The fastest way to learn is to increase your exposure to the language and attend private lessons every day. Private classes are a great because it will just be you and the teacher and you’ll have no choice but to talk during the entire class. If your teacher is any good they will give you daily missions to accomplish and will hold you accountable for what you’re doing. And since you’re going to be paying around R$50 an hour for classes, you’re going to take them seriously.
Another option is to enroll in the Portuguese for Foreigners (Portugues para Estrangeiros) class offered at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG). While you aren’t going to learn as efficiently in this class as you would with private lessons, there are benefits. For one, you will be in a class with other foreigners, and if you’re new in town this could be a good way to make new friends.
But perhaps more interestingly, enrolling in Portuguese classes at UFMG allows you to apply for a Brazilian Student Visa. A student visa doesn’t allow you to legally work in Brazil, nor does it allow you to apply for an ID card or open a Brazilian bank account but it does allow you to stay longer than a tourist visa. The process for getting a Brazilian student visa is covered in another article..
Class sizes at UFMG depend on demand, and are usually less than 15 people per class. Courses start twice a year in March and in September. It is possible to join the class up to two months after the start date for a reduced cost.
Three levels are offered: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. You will have to take a test and be placed in the level appropriate for you. The hour-long classes are held from Monday to Thursday and last 4 months for a total of 52 hours of instruction.
The Portuguese for Foreigners class costs R$485, and must be paid at any bank or casa loterica within a day of registering or else your registration will be cancelled. Registration is done at the FUNDEP, a small office reminiscent of the DMV at the main Pampulha campus. In addition to this fee, you must also pay R$10 for the assessment test, and another R$5 for a declaration of enrollment, which you will need if you plan to get a student visa. There are several banks on campus where you can pay these fees, but remember that all banks in Brazil close at 4pm, so arrive early.
The declaration is obtained in the CENEX building, which is at the other side of the school. You will have to bring in a receipt of your payment in order to obtain the declaration, and you may have to wait up to a week in order to get your declaration. Its best to have a Brazilian friend or someone who has been through this process accompany you in order to make sure that everything is completed in a satisfactory manner. If you arrive as soon as they open at 10am you may be able to complete the process all in one day.
Enrolling in the Portuguese for Foreigners class at UFMG is actually quite a painless process. Its as simple as
- Enrolling at the FUNDEP office;
- Paying for your classes.
Now, it does get a bit more complicated when you go to apply for your student visa, for which you will need the declaration of enrollment noted above. You will need to get this document notarized at a cartorio, and conveniently there is one on campus nearby the office. You should get your declaration of enrollment notarized here as the line will be shorter than elsewhere.
Here is a link to UFMG’s Portuguese for Foreigners program.
Other Portuguese Classes in Belo Horizonte
I’m not a big fan of taking Portuguese classes at UFMG because of how much bureaucracy it takes to sign up and because the main campus is kind of far from the city.
For foreigners in Belo Horizonte looking to take Portuguese classes at a school that can help you get a student visa I would recommend contacting ELS. They are an English school in Savassi that employs only native speakers, and they are also the leader in Portuguese for Foreigners classes in Belo Horizonte. The founders have been in Belo Horizonte for close to 20 years and are a wealth of knowledge about everything related to life in Belo Horizonte.
If you’re looking to take Portuguese classes at a school where you can meet other foreigners and get a student visa, ELS is my recommendation. If you’re looking for cheaper classes and want to be around the college environment, UFMG is the way to go.
Good luck, and if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment.
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