Learning European Portuguese in 6 Months: An Interview With Mia Esmeriz

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Written by: | Last updated on December 7, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 10 minutes

Mia Esmeriz has been teaching European Portuguese online through her website and YouTube channel since 2017. A native Portuguese speaker, she shares some of the resources she recommends to her students as well as her tips for learning Portuguese in as little as 6 months.

Mia is the author of several courses which cover European Portuguese from A1 to B2 level as well as a course in Portuguese speech and pronunciation.

You can view her website here. You can also view a writeup of her courses here.

James: Tell us a little about Mia Esmeriz Academy and how you ended up teaching Portuguese online?

Mia: Olá 🙂 Thank you for this interview and for your interest in my work.

So, when I came back to Portugal, after living in the Netherlands for 3 years, I did not have a job. Since I had graduated with a Master Degree in Teaching Portuguese as a Second Language from Porto University and I really liked teaching, I thought I would start teaching Portuguese online.

I heard about a platform called Italki and I started there. I worked there for around 3 years and I gained many happy reviews of many different students. I saw that people liked my work and the way I taught, and I was happy about it. However, I started realizing two things:

First, the students I had all complained about the same – that they were trying to find materials online about European Portuguese, but there were almost none around and the ones they could find were all about Brazilian Portuguese.

Then I also started seeing that I had too many students and too little time to really tend to all their needs.

So, I had the feeling that I had to do something about these two problems. The idea of making an online course that would reach more people and tackle the problem of lack of online materials in European Portuguese started to form in my head.

Then, I started researching about the topic – how to make a course, a website, where to host the course, and all those technical things you have to go through. It took time, but I finally published my first online lecture back in 2017. It was a success!

After that, I continued publishing more lectures, until I had the A1 course completed. Students seemed to really like it and I kept receiving good feedback.

So, I kept going. I then launched level A2, then B1 and finally B2. And this is how the European Portuguese Master Course was born!

I then also developed new courses – The European Portuguese Speech Course – which tackles the pronunciation and the real sounds of Portuguese and analysis how native speakers really speak and Story Time – Interactive Stories in Portuguese – that helps the student learn the language naturally, through stories – all in Portuguese.

I now have a bundle of all the courses, plus super exciting bonuses, that is called the “All-In-One Portuguese Course” and that aims at helping the students become fluent within 6 months. So, to sum up. My school grew gradually and this is how Mia Esmeriz Academy came to be – a small idea, became a big project with a thriving community of students and I am super proud of it and glad I did it, I have to say. It has helped so many people around the world, and I can definitely say it has even exceeded my expectations 🙂

James: What are the main things to focus on when learning European Portuguese?

Mia: One of the most important things you can do to learn a language is to LISTEN to it. I know many people think that speaking is the most important thing they can do. While speaking is, in fact, very important (don’t get me wrong), I do think and linguistic studies back me up, that listening is as much if not more important when it comes to learning a language. So, if students can, they should try to start listening, listening and listening again.

It works a bit like when we were babies and we were learning our first language. We first started to listen to our caregivers, and only much later did we start to try and mimic what we heard and then saying our first words and then our first sentences. So, when learning a second language, we should also try this – of course, we don’t need to do it exactly as we did when we were babies, because the context is different, but we do need to start listening to the language, if we ever want to learn it. However, the best approach is to use the Comprehensive Input method, and I speak about this a lot in my courses!

Other than this, students should be really patient with themselves, and keep an open mind. If you think you can’t learn the language, that is not true! You can – you just have to find the best resources and methods that will work for you. You have the ability to learn a language – everyone has (but for a few exceptions).

James: Besides your courses, what other resources do you recommend your students use?

Mia: I recommend that my students use all the resources that work for them. There is no right or wrong, and mixing and matching is alright:)

They should, for example, try to watch Portuguese TV, listen to Portuguese radio and immerse themselves in the language as much as possible. Podcasts are a really good tool, too. There are a lot of Portuguese podcasts out there and I would definitely try to listen to some of those.

A good Portuguese dictionary is also good – I recommend linguee.pt or dict.leo.org, but there are many others out there, too.

If students have difficulties with verbs, they can also take a look at conjuga-me.net, where they will get any verb conjugated for them.

If they like to learn through apps, I recommend steering away from the famous DUOLINGO – as it only has Brazilian Portuguese – and go for MEMRISE or DROPS instead, as they both have European Portuguese.

If students want to practice their speech, I would either try to join a local language club or join Italki – the platform where I used to work – where they can find tutors or people to make language tandems with.

That being said, my All-In-One Portuguese Course is designed to help students learn without having to search for materials themselves, though, so if students want to have the work done for them, I would go for this course.

James: What are the main things your students struggle with or make mistakes with?

Mia: The main struggle I see is with pronunciation. Portuguese pronunciation is really difficult, I am not going to lie. We do have a rich amount of sounds that many times do not even exist in the student’s first language. I do think that it is very important that students get these sounds right from the beginning, because this will help them learn the language and understand the language much better down the road.

So, I can say that one of the mistakes that my students make is not caring about the pronunciation from the beginning and leaving it to the end. This is wrong, but I do see that a lot of teachers still have this approach and lead students in the wrong direction. I think it is time to change this view and really let students know that they should start by listening to these sounds and learning them from the beginning – it will really help them along the way!

James: What level of Portuguese do you think is needed to really integrate into Portugal?

Mia: I think that you can integrate in Portugal easily, as I have been told we are a welcoming bunch (I hope this is really true!). However, I do think that you will feel more “at home”, if you are at a good A2 level. As long as you can speak with the lady from the grocery shop or the guy from the supermarket, I think you will slowly start to integrate. Making friends should also be easy with this level of Portuguese, as Portuguese people in general (especially the younger generations) can speak fairly good English.

Sometimes they can even be annoying, because you want to speak Portuguese to practice and they keep changing to English to help you out! Haha! My advice is to tell the people you really want to keep it in Portuguese, so that you can learn. I have the feeling the Portuguese feel happy when they see someone trying to speak their language and even if they smile when you make a mistake, it is not because they are mocking you, but because they think it is cute. At least, that’s my experience with it. I hope other people have the same feeling…

James: You teach Portuguese up to the B2 level. How long would it take someone to reach this level starting from scratch?

Mia: In my All-In-One Portuguese Course I have a plan that will take the student from 0 to the B2 level in 6 months. I know it is possible to achieve that. However, I would like to answer this with caution, because it is a really hard question to answer. While it is possible, and I even give my students the tools and resources to get there, it will depend a lot on the student and the amount of work the student is willing to put into learning the language. Depending on that, it can take 3 months, 6 months, 1 year or 10 years…

James: And how quickly could someone get to an A2 level, in order to meet the citizenship requirement…from scratch?

Mia: Again, you could get there quickly if you put work into learning the language. If you really dive in and don’t look back. If you keep going, even when things get harder (because they will get harder). But I think the most important thing is to have someone to guide you and to really tell you which way to go and what you need to learn. If you have a proper plan and goal, everything will fall into place much more easily.

James: As a Portuguese native, what are some of the benefits of Portuguese culture that people will get once they can speak Portuguese?

Mia: First of all, they will be able to connect with the Portuguese people much better. Again, we are said to be a welcoming bunch and warm people that like to hug and make friends easily. In my opinion, if you know the language, it will also be easier to understand the way people interact and you will be able to share a good conversation over a good meal (we love long meals)!

You will also start figuring out small things that say so much about us – why we use “inho” and “inha” after every second word, for example. Or why we say “queria um cafézinho” instead of simply saying “queria um café”.

I think so much can be lost in translation…so knowing the language is a passport to really integrate in the Portuguese community! We sure are waiting for you to give you a tour 🙂

James: Where can people find out more about you?

Mia: You can find more about me and my courses:

On my website: learn-portuguese.org
On my course page: school.learn-portuguese.org
On my Youtube Page: youtube.com/c/learneuropeanportugueseonline
On my Instagram: instagram.com/learneuportuguese
On my Facebook Page: facebook.com/LearnEuropeanPortugueseOnline

Also, if you have any specific questions, please email me to: mia@learn-portuguese.org

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.

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