, or you could sit an exam to confirm your progress.
Most language schools focus on getting you to A2 level before suggesting you take the A2-level test (CIPLE) but, if you want, there is an Access to Portuguese test that corresponds to A1-level Portuguese.