Reviews: Pimsleur’s European Portuguese

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Originally published in Sep 2020 & last updated on July 24, 2023
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Pimsleur’s European Portuguese is a popular audio-based course that covers the very basics of Portuguese. It’s ideal for dedicated tourists or those who are just getting started in European Portuguese and want something to build their confidence.

Previously Pimsleur was sold in MP3 or CD-format, but now all of their courses are accessible through the Pimsleur app (available on both iOS and Android as well as online). As well as European Portuguese, Pimsleur also offers Brazilian Portuguese and a huge number of other languages including French, German, and Spanish.


If you’ve previously listened to a Pimsleur course on MP3 or a CD, you may be familiar with the format. In a typical lesson you will hear a short audio extract, typically a conversation, and then it’ll be broken down for you. Then, the narrator will ask you questions based on the audio. For example, if the conversation is about booking a hotel room, you might be asked, “how do you say, do you have a hotel room for two people” or “is the room smoking or non-smoking?”

The app goes a little further than the audio CDs and includes reading lessons, flashcards, quizzes, and other games.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Pimsleur has a lot of strengths, but the biggest one is that it gives you tools to start creating your own (very basic) sentences and, just as importantly, the confidence to do that too. Even if the sentences are ultimately quite basic, there’s a lot to be said to gaining the confidence to attempt to speak Portuguese. It’s also a very flexible course to study: you can listen to it while you’re walking the dog, at the gym, or driving.

You won’t develop a huge vocabulary or develop great grammar abilities. Instead, Pimsleur focuses on a very small number of important words and phrases and uses them in multiple conversations so that you really memorise them.

The app is also a big improvement on the audio CDs as it includes useful features like vocabulary flash cards and quizzes. These are really helpful for ingraining what you’ve learnt, and practicing when you have a free moment — for example, when you’re on the metro.

But, there are some negatives to Pimsleur too.

Firstly, there’s very little reading and no writing involved. While speaking and listening are definitely the hardest parts of learning Portuguese, it definitely feels like there’s a big language element missing here.

Secondly, Pimsleur only goes as far as Level 2, which means a lot of people finish the course and don’t know where to go to next. The Pimsleur Method is both unique and enjoyable, and most people don’t want to jump from that to a traditional language course. Pimsleur’s Brazilian Portuguese course, in comparison, goes up to level 5.

The Pimsleur was great, and I think the speaking-only format will help me communicate better and more confidently than if I just studied a traditional method. But where should I go to pick up where Pimsleur leaves off?

Duane (Portugalist reader)

Ultimately, Pimsleur will give you the foundational tools and confidence to get started but you’re going to need a few other resources to take you to the next level and to pick up the slack where Pimsleur isn’t so strong. However, if you really like the Pimsleur approach, you could start off with this course and then find something else when you’ve completed all of the lessons.

Another alternative would be Michel Thomas’ European Portuguese, which is similar but not identical, and goes to a slightly more advanced level than Pimsleur does.


Pimsleur works on a subscription basis and costs around $20.95 per month. A 7-day free trial is available.

This makes it slightly more expensive than Practice Portuguese, another popular language learning tool for European Portuguese, but more affordable than many other courses, many of which charge a flat fee.

Your Pimsleur membership gives you access to all of Pimsleur’s other languages, however, it’s likely that most people will mainly use the European Portuguese content.


Pimsleur is a great tool for getting started and gaining that all-important confidence in the beginning. The fact that it’s subscription based means that you could work through all of these lessons in a few months and then move onto something a little more advanced.

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 or via the site's contact form.

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There are 6 comments on this article. Join the conversation and add your own thoughts, reviews, and stories of life in Portugal. However, please remember to be civil.


  1. If you believe that the best way to teach someone to swim is to push them into the deep end of the pool then this course is for you. At one point in the first lesson the moderator says “notice how the words run together.” Yes, I do. That may be the way natives speak, but it was too fast, too soon for this beginner. I gave up in frustration.

  2. It is only a beginner course for European português. No volume 2 exist.
    False advertising – Pimsleur advertised that you can have up to 5 volumes, but apparently only for Brazilian Português.
    I regret purchasing Pimsleur. It’s like buying a car without tires to drive.

  3. This was the first course that I tried and I found it very helpful but it’s definitely very basic. Not much in the way of grammer. Limited vocabulary. But you will know what it does teach you inside out.

    It got me through my first few months in Portugal and for that I’m very grateful but it is super limited. I would give the course 5 stars if it were half the price but I feel that it’s too expensive for what it is.

    Others have recommended Michel Thomas as an alternative and maybe that’s what I should have bought in the first place.

    Other downsides include the occassional use of voce and the lack of written material.

  4. The course is good for someone who is coming to Portugal on vacation or at the very start of learning Portuguese. At the end of the course I could form basic sentences but it wasn’t much more advanced that what a tourist might use. You will definitely need to study other material after this.

  5. This did exactly what my wife and I needed and expected, namely provide just enough proficiency to be able to navigate Portugal as tourists for 2 weeks. We were just fine with this course, then we had Google Translate and our existing Spanish bases to fill in whatever vocabulary gaps we had as we went around the country. I was happy with it and liked the structure/approach. You have to keep expectations realistic because learning a new language is extremely difficult for an adult (or even children over say age 10). If you keep expectations in check, you’re more likely to be happy with this course.

    We did this course via Audible over 1.5-2 months (4-5 lessons per week), where you can get all 30 lessons for I think it was 5 credits, so that really cuts down the price and also provides additional audio content with a PDF book for extra exercises (side note: it’s also how I learned Audible has attachments that go with the main audio). I typically listened in the morning on my way to work (45ish minutes of easy highway driving; the car is also ideal to repeat phrases out loud since nobody else is around) and would do the reading material either before my commute, at night after work, or on weekends.

  6. This course was great for getting me started in Portuguese (much better than the language course I took in Lisbon). It isn’t enough though as you say. I feel like it needs a grammar component. I would also like if there was a book to go with it where I could go over the lessons. I know this isn’t how Pimsleur does things but it would have helped me.


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