European Portuguese Levels EXPLAINED – A2 vs. Fluency

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Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

A2 is that magical level you need to reach in Portuguese to get your citizenship in Portugal.

But there is a lot of confusion about what an A2 level actually is and how you get there. How much do you need to know? Is it close to fluency? What is expected at this level?

So in this blog post, I’m going to break down exactly what an A2 level is and what you do and do not need to learn to get to this level.

And if you’re wondering who I am, my name is Liz and I’m a Brit living a life I LOVE in Lisbon. I’ve been studying Portuguese academically for over 15 years and I help people who are relocating or retiring to Portugal build their confidence and conversation skills in European Portuguese so they can live Portugal at its best.

So… What do these letters and numbers A1/A2/B1/B2/C1/C2 actually mean? Well, this was a concept put together by the Council of Europe as a common framework for learning all European languages. 

  • A1 and A2 levels correspond to a basic user – we can refer to these as beginners.
  • B1 and B2 levels correspond to an independent user – we can call these intermediate.
  • C1 and C2 levels correspond to a proficient user – these would be advanced or even fluent.

So as you can see, A2 is only the second out of six levels you can reach in Portuguese. Hopefully, you can already see it is less scary than you thought…

This is why I want to give you my first hot tip for looking for lessons to get to the A2 level: steer clear of anyone promising you fluency in a short space of time! Official estimates say you’d need to study for around 600 hours to get to a B2, that upper-intermediate level in a European language – so anyone suggesting they can get you fluent in a few weeks or months is quite frankly lying to you.

A much more realistic goal, especially if A2 or just above is what you are aiming for, is to get conversational. And that is what I help all my students work towards.

So the official description of an A2 level is as follows:

  • Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment).
  • Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
  • Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

In addition to that, when we dig further into these descriptions from the Council of Europe itself, you might actually be surprised to discover that it is okay to make mistakes at this level. Here’s exactly what they say:

council of Europe explanation for A2

This is something I always use to reassure my students. An A2 level is conversational, but you’re allowed to make mistakes, you’re allowed to repeat yourself and reformulate what you’ve tried to say!

So hopefully this gives you a clearer idea of what you are working towards and that it is not as scary as you might think.

However..

It is still pretty hard work to get to this point. Estimates say it can take up to 200 hours of study to reach an A2 level. In addition, the exam you need to sit – the CIPLE exam – can be pretty tricky. I have done a video that breaks down the exam here – I also hosted a live workshop that will help you prepare for the exam so if you are curious, even if you are not ready to take it yet, I highly recommend heading to the description of my video where you can sign up to receive the replay.

So what type of thing should you be studying if you want to reach the A2 and ace this exam?

Well, here’s another way that I differ from most Portuguese tutors out there. If you ask for a description of the A2 level, you’ll be given a list of grammar points that you need to be able to understand and use.

The problem I have with this is that just learning grammar rules and verb conjugations using textbooks and worksheets isn’t going to help you to actually speak. 

I know this because I speak to SO many people who have passed their courses and received their A2 certificate but STILL cannot communicate in simple routine tasks here in Portugal.. which to ME should be the point of learning the language. That is what is going to enable you to have a great life here.

So what do I recommend instead? Yes, you need to learn the right grammar but you also need to master European Portuguese pronunciation and get used to listening and understanding spoken Portuguese. This is a big part of your day-to-day life (and of course the exam) and where many people trip up. 

Luckily my channel has over 100 free videos that help you on these very topics, but the absolute best place to get started if you want an in-depth lesson covering all the basics beginners need to know is my free lesson for beginners Speak Portuguese Like a Pro – I promise it will be the best 60 minutes you spend learning Portuguese online.

I hope that helps to clarify what on earth an A2 level is and what you need to do to get there. If you want more help from me, make sure you are subscribed to my channel so you don’t miss my weekly lessons. I’ll be back with more tips and tutorials to power up your Portuguese soon so keep an eye out!

Beijinhos,

Liz

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  1. Thank you. This sound like exactly what my hubby and I are looking for. We’ll give it a go and get back to you.
    We will be arriving to live in Portugal in 6 weeks time and as yet haven’t had any spare time to devote to learning the language and although we have been warmly welcomed into our village and there are many in the village who speak good English, it has been made very clear to us (quite rightly) that it is expected that we learn Portuguese. If we make the effort they will help us to improve. So we expect to start improving ourselves in the next 6-8 weeks. Unfortunately neither my husband or I are particularly well educated or find learning easy. It has also been a LONG time since either of us have tried to learn in any kind of educational environment so that itself will take some focus and determination. We aim to devote an hour each day to learning which therefore should take us around 6 months to get to A2 standard…… Watch this space! I’ll let you know how we get on.

    Reply
    • Hi…. please don’t say you’re not well educated… I’m sure you have many life skills that you’re educated in… anyway, my point here is that I study with Liz and it’s an excellent programme. Very well structured, there’s live Zooms every week to practise and ask questions, so you get to ‘meet’ other learners. No such thing as a silly question there… If you’re both learning then that can be fun… It’s like everything though, you can only get out what you put in 🙂 I think it’s important to be able to converse in the language where you will be living… so good luck Diane! Jx

      Reply
  2. I’ve been studying Portuguese for 9.5 years now but I still can’t read or converse. I have to translate everything into English to understand. I study and practice every day. Portuguese words don’t mean anything to me until I translate them. When I read I can pronounce everything ok but I don’t know what the words mean until I translate them in my head or use a translator. I’ve visited Brasil 18 times. My girlfriend only speaks Portuguese and we’ve been practicing everyday for 6.5 years now. Patrick

    Reply
  3. Hi, I am Don from LA and I hope to retire in Portugal.
    When I was 18 my family moved to Campinas, Sao Paulo Brasil. I lived there 1 year and gained some knowledge of Brasilian Portugues, however it was 1968 and I learned an older form: A senhora, a senhor etc. I love Brasil and return a month every year. I can travel alone , shop, but i make many mistakes. My question is.. will i be able to understand Portuges of Portugal? Can I improve and become competent at A2? Thanks Don

    Reply
    • Hi Donald,

      Your experiences with Portuguese in Brazil will be a huge help to you. It sounds like you will have an excellent foundation on which to build up your Portuguese and get to the A2 level.

      It’s worth putting a lot of attention into spoken Portuguese – learning the sounds, listening to audio, and practicing speaking. Portuguese from Portugal has a much less obvious pronunciation that Brazilian Portuguese, and so you may struggle with understanding European Portuguese in the beginning.

      Reply

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