Learn European Portuguese

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So, you’ve decided to learn European Portuguese (as opposed to Brazilian Portuguese. Yes, surprisingly, there’s a slight difference). Maybe you’ve decided to move to Portugal, maybe you’ve fallen in love with a Portuguese man or woman, or maybe you’ve just fallen in love with the language.

Regardless of your reasons, congrats! The Portuguese language is an incredibly beautiful language, and an incredibly underrated one too.

This article covers all levels — from absolute beginner right up until the very advanced levels. It mainly focuses on self-study, but there is some discussion on group classes and courses as well.

Here are the three main things that’ll get you from beginner to confident speaker.

  1. Take courses (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) and work your way up the levels, ideally to at least B2 (the second level on the intermediate level).
  2. Continually work on your core skills (reading, writing, listening, grammar, and speaking).
  3. Give extra attention to listening and speaking (two challenging aspects of European Portuguese).

Beginner’s Portuguese

The beginner stage covers everything from knowing absolutely zero words of Portuguese to a pre-intermediate level where you’re able to hold basic conversations (often with a few mistakes).

Some courses call themselves a beginner’s course, while others will say that they’re either A1 or A2 (or both) which are the beginner levels on the CEFR scale.

Courses for Beginners

The following courses all cover beginner’s level (A1/A2) Portuguese. While it is possible to find A1 courses, because it’s such a basic, survival-level introduction to Portuguese, many courses will combine the A1 and A2 together.

Note: If you’ve already been living in Portugal and have picked up some Portuguese, you might be able to jump in at A2 level. Take a look at the syllabus for the A1 courses and see if you have covered the grammar concepts: many people pick up vocab and phrases but it’s rare that people pick up grammar.


Portuguese Master Course (A1/A2)

$118 + VAT (Use PORTUGALIST15 for a further 15% off)

An introduction to European Portuguese from Mia Esmeriz, a veteran Portuguese teacher from Porto with 10+ years’ experience and a masters in teaching Portuguese as a foreign language.

The course is taught through a series of 40-60 minute videos that emulate a classroom setting and focuses primarily on Portuguese grammar and vocabulary. Unlike apps or a course like Michel Thomas Portuguese, there isn’t a lot of interaction in this course but the lessons are broken up by small games and quizzes. There are helpful accompanying PDFs which repeat everything covered in the video lessons. There is also a discussion area where you can ask Mia all of your questions.

Portuguese Master Course covers both A1 & A2 EU Portuguese, as well as B1 and B2 Portuguese as well. There are also other add-on courses that specialise in things like pronunciation and listening.

As mentioned, the course is strongest on vocabulary and grammar. While there is some reading and listening, it’s likely you’ll need other materials to complement this course.

[Get the Course] or [Read reviews]


Michel Thomas Portuguese

$152

A popular course for beginners to early intermediate that covers grammar in a very digestible way, this course always has very strong feedback from users. Although the course doesn’t correspond to a level on the CEFR scale, it’s estimated that it covers both the A1 and A2 as well as some of the B1.

There is a strong emphasis on pronunciation and plenty of vocabulary is included, but this is essentially a grammar course. Other areas like reading, listening, and speaking, you’ll need to work on yourself.

[Get the Course] or [Read Reviews]


Pimsleur European Portuguese

$119.95

Pimsleur’s European Portuguese could be seen as a more basic version of Michel Thomas Portuguese. It does a great job of simplifying basic Portuguese (roughly A1 level) and building confidence in the people who use it, but it only takes you so far.

As this is an audio-based basic grammar and vocabulary course, you’ll need other materials for reading, listening, speaking, and everything else.

[Get the Course] or [Read reviews]


Portuguese Lab Academy

$35 per month or $350 per year

Portuguese Lab Academy is a learning platform that combines multiple different methods including short stories, games, dialogues, and grammar. The platform covers both A1 and A2 (beginner’s level) as well as B1 and B2 (intermediate level).

[Get the Course]


Other Resources

As well as a course, the following resources are worth having in your beginner toolbelt.

  • Practice Portuguese – Although Practice Portuguese isn’t structured like a course, its learning studio and podcast have materials (both audio and app-style learning) to take you right through the beginner’s level and into the more challenging levels. At €12.75 per month, it’s one of the most affordable resources out there.
  • Italki – Italki is a website where you can connect with Portuguese teachers. For those that don’t want to learn completely on their own, this is a great opportunity to get some teacher input. For those that want speaking practice, this is a great opportunity to take conversational Portuguese classes (often for around €10-20 per hour).
  • HelloTalk – If conversational classes over Skype sounds daunting, why not start by texting native speakers using the HelloTalk tandem exchange app? €Free.
  • Deepl – A translation app that covers both European and Brazilian Portuguese (unlike Google Translate which, while good, just does Brazilian Portuguese) €Free.
  • 50 Languages – A free online phrasebook that provides essential phrases for the most common situations (covers both PT-PT and PT-BR). €Free.
  • Memrise – A useful flashcard app for learning and memorising vocabulary. You can create your own flashcards or use other people’s flashcards (both PT-PT and PT-BR) €Free. [Read reviews]
  • Plataforma de Português Online – A free service that teaches A1, A2, B1, and B2 European Portuguese online. Unfortunately, the website often has issues which is why it’s not included in the main list.

Intermediate Portuguese

Intermediate, and especially upper intermediate, is really the level to aim for with your Portuguese (especially B2). It’s at this level that you really begin to feel more comfortable speaking and listening to Portuguese and holding conversations that go beyond basic introductions (e.g. how many brothers and sisters do you have? Can you describe all the rooms in your house? Boring!)

At this point, you’ll have enough grammar and vocab to speak Portuguese and, besides expanding your grammar and vocab, this should be a key focus at this level (aka time to get on iTalki or find yourself a Portuguese tandem partner).

Intermediate Courses

The following courses all cover intermediate Portuguese, which is B1 and B2 on the CEFR scale.

Portuguese Master Course (B1/B2)

$152 (Use PORTUGALIST15 for a further 15% off)

The B1 and B2 levels of Portuguese Master Class follow the same format as the A1 and A2 levels. Each video lesson is roughly 40-60 minutes long, and includes a mixture of grammar, vocab, and expressions.

The B1 and B2 can be purchased separately, but it’s slightly cheaper if you purchase the two together as a bundle (or the 4-course A1, A2, B1, and B2).

[Get the Course] or [Read reviews]

Portuguese Lab (B1/B2)

$35 per month or $350 per year

As with the A1 and A2 levels, the B1 and B2 levels of Portuguese Lab use a mixture of multimedia types (including audio, reading, and quizzes) to create a varied interactive learning platform.

[Get the Course]

Other Resources

As well as the additional resources mentioned in the beginner’s section, the following resources may also help you progress at the intermediate level. It is, however, worth highlighting Practice Portuguese and iTalki as two very useful resources for this level — iTalki for conversation practice and Practice Portuguese for Audio and the learning studio (vocab, grammar).

  • Subtitled videos in Portuguese – A list of places where you can find subtitled videos and TV shows (both PT-PT and PT-BR).
  • Learn Portuguese with books – For those that prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, a list of textbooks as well as other books like phrasebooks and novels for learning Portuguese.
  • Carla’s Babies – Similar to Practice Portuguese with a mixture of multimedia but especially high quality videos. The downside is that only a certain number of people can join Carla’s Babies at any point, so it’s not an option for everyone.
  • Plataforma de Português Online – A free service that teaches A1, A2, B1, and B2 European Portuguese online. Unfortunately, the website often has issues which is why it’s not included in the main list.

Advanced Portuguese

At the average level, you’re much more capable of reading complex texts and discussing complex subjects in both social and professional settings. Most language learners end up plateauing at the intermediate level so you’ll be well above average if you can progress to this level.

While learning foundational and intermediate Portuguese was challenging, in some ways it’s much harder to progress once you reach an advanced level of Portuguese.

Advanced Courses

Unfortunately, there aren’t a huge number of resources at the advanced level, and most are Portuguese textbooks rather than online courses.

Tip: If you haven’t already taken an exam in Portuguese, it may be worth taking one as a qualification at this level could be a nice boost to your resumé.

Language schools

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to learn in a classroom setting rather than at home, there are plenty of language schools in cities like Portuguese cities like Lisbon, Porto, and parts of the the Algarve, as well as in major international cities like London, Berlin, and New York as well.

While you’ll still have to do a lot of work by yourself, many people like being part of a group (especially if they’re concerned about their own abilities to self-study).

Brazilian Portuguese Resources

Even though you’re learning Portuguese from Portugal, it’s still a good idea to familiarise yourself with how Portuguese from Brazil sounds. Yes, even if you aren’t going to Brazil: there are so many Brazilians in Portugal that it’s likely you’ll have several Brazilian friends. You may even end up speaking to Brazilians more than you do local Portuguese people.

Taking a course that teaches Brazilian Portuguese isn’t necessary if you’re learning Portuguese from Portuguese, and it might confuse you, but do take the time to listen to Brazilian Portuguese audio and maybe take the odd iTalki class with a Portuguese speaker from Brazil.

  • iTalki – Find native teachers and speakers in Brazil that you can practice speaking with or take classes from.
  • BrazilPodclass – A podcast with hundreds and hundreds of lessons that cover everything from asking for directions to getting your car washed, ordering office supplies, and the Mediterranean diet. Everything basically.
  • Netflix – Netflix has quite a bit of content in Brazil, and you can also change the language to PT-BR on many Portuguese shows and watch the shows with both Portuguese and English subtitles.

African Portuguese Resources

Most people are interested in learning either European or Brazilian Portuguese, but occasionally people do ask about Portuguese from other parts of the world. The most common is Portuguese from Mozambique.

There aren’t many resources that cover Portuguese from this part of the world, but “African Portuguese” is very similar to “European Portuguese” or “Continental Portuguese.” Use the resources mentioned above, while also trying to listen to radio or podcasts from Mozambique or Angola.

Improving your Reading, Writing, Listening, & Speaking skills

Ask most language learners what the easiest part of learning a language is and most will say reading. Ask them what the hardest part is and most will either say speaking or listening

Core Skill: Listening

The best resources for developing your listening skills.

Practice Portuguese Logo - 100Practice Portuguese [*Special Offer*] – One of the best resources for learning European Portuguese, the Practice Portuguese podcast has hundreds of dialogues that you can listen to.

Say It In Portuguese [Link] – Although less entertaining, the Say It In Portuguese podcast is still a very helpful resource to have.

Portuguese from Portugal [Link] – Another podcast with free audio and text, this resources uses text from Wikipedia articles but covers a variety of Portuguese topics like wine, football, and fado.

Helpful articles on Portugalist

Core Skill: Speaking

The best resources for developing your speaking skills.

italki logo Italki [*Link*] – Find native speakers that you can take conversational Portuguese classes with.

Forvo [Link] – A dictionary that focuses on pronunciation as well as definitions. While most of the audio clips are from Brazilian speakers, you will find quite a few from Portuguese speakers as well (and it’s useful to hear the difference).

Helpful articles on Portugalist

Core Skill: Writing

The best resources for developing your writing skills.

Deepl [Link] – An alternative to Google Translate that covers European Portuguese (if you use Google Translate you’ll translate into Brazilian Portuguese).

HelloTalk [Link] – Improve your Portuguese writing abilities by chatting with native speakers through the HelloTalk app.

Helpful articles on Portugalist

Core Skill: Reading

The best resources for developing your reading skills.

Deepl [Link] – An alternative to Google Translate that covers European Portuguese.

Google Translate [Link] – An incredibly useful translation tool. While it does use Brazilian Portuguese rather than European Portuguese, it’s usually fine for translating for Portuguese to English but it’s better to use Deepl when translating from English to Portuguese.

Helpful articles on Portugalist

Core Skill: Grammar

As well as a course that has a good focus on grammar, the following tools will help you learn Portuguese grammar.

Linguno [Link] – A fun app that tests you on several things including grammar. [Read Reviews]

Clozemaster [link] – Another fun app with a strong focus on grammar. Note: this app is more skewed towards Portuguese from Brazil.

Conjugemos [Link] – Has several games where you can test your ability to conjugate verbs. It’s much more fun than trying to memorise verb tables!

Verbix [Link] – A simple verb conjugation tool that covers European Portuguese. Simply enter a verb (e.g. falar – to speak) and it’ll show you the Portuguese for I speak, you speak, I will speak, etc in European Portuguese.

Core Skill: Vocabulary

While some people argue that you should learn vocabulary in context rather than isolation, there are definitely plenty of resources (especially apps) that cover Portuguese vocab.

Memrise [Link] – A free (with paid option) app that has lots of different flashcards covering European Portuguese as well as the option to create your own.

There are other vocabulary apps like Drops or Duolingo (although that technically covers Brazilian Portuguese). If you’re specifically interested in learning via apps, be sure to take a look at Portugalist’s list of the best apps for Portuguese learners.

Don’t Forget to Have fun!

As well as taking a beginner’s course and learning essential phrases, it’s important that you actually get to use your Portuguese and have a little fun (otherwise what’s the point!). Learning a language is hard work, and if you don’t enjoy it you’ll quickly give up or just end up resenting it. 

Here are some fun things you can do that’ll help your Portuguese: 

  • Watch films and TV shows in Portuguese
  • Listen to Portuguese music.
  • Find a tandem partner or penpal (that you actually connect with) and make a new friend. 
  • Go to Portugal or Brazil (or Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, or São Tomé and Príncipe).
  • Date a Portuguese or Brazilian (if you’re single, of course!). 
  • Practice speaking with a native speaker using iTalki as soon as you feel comfortable (and even before). 
  • Chat with natives via text using HelloTalk to build up your confidence before you chat to them over Skype using iTalki. 
  • Join a community of other people who are self-studying Portuguese. Practice Portuguese have their forums and many other courses, like Portuguese Master Course, have private Facebook groups.

FAQs

Should I learn Brazilian Portuguese or European Portuguese?

If you’re going to be living in Portugal, it makes sense to learn Portuguese as it’s spoken in Portugal. Brazilian Portuguese might be more melodic or easier (even the Portuguese say this) but, even if you learn to speak Portuguese with a Brazilian accent, you’ll still need to be able to understand when Portuguese people are speaking to you.

Should I self study or take a class?

Whichever works best for you! If you’re motivated, self-study can be much more effective than group learning. It can also be cheaper and, without having to commute to a class, less time-consuming as well.

However, the benefit of committing to a class is that you (hopefully) turn up. Sometimes it can also provide you with a social group as well.

How much should you expect to pay to learn Portuguese by yourself?

Initially the cost of the course (~$150 or so per level), but as you start to grow you’ll probably want to add additional resources like Practice Portuguese (great for listening) and iTalki (great for weekly conversation practice).

Don’t worry: there are lots of free resources for learning Portuguese as well!

What do all the levels mean?

While most of us refer to ourselves as being beginner, intermediate, advanced, or maybe having “conversational Portuguese,” that’s a bit vague for language schools and for professional qualifications.

The chart below explains what the different levels on both the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and the Portuguese version, CAPLE. Generally, most people just use the CEFR scale, though.

BeginnerA1ACESSOSurvival Level
BeginnerA2CIPLEGood, but basic level
IntermediateB1DEPLEGetting by with relative ease
IntermediateB2DIPLEQuite comfortable
AdvancedC1DAPLEReally comfortable
AdvancedC2DUPLEBasically Fluent

The explanations are my own and summarise how the CEFR describes each level.

What level do I need to obtain Portuguese citizenship?

A2, which is lower than many other European countries like Germany and France which require B1-Level.

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18 thoughts on “Learn European Portuguese”

  1. Hello! First – I’m so happy to have found your site. It’s incredibly helpful; thank you!

    I’m trying to choose a strategy for learning European Portuguese, and I saw Michel Thomas’ Total Portuguese mentioned elsewhere on this site. Would it belong on this page, as well? (It seems like it might be a little more comprehensive than Pimsleur?)

    Also, although I love the advantages of a self-study format (like lifetime access to course content that I can access at my own pace, on my own schedule), I’ve found it’s hard for me to make the time, stick with it, and not let life get in the way, and keep my motivation up! So I would love to find a self-study format that also offers the advantages of a traditional class: a built-in, goal-oriented timeline for achieving specific proficiency levels, with interaction and accountability. Any chance you’ve come across a format that combines the best of these two worlds?

    Muito obrigada!

    Reply
    • Hi Lea,

      You’re right! This page is due an update, so I will add it in. I will also do a full writeup on Total Portuguese soon.

      You’re also right in saying that it’s more comprehensive than Pimsleur – much more. While I really like the Pimsleur Method, the European Portuguese course is quite especially limited because it only covers the first level. I should add that although Total Portuguese has similarities to Pimsleur, it’s more like an audio-based class and there’s a lot of instruction in it.

      In terms of something that offers the best of both worlds, there are a few options.

      At the moment, lots of language schools in Portugal are going online so you could actually do an entire language course from home. That’s one option.

      Another option would be to combine a self-study course with with weekly classes with a personal tutor through Italki (or something similar). The tutor should be able to set goals and tell you what to study, but you would still need to do a lot of self-study between classes.

      Would that work?

      Reply
  2. Brazilian and European Portuguese are mutually intelligible, without any problems (except if either speaker has a thick regional accent). For a beginner, it shouldn’t make much of a difference, so I do not agree with the article that they should restrict themselves to European Portuguese and miss out on all the material available for Brazilian Portuguese. Brazilians take a lot of shortcuts when speaking/writing informally (lazy speech) and that is probably the main difference. The formal written language is nearly identical, with a few usage differences. [Disclaimer: the writer is originally from Brazil]

    Reply
    • Hi Ulisses,

      I agree, and I’ve been thinking about changing the article slightly. My aim was simply to help people find the European Portuguese resources, which are often hard to find, not to tell people that they should never read or listen to anything written in Brazilian Portuguese.

      Like you say there’s a lot of useful resources for Brazilian (including Duolingo) and I also think that people need to familiarise themselves with it anyway: there are a huge number of Brazilians living in Portugal so, if you live in Portugal, you will probably have a lot of conversations with Brazilians and you will need to be familiar with the sounds, expressions, and vocabulary. Also, Brazil has some great TV shows, movies, music, and books – one of the benefits of learning Portuguese is being able to enjoy them.

      So, yes, completely agree and it’s on my to-do list to change this article a little.

      Reply
      • Hi James, thanks for being understanding of my comment. I think you have put together a great resource for Portuguese learners in your article, I appreciate that. I would like more people to learn Portuguese, it’s a beautiful and musical language. It’s the “last flower from Latium, wild and beautiful.” according to Olavo Bilac. Please take my comment in that light. Best Regards, Ulisses.

        Reply
    • What you say about shortcuts and essentially “lazy” speech is interesting. There is a distinct tendency that way in the Spanish of Venezuela, which i believe is Brazilian influence. An example is they like to slide the ends of certain words so that something like”mercado” becomes “mercao”. This gives an interesting twist that is quite noticeable to other Spanish speakers.

      Reply
  3. I will be in Porto.

    I see rates at $40.00 an hour.

    Those areUSA rates.

    When I get to Port what is a good way to find a tutor I can afford

    Reply
        • Hi Daniel,

          I don’t know a lot about Portuguese from Mozambique, but I understand that it’s very similar to European Portuguese. I would look at the resources mentioned in the article and work through some of those. It would also be worth finding a Portuguese speaker from Mozambique to practice with.

          Reply
  4. Hi James,

    Great article! Thanks. I’m looking for some dialogues that I can memorize that have translations. Do you have any suggestions?

    Craig

    Reply
  5. That was a VERY helpful article. Finally some answers on how to learn Portuguese as spoken in Portugal. I’m a 77 year old woman who loves to travel, alone, and am going for a second holiday in Lisbon and Cascais in September. I have friends that I meet in a digital virtual world game that are Portuguese people living in Lisbon. They speak very good English, probably helped by the fact that a large majority of people in the game are English speaking.

    Reply

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