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Learning to speak Portuguese is easier than you think!

Portugal once ruled a vast trading empire ranging from the port of Macau in China all the way to the depths of the Amazon in Brazil, and the effects of this empire can still be felt. Today, Brazil is the largest Portuguese-speaking country with over 200 million people, but Portuguese is also spoken in places like Mozambique, Angola, and, of course, Portugal. This puts the total number of Portuguese speakers around 260 million making it the sixth most spoken language in the world, and third most spoken European language after Spanish and English. Because of this huge number of native speakers, learning to speak Portuguese can be very beneficial.

Starting with Brazil, this huge country takes up roughly half of the South American continent and has the 7th largest GDP per person in the world. It’s the world’s largest exporter of coffee and a huge producer of petroleum products through the semi-state owned corporation, Petrobras. It’s also home to the Amazon rainforest, the largest and most biodiverse rainforest region in the world. So whether on business or for pleasure, there’s plenty to do and see in this vast country.

Portugal, on the other hand is a relatively small country in Europe, it’s culture and influence are however by no means little. It is the fifth most peaceful country in the world, and home to the beautiful and culturally unique cities of Lisbon and Porto. These cities, as well as places such as the lush vineyards of the Douro Valley and the sandy beaches of Nazaré make Portugal a wonderful tourist hotspot where you can enjoy food, wine, sun, sport, and history. In fact, the USA Today ranked Portugal as The Best European Country in 2014.

Fast facts about Portuguese

  • There are over 260 Million native speakers – Over 200 million of which are in Brazil.
  • Portuguese is the official language in Angola, Cape Verde, and Mozambique.
  • Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world.
  • Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese differ in many aspects such as
  • pronunciation and verb tenses.
  • It’s the only Romance language with the syntactic pluperfect past tense, something which only occurs in some Slavic languages, Hungarian, and Portuguese.
  • Brazil is the largest country in South America occupying 47.3% of the continent and sharing a border with every other South American country besides Ecuador and Chile.
  • Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country in the Americas.
  • The border between Portugal and Spain is the longest uninterrupted border in the EU.

Learning to speak Portuguese

When you learn to speak Portuguese you’ll probably either learn Brazilian or European Portuguese depending on where you study. If you live in Europe or plan to travel to Portugal, you might want to focus on learning the old world style. However, if you’re more inclined towards the new world, you’ll want to focus on Brazilian. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to understand or speak with people on the opposite side of the Atlantic, but it will flavor your speech in ways that are immediately noticeable.

For instance, the pronouns você and tu both mean the 2nd person singular you, however, você is used much more often in Brazil, except in a couple of states, whereas tu is the preferred pronoun in Portugal. There are also many differences in vocabulary, such as:

BRAZIL

PORTUGAL

ENGLISH

maiô fato de banho swimsuit
ônibus autocarro bus
fila bicha line/queue
xícara chávena cup
suco sumo juice
trem comboio train

Most of the time Brazilians and Portuguese have no problem understanding each other, the differences between the two are similar to the differences between US and British English. However, sometimes there can be some confusion, or unintended offense, because some words that are commonly used in Portugal can be seen as pejorative in Brazil. So it might be worth brushing up on the vocabulary of both countries, just to be safe.

Ways to learn to speak Portuguese

Learning to speak portuguese is an adventure in itself, but thanks to the Internet, it’s an adventure you can have right in your own home. Here’s a variety of ways you can learn to speak portuguese.

 Classroom

Just like in a classroom, this can be a great way to get to know another language. Learning directly from a native Portuguese speaker allows you to practice reading, writing, speaking, and listening to Portuguese the way it’s actually used. If you’re looking to master the language in the shortest amount of time, this one-on-one method is ideal. On the other hand, private lessons can be quite expensive, and a skilled, qualified teacher can be hard to find. Another equally good options is to find someone who wants to learn your language, and give each other lesson. After all, sharing is caring.

Private Lessons

Similar to a classroom, this is an excellent way to get to know another language. You can learn directly from a native Portuguese speaker, and practice reading, writing, speaking, and listening to Portuguese the way it’s actually used. This one-on-one interaction is ideal to master the language in the shortest amount of time. However, private lessons can be quite expensive with a qualified language teacher. One good option is to pair up with someone trying to learn your language, and help each other – Tandem style.

A/V and Books

Although this method is falling a bit out of style, it was once one of the most popular ways of teaching yourself a new language. If you’re more of the independent study kind of person, you may want to check this out. However, the drawback is that it is a quite solitary method, and unless you have an iron will, it’s easy to get burned out. It also lacks a lot of the social interaction which makes other methods of language learning worthwhile and interesting.

Software

One effective way of learning portuguese is with computer learning software. There are many programs which try to mimic natural learning processes to teach you to associate names of places, things, and situations directly with the target language instead of having to filter new vocabulary through your native language via translation. This method, however, can lack the personal interaction with other speakers of the language which makes learning more fun and exciting.

Travel and Immersion

This is far and away the best method of mastering any new language. However, not everyone has the resources or the time to go for an extended stay in another country. And, unless you already have the basics of the language under your belt, you may find yourself scratching your head in confusion once you get there.

Online

There are a lot of websites which offer to teach you to learn Portuguese online, and a lot of them are even free (or quite reasonably priced). This is a great way to “dip your toe” into learning a new language if you’re unsure if it’s something you’d like to commit your time and money to. However,  advanced language learners could become frustrated with the slow pace, and elementary level material offered by many of these courses.

Apps

Apps are a great way to connect with native speakers and other language learners from around the world to practice speaking almost any foreign language. Now, you can log in and practice speaking Portuguese whenever and wherever you happen to be, right on your phone or tablet. The world of language learning is getting a whole lot smaller.

Learn Portuguese with Tandem

Learning Portuguese with Tandem Teachers is like combining the best of all the learning methods into one. It’s a fun, easy way to get personal instruction from qualified language teachers whenever and wherever you are. With Tandem you can:

  • Get one-on-one instruction with the click of a button.
  • Learn from professionally-trained teachers chosen by us for their skill and experience.
  • Work with a variety of tutors to find one who fits your style.
  • Lessons can be as short as 15 minutes! You can easily fit language learning into your busy schedule.
  • The first lesson is FREE!

Get started with your first free lesson on Tandem Teachers today by downloading the Tandem app from the app store. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s easy. Don’t put off learning a new language any longer. Get started right away!