Oops! I Started Learning Brazilian Portuguese (and not European Portuguese)

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James Cave / Last Updated: December 5, 2022 / Posted in: Learning Portuguese

One of the most common mistakes people moving to Portugal make is by downloading an app that teaches Brazilian Portuguese (e.g. Duolingo or Babbel) and not European Portuguese.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry! A lot of people don’t initially realise there’s a big difference between “European Portuguese” and “Brazilian Portuguese.” After all, the differences between British and American English or European and South American Spanish aren’t as big. 

In Portuguese, however, they can be. Pronounce Portuguese words with a Brazilian accent or use Brazilian Portuguese grammar and you’ll quickly be politely corrected by people in Portugal. It can be a bit demoralising – after all, you thought you’d be chatting away with them in Portuguese – but most people are just trying to help. 

So what can you do if you’ve started learning Brazilian Portuguese and now need to switch to Portuguese as it’s spoken in Portugal? 

It depends how far along you are. Most people realise this mistake a few weeks or months in at which point they’re still fairly early in the language learning process. You’ll need to “un-learn” the pronunciation of a lot of words and some phrases, but it should still be possible to do this. If you’ve been learning Portuguese for a few years, it could be a little harder. 

Again, don’t worry: although you have a little bit of learning to do, all the work you put into Brazilian Portuguese will still be useful. It’ll help you understand Brazilian Portuguese speakers, which you’ll encounter a lot of in Portugal, and it 

Switch to European Portuguese Materials

The first step is to switch learning materials. If you’re using Duolingo or Babbel, for example, try using Memrise, which has a lot of European Portuguese content, Practice Portuguese, or Drops. There are plenty of great courses that teach European Portuguese. 

Get used to Portuguese Pronunciation

You’ve been listening to Portuguese spoken by Brazilians and now it’s time to get used to hearing it spoken by the Portuguese. You’ll also need to learn to pronounce words in the European Portuguese way. 

You’ll notice that the pronunciation of words is quite different. Your foray into Brazilian Portuguese will definitely help you, but you’ll probably need to spend a bit of time listening to European Portuguese spoken. 

Practice Portuguese has a lot of audio content that’s great for this. It’s also an entire course that’ll teach you the foundations of Portuguese, and can replace the likes of Duolingo or Babbel. (Read more about Practice Portuguese here.)

If you’ve been listening to podcasts that teach Brazilian Portuguese, try and find some Portuguese podcasts instead. 

Get Corrected

As mentioned, if you speak “Brazilian Portuguese” in Portugal, you’ll probably be corrected from time to time. This can be a little off-putting if you’re mid-flow but, as mentioned, people are usually just trying to help. 

Getting corrected is important, though, but rather than being corrected in a café or at the supermarket, why not get corrected in a language class? Book a conversational Portuguese session (or several) with a European Portuguese tutor on iTalki and explain that you want to speak in Portuguese but get corrected whenever you use a Brazilian Portuguese word, phrase, element of grammar, or pronunciation of a word. This way you can make those same mistakes but because you’ll be in a classroom environment, you’ll be able to take note and (hopefully) correct them. 

Comments

  1. Your ideas about languages and language learning/usage are those of a complete ignorant. First, differences between "Englishes" are as big as any - I'd like to see a Texan listening to a BBC interview with a Glaswegian or a Cockney even without subtitles. The same is true for the Spanish language spoken in Andalusia and Uruguay, for example - lots of differences.
    The problem with people like you is the lack of authority to comment on linguistics and how, unfortunately, unfounded claims such as yours become truths on the internet. It is a consensus amongst linguists specialised (or should I be corrected here: speciali"z"ed?) in language learning that similarities are what should be highlighted and differences studied case by case; and again, "differences" and not "errors" as you imply when saying people need to get their Portuguese "corrected". What needs correction are the uninformed claims you make.

    Reply

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