Do You Need to Learn Portuguese to Live in Portugal?

Written by:
Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Moving to a new country can be an exciting yet daunting experience, especially when there’s a language barrier. If you’re considering relocating to Portugal, you might be wondering if learning Portuguese is a necessity.

In this article, we’ll explore the residency visa requirements and the day-to-day situations where knowing the language can make a difference.

Residency Visa Requirements

Good news! If you’re applying for visas such as the D7, D8, or the Golden Visa, you don’t need to know Portuguese before applying. This also applies to EU citizens.

However, if you’re a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen and plan to apply for permanent residency after living in Portugal for five years, you’ll need to demonstrate an A2 level of Portuguese proficiency.

Similarly, if you decide to apply for citizenship, regardless of your current citizenship status, an A2 level is required. This means EU/EEA/Swiss citizens also need to learn Portuguese.

Don’t worry though, A2 is only upper beginner level and can be easily achieved within five years.

What About Day-to-Day Life?

The short answer is no, you don’t always need Portuguese for daily life in Portugal. However, it varies depending on where you choose to live.

In the Algarve, for example, you could get by without speaking much Portuguese at all. Some expats in this region can barely order a cup of coffee in the local language. On the other hand, if you move to somewhere like a rural part of Northern Portugal, you’ll find that knowing Portuguese is more of a necessity, even in many cafes and restaurants.

The areas where English is most widely spoken are the Algarve, Lisbon, and Porto. Generally, you’ll find that people along the coast have some knowledge of English. Madeira, being a popular tourist destination, also has a fair number of English speakers.

However, even in these areas, you’ll encounter people who don’t speak English. Interestingly, many healthcare professionals (particularly nurses rather than doctors and other employees) and government employees may not speak English. Many people assume that everyone in Portugal speaks English because they’ve only interacted with those in the tourism industry up until the point of moving here.

There are also instances where people can speak English but choose not to. If you’ve been living in Portugal for a while without making an effort to learn Portuguese, some locals might be offended by this, and understandably so. It’s not unusual for people to not speak English or do so with great reluctance.

Should You Learn Portuguese?

Absolutely! Without knowing the language, you risk being stuck in an expat bubble. There’s little point in moving to another country if you can’t fully immerse yourself in the culture, understand what’s happening around you, or connect with the local community. Learning Portuguese will open doors to new friendships, better job opportunities, and a deeper appreciation for your new home.

Luckily for expats, there are lots of great online courses that cover European Portuguese. By investing time and effort into learning the language, you’ll enrich your experience living abroad and feel much more at home in Portugal.

In conclusion, while it’s possible to live in some parts of Portugal without speaking Portuguese, making an effort to learn the language will greatly enhance your overall experience as an expat. Embrace the challenge, dive into the culture, and enjoy all that Portugal has to offer!

The small print: Portugalist may generate a commission from mentioned products or services. This is at no additional cost to you and it does not affect our editorial standards in any way. All content, including comments, should be treated as informational and not advice of any kind, including legal or financial advice. The author makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions or damages arising from its display or use. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement. [Disclaimer Policy]
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.

Spotted a mistake? Suggest a correction

There are 0 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.

Leave a Comment