Whether it’s for business, travel, or just for fun, you have decided to learn Portuguese! I would like to share with you my guide containing the first steps, tips, and recommendations for you to get a great head start with learning how we speak Portuguese in Brazil.
First of all, the learning process is much more enjoyable and easy if you get involved and get used to the sounds of the language. You should also learn how to repeat words to improve your pronunciation. In the beginning, watching subtitled brazilian TV shows and YouTube videos or listening to the Língua da gente podcasts from BrazilPod will probably be of great value to you.
You should make sure you have a solid understanding of Portuguese Subject Pronouns:
- a gente
It’s good to learn how and when to use them accordingly (você, a gente). I consider Duolingo as a fun and intuitive way for beginners to gain confidence in basic grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure.
It is very important to speak and interact with speakers of the language as much as you can right from the start. Remember that there is no reason to be afraid of making mistakes, and in my opinion the Brazilian people tend to be very open and non-judgmental. Get to know the basic greetings and expressions, and simply go out and talk!
Generally, a conversation with a Brazilian is cordial, complex, informal, and very personal. It is very common for people speak to louder than you might be used to and sometimes interrupt each other during a conversation, but this is mostly considered not to be rude. So don’t be surprised if people ask personal questions, touch each other more than usual and loudly talk over each other; for Brazilians this is all very normal and is not considered impolite.
Subjects such as soccer, weather, and current events in the city are always good conversation starters, but the most important thing to do is to be interested in the person you are talking to. Practice small talk, feel free and unafraid to speak Portuguese with the person you’re talking to.
I have also found Memrise to be very helpful in growing a solid basis of general vocabulary (verbs, nouns, adverbs, adjectives, etc), for more see here. It is also great to put this knowledge in practice with lessons on italki.
Knowing the difference between Ser and Estar and how to conjugate them will make a very positive impact on your understanding of the language. Ser and Estar both means ‘to be’, but they have different uses. The simple difference between these verbs is that Ser expresses it in a permanent sense while Estar expresses it in a temporary sense.
- Ser: Ana é bonita (Ana is beautiful)
- Meaning that Ana is beautiful, at this moment and since ever.
- Estar: Ana está bonita (Ana is beautiful)
- Meaning that Ana is beautiful in that moment specifically. Maybe she is dressed up and is ready for a party, but it may be that she is not always beautiful.
A few common irregular verbs like ter (to have) and ir (to go) are also largely used and it’s good to learn some of them as you practice conversation.
The definite and indefinite articles:
These are not difficult to grasp but are very important to understand. To give a simplified explanation, definite articles refer to counted objects or ideas (in gender and number); while indefinite articles refer to imprecise objects (the number, quantity is not clear). You’ll find a very good expanded explanation of this in the following italki article.
Practice these Portuguese question words below, try to understand when and how to use each one of them.
- Quem (Who?)
- O que (What?)
- Quando (When?)
- Onde (Where?)
- Por Que (Why?)
- Como (How?)
- Qual (Which?)
- Quanto (How much? / How many?)
Learn Portuguese numbers, including how to count to at least 20, name the days of the week and name the months. Here is a useful link all about Portuguese numbers.
- Domingo (Sunday)
- Segunda-Feira (Monday)
- Terça-Feira (Tuesday)
- Quarta-Feira (Wednesday)
- Quinta-Feira (Thursday)
- Sexta-Feira (Friday)
- Sábado (Saturday)
Months of the year:
- Janeiro (January)
- Fevereiro (February)
- Março (March)
- Abril (April)
- Maio (May)
- Junho (June)
- Julho (July)
- Agosto (August)
- Setembro (September)
- Outubro (October)
- Novembro (November)
- Dezembro (December)
Know the basic Portuguese prepositions (em, de, para) and how they contract when used in conjunction with articles (no, na, do, da). The following link has an extensive table on this subject and is very useful for consulting.
Understand and practice Portuguese conjunctions to create better structured sentences.
- e (and)
- ou (or)
- mas (but)
- quando (when)
- enquanto (while)
- se (if)
- porque (because)
- ainda que (although / even if)
- por causa de (because of)
I hope that all of these steps will make your path on learning Portuguese more relaxed and organised. Most importantly do not forget to talk, talk and talk! Make Brazilian friends, book lessons on italki. If you can, I’m sure that you would enjoy taking a trip to visit our country, and I’m confident that if you follow these tips you will not only learn Portuguese quickly, but also having a lot of fun while visiting.
Hero image by Nicolas Prieto on Unsplash