Portuguese is a language that, like English, punches well above its weight, considering the size of its country of origin. Although an official language of the EU, it’s perhaps most significant as an international language. Portuguese is widely spoken throughout Africa and Asia, but most significantly it’s the official language of Brazil, spoken there alone by over 200 million people.
Whether you have family or business connections in Portugal or Brazil, or whether you simply want to get the most out of a holiday, learning Portuguese is easy enough if you know another Romance language (French, Italian, Spanish etc.). As with other languages, the best way to approach learning these days is a combination of online resources and a private tutor.
So which are the best online resources for learning Portuguese?
A popular language exchange app, Tandem enables you to pair up with a native Portuguese speaker wanting to learn English. It offers a chat interface that’s easy to use, along with language tools to help while you’re speaking. There is a paid premium version, but the free version offers plenty to help you learn.
For formal lessons, rather than conversation practice, Pimsleur has been popular for some time. Lessons are well structured and follow in a logical course, allowing for plenty of active practice and repetition. However, you can’t customise learning speed, while their claim of “intermediate fluency in 30 days” seems optimistic. Pimsleur doesn’t have a free version, but its subscription offers are reasonable.
Another language exchange app, HelloTalk is mobile based, allowing you to use it anywhere, anytime. Like Tandem, it offers chat facilities and language tools, but partners can be harder to find. You can pay separately for audio lessons, but these are perhaps of lesser quality than the chat-based opportunities.
A good app for beginners, though perhaps a little less thorough than some, Lingodeer offers an inexpensive course in Portuguese. It’s based heavily on a wide variety of exercises and is good at explaining the grammar. However, the order of study could be better, and there’s not much emphasis on oral communication. Lingodeer offers various inexpensive subscription choices.
In contrast, Speechling is focused entirely on speaking skills, allowing you to practice copying native Portuguese speakers. Once you’ve got beyond basic levels, the app offers a number of more sophisticated strategies for practice. The free version offers excellent value, with the paid version giving the added bonus of a teacher correcting your recordings.
If you’re specifically interested in Brazilian Portuguese, Semantica offers an entertaining way of learning the language while immersing yourself in Brazilian life. It offers a series of videos showing real-life situations, although there’s no facility for you to practice — also, it would be of less use for your holiday in Portugal. There are various levels of subscription on offer.
Combine an App with a Private Tutor
All these online facilities offer excellent opportunities for learning and practice, but the one thing lacking is the immediacy of a tutor who can provide direct interaction. The ideal approach to learning Portuguese would be to sign up with a private tutor and discuss with them the perfect app to supplement your lessons. Register with TutorExtra to find a selection of Portuguese tutors who can help you become fluent in the language.