This post is specifically about how I am currently learning Brazilian Portuguese without being in the country. Note that I have been to the country, and I am planning on returning. Having said that, the majority of what I learned was not by being surrounded by Brazilians but through self-study.
All the products are non-sponsored, I simply love sharing what I found useful after a lot of trial and error 😉
For reference – where I am coming from in terms of learning Portuguese: As I know Spanish and French, learning Brazilian Portuguese already seemed very familiar to me. I do believe that the below-mentioned resources are suitable for anyone, whether you know other Roman languages or not, as they mostly start from zero. Enjoy!
EDIT: I posted this in 2019 and while everything mostly holds, I am now writing about language learning on my separate blog.
I started off with Duolingo which I am currently still using. To be honest, I had never been a big fan of Duolingo because I don’t see it as very useful when you’re not a complete beginner and one might argue that the repetitiveness of some sentences that you might never use might not be the best. However, for learning Brazilian Portuguese especially I have found the app extremely useful and here’s why. I think it has a great progression in teaching you vocab and grammar. You usually have one or two vocabulary topics, then one or two grammar points. I love that as it gives a good rhythm to what you’re studying. Also as there are no grammar rules, you are basically acquiring the grammar just through example sentences, the way a child would learn it. Also, grammar is repeated regularly and so is vocab (meaning they come up in later lessons) so I am highly convinced of this language program on Duolingo.
EDIT: At the time of posting this in 2019, I was a big fan of Duolingo. However, with the latest update in 2022, I completely stopped using the app as it didn’t let me study the way I described above anymore. If you are still using Duolingo, keep the next pieces of advice in mind:
My main advice for using it would be to really speak the sentences out loud. You will remember them so much easier and get a feeling for the language. Like this, you are living the language a little, and it feels less dry than just passive listening and typing or drag and drop.
Also, a little extra tip regarding the keyboard you’re typing with: You have the option on phones to install different keyboards for different languages in your input language settings. If you activate Portuguese, then it will be much easier to type and there will be a Portuguese autocorrect to help you with the spelling. I do sometimes leave the English keyboard on purpose so that I really have to think about the correct spelling myself, but other times, it makes typing much faster and smoother.
Final note: I have found the quality and structure of Duolingo to be different from language to language. I had tried other languages and the way they were structured wasn’t for me. So if you weren’t convinced by one language, maybe give another one a try and see whether it works better for you.
Another app for learning Brazilian Portuguese has been Busuu. What I like about Busuu is its structure. Rather than just a single vocabulary lesson or grammar sentences, you have different units, which are also categorized in different levels (according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages from A1 to C1). Each lesson starts with some vocabulary that you later review in a separate section again (sort of like flashcards). This is then followed by a dialogue with questions, where you’ll be asked to fill in some gaps after a listening practice. Section 3 is the vocabulary review, and the final section often comprises a free writing or speaking assignment.
I especially love the dialogue section, as it gives you some real-life context and a chance to listen to a larger section of native pronunciation.
Another great section is the writing and speaking assignment. You get a topic for this assignment related to the lesson you just finished and are then prompted to either type a short answer or record some audio. This will be corrected by other users of the app (native speakers) and creates a great feeling of community and the possibility to get feedback pretty quickly (within a few minutes up to a day) from native speakers.
I have purchased the app’s paid plan to download lessons for offline use and have access to all lessons.
Another resource I’ve used a lot from the very beginning has been Semantica Portuguese. This is a video online course that you can purchase (their first video telenovela is for free). I loved learning Brazilian Portuguese by watching videos from day 1. It is entertaining learning by following a story which is broken into separate parts where vocabulary and grammar are taught.
Also, I didn’t find it too expensive for what I got. They have several whole video series and some small video lessons, as well as explanatory blog posts to deepen your understanding.
You can find their telenovela ‘Eduardo e Monica’ on YouTube for free to have a look into it.
To practice my reading skills, I got a Portuguese beginner stories book from Kindle. This was Portuguese from Portugal, which I didn’t mind because it is rather similar and rather for intermediate learners or learners with a previous understanding of Spanish.
For absolute beginners, there’s also an app called Beelinguapp. You can read a story in the language you’re learning with your native language on its side. I, personally, haven’t used it much as the stories are mostly for beginners.
I actually just finished reading ‘The Alchemist’ by Paolo Coelho in its original form, which I read without major problems after about a year of semiregular self-study (and knowing the English version of the book!)
Last but not least, after finishing the video course, I finally decided to move on to real-life Portuguese. As I don’t watch TV and don’t use Netflix, I resorted to YouTube and have been following several Brazilian vloggers. I enjoy listening to either Brazilians living abroad or foreigners living in Brazil (vlogging in Portuguese!!) talking about their experiences. I am able to follow the videos without subtitles, and I am generally not too bothered if I don’t understand 100%. The same goes for reading, I hardly ever look up words unless they come up so often that I really need them to follow the storyline.
These are my top tips for learning Brazilian Portuguese, other than visiting the country, of course. Which resources have you used? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!