Renowned writers like Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago used Portuguese to muse about politics and philosophy. Portuguese scientists discovered the human circulatory system, developed the lobotomy and even invented the first airships. Learning Portuguese opens you to the work of great artists, scholars and politicians.
Resources for further reading:
Today, as the official language of 9 countries across Africa, Asia, South America and Europe, Portuguese boasts 274 million speakers. You can be the next one! It’s easier than ever to learn Portuguese online.
You might be a little nervous about getting started. Although the CIA ranks Portuguese in the lowest difficulty category, the CIA still estimates that you will need 750 class hours before you get a good grasp of Portuguese. It ranks alongside Dutch and Romanian.
But don’t let this scare you off! With the right tips, tricks and strategies, you can cut straight to what you really need to know about Portuguese. Focus on what’s most important, and you can have conversations about politics, sports and culture in no time.
So what are the right strategies? First, throw out your wrinkled high school textbooks. No more boring worksheets, no more dusty flashcards. Your new language-learning process is going to be fun and dynamic--and it’s much faster than you think.
How do you begin?
Vamos! That means, let’s go!
Tackle the pronunciation first--those sounds aren’t as tricky as they look!
The habits that you form at the beginning of your Portuguese-learning journey will stick with you to the end. This is a good thing! If you create good habits now, they’ll become second-nature as you reach higher levels. You might be eager to skip ahead to having fluent conversations with native speakers, but take your time at this step. You’ll be glad you did.
That said, don’t pressure yourself to get everything absolutely perfect this time around. Portuguese has several sounds that don’t appear in the English language, and it will take a little time (and a lot of listening practice) before you can master them all.
So make sure that you pay attention to technique, but don’t feel discouraged if you don’t sound like a native speaker.
What’s important? Focus on being understood. As long as people can comprehend what you’re saying, that’s what matters.
Rocket Record lets you perfect your Portuguese pronunciation. Just listen to the native speaker audio and then use the microphone icon to record yourself. Once you’re done, you’ll get a score out of 100 on your pronunciation and can listen to your own audio playback. (Use a headset mic for best results.) Problems? Click here!
How are you?
Good news: You don't need to sound “perfect” in order to be understood. In fact, having an accent can come in handy. Not only does it signal to native speakers that you’ve taken the time to learn their language (which they often appreciate!) but it also encourages them to be patient with your mistakes. They may even provide handy tips to help you improve.
Now that you have the confidence to speak, ask yourself, which dialect do you want to learn? That’s right, there’s more than one form of Portuguese!
There are two well-known dialects in Portuguese: that of Portugal, and that of Brazil. The Brazilian accent is more musical and slow, while the Portuguese accent is often compared to Russian.
When you look to Africa and South America, the dialects become even more varied. The dialects in Mozambique and Angola have been heavily influenced by local southern African languages, while the Portuguese spoken in East Timor has been said to sound halfway between European and Mozambican Portuguese.
Therefore, when practicing your pronunciation, make sure you pick a guide tailored to the dialect you want.
Okay, so once you’ve settled on a dialect, how do you actually get started with your pronunciation? Speak out loud as much as possible.
Look at an overview of Portuguese pronunciation, such as the one here, to find a list of words and sounds to help you practice. Try out the shadowing technique to learn where the stresses fall in each word, even if you don’t understand what you're saying. Compare a recording of yourself with one of a native speaker, or swap the recording with a Tandem partner for advice.
Voice recognition is your friend. Rocket Portuguese’s voice recognition feature types out what you’re saying as you’re saying it, so you can get real-time feedback. It also returns a score to let you know how well you’re doing.
Learn a bit more about Portuguese pronunciation.
Learn your ABCs: á, bê, cê!
One of the most beautiful parts of Portuguese is also the most intimidating--at least at first. We’re talking about orthography, or the way that Portuguese is written. While Portuguese is a beautiful language, spelling can be a bit tricky.
That’s okay! We have good news: The alphabet is actually fairly easy. You can pick it up in just a few days, if not hours.
Check out these samples:
A - Sounds like "ah"
B - Sounds like "beh"
C - Sounds like "cê"
Ç - Sounds like "ceh-cedilia"
Here are a few fast facts to get you started:
It’s okay if your spelling feels a little shaky at first--you’ll master it in no time.
If you want more on the Portuguese alphabet, take a look at the sample lesson on the alphabet in the free Rocket Portuguese trial.
Learn the most important information first.
You know how to pronounce each sound. Now it’s time to learn some words so that you can really start speaking.
Build your vocabulary by starting with the basics and then slowly working up to more complex topics. Soon you’ll be able to connect words into phrases, link phrases into complete sentences and use sentences in everyday dialogue.
But start small. Greetings are a great place to begin. When you know how to say hello, you’re on your way to making new friends.
Then get a little more descriptive. Learn about Portuguese food. Chat about sports. Describe household tools. Practice by looking at your surroundings and putting Portuguese words to the things you see every day. If you like working with your hands, go a step further by slapping sticky notes on household objects.
Soon you’ll be able to think directly in Portuguese without translating, which is how you know you’re on your way to proficiency!
Start with some useful Portuguese vocabulary.
Learn Portuguese by simply pressing play.
Plug in your headphones or charge up your earbuds. It’s time to learn on the go. The best way? Audio courses and podcasts.
With the Rocket Portuguese interactive audio course, you’ll listen to an everyday dialogue between two native speakers. A Portuguese teacher will break down each line of the dialogue so that you fully understand what’s happening. You can use what you learned the next time you’re walking through Lyon.
While you’re at it, check out a few Portuguese podcasts. Don’t worry, you don't have to jump straight into a native-level news program. Start with a slower-paced show made for learners. You don’t need to understand every single word right away. That will come in time.
The first time you listen, focus on getting used to the sounds of Portuguese. Learn simple things like where one word ends and another begins. See which words you recognize.
The more you listen, the easier comprehension will become. As you pick up more and more Portuguese words, start trying to gather meaning from what you hear. Do some words keep popping up again and again? Look them up! Make a list to review. Things will click into place.
Bonus tip: Choose a podcast about something that interests you! Then “studying”--whether it’s in your car or during your morning jog around the block--won’t feel like work. Simply press play.
Check out this sample audio track from Rocket Portuguese.
Think of grammar like a puzzle, not a problem.
If you spent your school years hunched over a textbook, forced to memorize irregular conjugations in a foreign language, then the word “grammar” might make you shudder. But never fear! Grammar can actually be interesting.
Grammar isn’t just a system of strict rules that determine what is right and what is wrong in a language. Grammar is like a secret key to unlocking a language: At its core, it’s simply a handful of patterns that repeat themselves. The more you practice, the easier you’ll learn the patterns, and the more natural they’ll feel--and therefore, the easier it will be for you to speak.
Because the same patterns repeat themselves over and over, learning just the basics will get you pretty far. So don’t be intimidated by advanced grammar rules. You don’t need to master the past anterior, for example, in order to be understood. You can have a complex conversation just by grasping and building on the fundamentals.
Take a peek at Portuguese grammar by starting with greetings. Greetings, for example, can change slightly based on formality and time of day. Familiarize yourself with the fascinating differences, which can also teach you about the culture.
It’s not how much you study, but how you study, that matters.
Work smarter, not harder. That’s the key to success in every area of your life, especially when it comes to language learning.
To make the most of your Portuguese study time, try these hacks:
Go a little more in-depth into these Portuguese learning tips.
Use the spaced repetition system to hack your brain into remembering more.
There’s nothing more frustrating than spending an hour learning vocabulary, only to return to the words a week later and realize you’ve forgotten it all.
To learn effectively, take advantage of the spaced repetition system. This system says that instead of just once, you should review your vocabulary words in intervals based on how well you know each word. Review unfamiliar words more often, and familiar words less often.
Reinforcement activities are a great way to naturally review information from previous topics so that you retain it longer. The Rocket review, for instance, quizzes you on past lessons so that you’ll never forget a thing.
You’re ready to start learning Portuguese online. To start your Portuguese learning journey, explore the resources available with a Rocket Portuguese trial.
Boa sorte! Good luck!
Reinforce your learning from this lesson with the Rocket Reinforcement activities!