Can you learn European Portuguese with an app? Probably not by itself, but have language learning apps to hand can be very useful when you’re sitting on public transport, want to revise vocabulary, or just have 5 minutes to spare.
The following are some of the best apps for learning Portuguese as it’s spoken in Portugal (as opposed to Brazilian Portuguese).
€12.75 per month
Joel and Rui, the guys behind Practice Portuguese, have created an app to compliment their language learning platform at PracticePortuguese.com. If you have a Practice Portuguese membership (and remember: Portugalist readers pay less), you can sign in to the app and take full advantage of all its features.
The app is useful for learning Portuguese on the go (for example, when you’re commuting or just have 10 minutes to spare). There’s a verb section, which contains common verbs and their conjugations as well as audio pronunciation for each word. You can also listen to audio clips from the audio ‘shorties’, just as with the website, and see translations of the vocabulary and expressions used in the audio.
One of the most useful features is the Smart Review. This allows you to create an audio file of all the words and phrases that you don’t know. You can then listen to this file while driving, on the bus, at the gym, or wherever else you want to practice your Portuguese.
$20.95 per month
Not that long ago the Pimsleur course was taught over MP3s and CDs (and cassette tapes before that). Although the audio component is still the primary focus of Pimsleur, these days the course is taught through the Pimsleur app (available for both Android and iOS as well as the web).
Besides being able to play the audio content and track your progress in a much easier fashion that an MP3, the Pimsleur app comes with other features like quizzes, flashcards, and games. All of these features focus on the vocabulary and grammar that you will have covered in the audio lessons, which are the words and phrases that Pimsleur feels are most essential to getting the foundations in European Portuguese. Because of this, even though the vocabulary focus can be a little narrow, it is probably a lot more useful than learning the top 10,000 Portuguese words on Memrise.
Michel Thomas Portuguese
The Michel Thomas app isn’t a complicated app. All you can do is listen to the audio content that you have purchased, so there really isn’t a big difference between listening to it through the app or through your phone’s MP3 or audio player. Unlike Pimsleur, there are no flashcards, games, or other interactive features. However, it’s still an app and the Michel Thomas method is very popular with those who have tried using it for Portuguese.
The content is suitable for beginners and although it doesn’t it doesn’t mention the CEFR scale, it probably covers A1 and A2 European Portuguese and may dip into B1 as well. If you’re starting out in your Portuguese learning journey, this is a great course to use. Just don’t expect the app to be anything more than a collection of audio tracks.
The app is available on both the Google Play and Apple stores but to actually purchase Michel Thomas Portuguese, you’ll need to visit MichelThomas.com. You can read a review of Michel Thomas Portuguese here.
Linguno is a very comprehensive web app that covers Portuguese from Portugal and Brazil, and you can select which you’re studying when you create your profile.
While many apps only cover one area of language learning (for example: vocab), Linguno covers several. You can use it to learn new words, practice conjugating verbs, or practice listening.
Another benefit of Linguno is that it doesn’t overly differentiate between European and Brazilian Portuguese. If a section has audio, you can listen to the word said by both European and Brazilian speakers and play games to test your abilities in understanding both.
There are lots of benefits to Linguno, but the areas that people will probably find most useful are the listening games and the verb conjugation games as its hard to find other apps that offer listening and grammar exercises.
Hellotalk is an app where you can talk with other language learners, either by text or by voice.
You enter the language you’re learning and the language you’re fluent in, and then you can search for other language learners. Portuguese speakers have either a Brazilian or a Portuguese flag next to their profile, which is really helpful for distinguishing between the two. Simply leave a message (either text or audio) for someone that you feel like you’d like to speak to and away you go.
Where HelloTalk is really useful is that you can start speaking to people by texting rather than out loud. This is a really helpful stepping stone when you’re just starting out. Once you feel a bit more confident, you can progress to audio. Or not.
And, another great thing about HelloTalk is that it allows users to correct each other’s mistakes. That’s a huge help.
Free (paid membership available)
Memrise is a spaced-repetition flashcard app that’s similar to other language learning apps like Duolingo, Drops, and Anki.
You can create your own flashcards or you can search for some of the flashcards that other people have made, and you’ll find both European and Brazilian Portuguese flashcards. As these are created by other users, the quality of each course can vary, but there’s definitely some great content on there – particularly the content created by the Memrise team.
And, because it’s so useful for creating flashcards, you’ll find the cards for many language courses on there.
It’s a useful app for learning phrases and vocabulary but, rather than learning words at random, its biggest use is in creating flashcards of new words and phrases that you want to commit to memory.
Serial language learners will argue that Anki is better, but Memrise is definitely more user-friendly and, when you’re just starting out, that’s definitely a big plus point for Memrise.
Anki is a spaced repetition system app that’s popular among serious language learners and most polyglots favour it above similar apps like Memrise and Quizlet. However, even though it does come recommended from those that really enjoy learning languages, it’s fair to say that it’s nowhere near as user-friendly as Memrise or other similar apps. This is particularly the case when it comes to creating flashcards.
You can download flashcards that other people have made (e.g. this phrasebook), but many people end up making the flashcards themselves. If you want more control, something that’s open source, and you’re willing to put up with a small learning curve, it is a very helpful app but most people will probably be more comfortable with a different app.
Free or Paid
Drops is a popular language learning app that teaches multiple world languages, including European Portuguese. It’s popular with those looking for a Duolingo replacement, as Duolingo teaches Brazilian Portuguese rather than European Portuguese.
While the app is very easy to use, the content is often incredibly basic and most people will learn more using most of the other apps. If you’re looking for an app to teach you basic Portuguese vocabulary, Memrise is probably a better option.
Conjuguemos is a web which gamifies verb learning. Simply decide which tense you wish to work on, and Conjuguemos will test you on your ability to conjugate verbs in that tense.
It’s much more fun than learning verb tables and, like any of the other flashcard apps, it’s something you can easily do when you have a few minutes spare.
Unfortunately this app is only available as a web app, which means you have to play it in your browser. It’s still possible to do this on your phone as well as your computer.
Lyrics Training is an app where you listen to music (Portuguese music in this case) and then try and guess the missing lyrics. It’s a fun way to practice your listening skills, and also to learn a little bit more about Portuguese music and some of the bands and artists that are popular.
You can listen to both Portuguese and Brazilian artists, and you’ll probably stumble upon quite a few songs that you already know.
The only downside to this app is that that it only gives you 3 free minutes every 30 minutes (you can pay to get unlimited access). The web version doesn’t have this limitation, thankfully.
While we’re at it, it’s worth mentioning some apps that don’t cover European Portuguese but teach Brazilian Portuguese instead. Duolingo, Babbel, Mondly, and Rosetta Stone all teach Portuguese but offer Brazilian Portuguese rather than European Portuguese.