Congratulations on taking the first step toward Portuguese fluency. You’ve just taken a pretty significant step in finding this website and opening up this page. Whether a friend shared this page with you or you found it through google, you now have access to one of the best resources that you could hope for on your Brazilian journey.
What I’m going to present to you right now is a framework that you can follow during the next 6 months to achieve steady and consistent results with Portuguese. If you don’t speak any Portuguese this resource will help you get started with all of the best websites, programs, apps and tools to help you maximize your learning experience. If you’ve already started learning you’ll surely find something new in here as well.
Thousands of readers have already followed the advice on this site to achieve their goals with Portuguese and start successful lives in Brazil. As long as you take action and dedicate yourself consistently to your studies you will see results.
Why do you want to learn Portuguese?
Before we start out on this journey it helps to get clarity on why you’re learning Portuguese in the first place. Having a clearly defined mission statement allows you to keep focused on what is truly important and keep you from getting distracted. It also allows you to make better choices about what to prioritize during your studies.
Knowing what your end goal is also helps to inform what path you should take to get there quicker.
If your goal is to learn Portuguese so that you can make friends and enjoy Brazilian culture during the Olympics then you’ll want to prioritize conversation and get as much conversation practice as you can during study time. If your goal is to learn Portuguese so that you can read Brazilian literature then you might not put such a strong emphasis on conversation until later on.
The more specific that you can get with your reasons for learning Portuguese, and the more that you align your studies with those reasons, the more effective you’ll be during your study time.
Inside of the larger goal of learning Portuguese to enjoy Brazilian culture you might divide that into smaller goals. For example “learn how to tell a joke to the vendor while ordering a beer.” That’s a very specific goal with a more narrowly defined set of vocabulary that needs to be mastered in order to be successful.
You should come up with dozens of mini-goals that help you reach your larger goal. Cross them off one by one until you’ve reached your goal.
How Long Will It Take to Get Fluent in Portuguese?
Before you start learning Portuguese you probably want to know how much time you’re going to have to commit over the following months in order to be successfully speaking Portuguese.
It helps to have a common point of reference for what we’re talking about when we say “speak fluent Portuguese.” The definition that we’re going to use here is the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), which maps out different levels of fluency and how much time it takes to get there.
For the next 6 months we’re shooting at C1 fluency, which takes approximately 700-800 hours to reach. If you spend 4 hours a day learning Portuguese you should be able to reach that pretty quickly. This is easy to do assuming that you’re in Brazil, as all you have to do is step outside to get more study time. If you’re not in Brazil there are still ways that you can reach C1 in 6-8 months, provided that you manage your time properly. We’ll cover that later.
Whether you reach your language goals or not is entirely up to you and is directly proportional to the quantity and quality of time that you invest into this endeavor. 1 hour of focused and structured learning is worth 4 hours of unfocused and scattered learning. Manage your time wisely and you’ll get there quicker.
The 4 Fundamental Skills of Language Learning
While you might want to start right away by diving into your favorite language course or book, it would behoove you to learn a few basic principles of language learning. With a basic understanding of how the language learning process works you’ll be able to use your study time more effectively.
There are four essential skills that need to be developed in order to gain fluency in a language. Reading, writing, speaking and listening. In order to call yourself a fluent speaker in Portuguese you have to spend time mastering these skills.
Reading – Using books and flashcards
Writing – Doing exercises from textbooks, writing stories, writing what you learned.
Speaking – Talking with your teacher, repeating words from audio courses, talking to yourself, recording yourself.
Listening – Listening to music, watching youtube videos, listening to conversations.
These four skills are interrelated. There is a strong relationship between speaking and listening, as there is between reading and writing. When you improve your ability to pick out vocabulary words and later speak them. When you work on reading you improve your vocabulary which gives you more things to speak. When you write you are cementing your knowledge of what you know and increasing your retention of what you learn.
These four skills are the fundamental building block of language learning. When thinking about how to spend time studying the language you should be thinking about how you are going to put time into studying these four areas. Do this and you’ll be more successful.
3 Essential Habits for Language Learning Success
We can go a step further with these four skills and break them into habits that you should build throughout your days. Those three habits are input, output and revision.
In order to be an effective Portuguese learner you need to spend time on input. This means working on your reading and listening skills. You need to take in new vocabulary through books and worksheets, as well as listening to audio, watching video and hearing people speak. You can’t work on output until you have done some input.
You then develop what you learned during your input time through output based activities. After you’ve read new vocabulary you should spend time writing it out so that you retain it better. With every listening activity that you do, you should also be speaking.
Speaking is often the area that is overlooked by first time language learners. There are all number of excuses that ineffective students make to why they can’t speak. They think that they sound strange speaking in a foreign language. They don’t like the sound of their voice. They think they’re offending Brazilians. At the end of the day all of these excuses are based in fear and the best way to tackle fear is to confront it head on.
Nobody expects you to be perfect from day 1. Most Brazilians would be surprised that you’re even learning their language at all. The expectation they have of you is that you don’t know anything about their country or speak any of their language. Everything you know beyond that is exceeding their expectations and will put a smile on their face.
The last habit that you need to implement into your studying is revision. With all of the new words that you’re learning and practicing you need to set aside time so that you can review what you’ve learned and commit it to long term memory.
In practice this means going over flashcards, reading through your notes, listening to yourself speaking, getting feedback from a teacher and getting your mistakes corrected.
Having a teacher is essential if you want to make rapid progress in the language as they will catch you before you make mistakes and give you feedback on areas that you’re weak in.
What courses should you use?
Now that you have a framework from which to operate from you are probably wondering what exactly you should use to study. I’m going to tell you what to do assuming that you have 2-4 hours every day that you can spend on this.
If you don’t have that much time to spend every day, just do as much as you can and don’t stress yourself out that you’re not doing more. Learning a language should be fun and if you stress yourself out you won’t want to keep learning.
We’re going to use a number of different resources in order to quickly reach our goal of having a 5 minute conversation with a native speaker completely in Portuguese after 30 days. Each of these resources brings something unique to the table, and by using different resources you’ll get results faster than if you just stick to one program. Knowing which ones to use and when is the secret sauce that I’m sharing with you.
It’s important to have a course like Semantica to follow along with because it provides a structure and gives you the psychological benefits of feeling like you’re making progress. There are 150+ video lessons for you to follow. It should take you about 6 months to get through them all if you do one a day. Most people prefer to buy the 1-year option as it takes away the nagging reminder every month that you need to re-subscribe.
Semantica is the best course out there for Portuguese learners in that it helps you build the three habits while working on the four skills. Many people just use Semantica and see good results from just using this resource, however we’re going to add more on top of Semantica so that we build those 4 skills even faster.
This course will build your listening and speaking skills unlike any other course out there. The Flow of Portuguese breaks down all of the individual sounds that are used in Brazilian Portuguese and trains you to reproduce those sounds like a Brazilian would. You can go through the entire course in about a month, and by the end of that month you will have a level of pronunciation that most Portuguese learners don’t attain even after years.
As a result of the focus on pronunciation you will become a better listener. Since you can reproduce individual sounds like a Brazilian would, you’ll be better able to hear those sounds when they are spoken. Words will stop becoming blobs of foreign sound and they’ll become recognizable units of communication.
It’s best if you set aside an hour every morning to work on this. Work on this before you work on everything else, because this is mentally draining. It’s best to do the hardest things first in the morning before the trivialities of the day eat away at your attention and focus.
If you don’t want to spend $147 on this course to follow along the progression, you can make your own version using the Flowverlapping technique. As there was no course for Russian I used this technique to make my own sound trainer.
Don’t underestimate the importance of sound training to becoming a well rounded Portuguese speaker. Being understood on the streets of Brazil has more to do with your ability to make sounds that Brazilians recognize rather than your ability to conjugate verbs in the future perfect continuous tense.
You’ll be forgiven for all of your grammar errors and lack of Oxford vocabulary by Brazilians if the words that you can speak are easily recognized by them as belonging to the Portuguese language.
A Portuguese Podcast
In order to achieve quick results you need to take advantage of all of the times during the day when you are doing something where you could be learning a language instead. You need to have an audio program that you can listen to while you’re driving, going on walks or waiting around in lines.
There are a number of programs that you can choose from here. I’ll give you a few recommendations but I think it’s best that you play around with a few of them and find one that seems fun and interesting to you.
Worthwhile contenders here are Pimsleur Portuguese, Portuguese Pod101 and Tá Falado if you already speak Spanish.
If you have a commute every day, or go for a run in the morning you should listen to one of these every day. This will drill your listening and speaking skills, and since much of the vocab overlaps with what you’re learning in Semantica it will count towards your revision time.
I highly recommend that you take classes with a teacher 2-3 times a week. The goal of these classes is to get conversational practice and to conquer all of the fears and limiting beliefs that you have about speaking a foreign language. You might have strong resistance to doing this initially, but over time it’ll get easier and this more than anything will help you reach your goal of having a 5 minute conversation after 30 days.
Your teacher will likely have a program or structure that they follow. You can ask them about it, and if it works for you then go with it. The important thing here is not so much what you study, but that you enjoy your time with your teacher and want to keep coming back to classes.
Let them know about the other things that you are using to study. It’s a good idea to keep a log for your own review, but also so that you can share with your teacher. Semantica has a Syllabus that you can give to your teacher so that she’ll know what you’ve been working on.
You’ll end up learning new words here and there with your teacher, but this time will be more effectively used as conversation practice, and less of “You are teacher, give me Portuguese!” time. You need to do your homework outside of class, which is everything else I’ve given you.
If you have a low budget I’d suggest checking out Italki for Portuguese teachers, but make sure you are diligent in how you pick them. Semantica has fewer teachers, but they are all familiar with Semantica and have more experience.
Filling in the Spare Minutes
A common objection that people have to learning a language is that they don’t have the time.
I’d also challenge your assumption that you don’t have the time by asking you to think about what you’re spending your time on now? If you spend any amount of time looking at cat pictures on the internet or watching TV then you have plenty of time. You’re just choosing to not spend that time in pursuit of your stated goals.
If you are really serious about learning Portuguese then you’ll be able to find all sorts of ways to save time. You can cut out activities that are slowing you down, say no to activities that you can do after you’ve spent an intense month on Portuguese, and fill in down time with study time.
There are going to be minutes throughout the day here and there that you can fill in with other tools so that you learn more. Stop for a moment and think about how many times per day you pull out your cell phone and go on Facebook to kill time. That is time that you could be using to learn Portuguese.
Download Hellotalk and Duolingo apps. Anytime you think about going on Facebook, log into Duolingo instead. It has a gamified approach to language learning and will make it fun for you to learn new vocab.
Anytime you think about talking to one of your friends, talk to a new friend on Hellotalk instead. It’s a language learning app that is designed to connect language learners around the world and give them a safe place to chat. You’ll end up making new friends through the app that you can eventually meet when you get to Brazil.
How should you study Portuguese?
How you study is just as important as what you study. A lot of what people trick themselves into thinking is study time is nothing more than time wasted. If you have a lot of distractions going on you won’t be able to retain as much as you would if you were focused on just one thing.
It helps if you’re relaxed and in a playful mood before you start to study. Though most people’s educational experiences have conditioned them to believe otherwise, we actually learn better when we’re having fun. Do some deep breathing before you study to take the pressure off, and try not to take things too seriously.
Everybody is different, but for me what works best is to do 45 minute bursts followed by a few minutes break as opposed to 3 hour cram sessions. The quality of the time you spend studying is more important than the quantity. If you only spend 15 minutes studying but you’re able to retain 10 words, that’s better than trying to learn 100 words in 60 minutes but forgetting 90 of them immediately after. Don’t try to do too much all at once.
Different times of the day are more ideally suited for studying as well. You’ll retain more of what you learn if you study first thing in the morning and the last thing you do before you go to sleep. Wake up earlier if you have to in order to make time, then review what you learned in the morning throughout the day.
What’s realistically attainable in 30 days?
It’s less meaningful to talk about what you can do in 30 days, and more useful to talk about what you can achieve after a certain amount of hours of quality study. If you just listen to Pimsleur audios for 30 minute a day at the end of 30 days you won’t be very far along.
If you’re an experienced language learner and give enough attention to developing the 4 skills you should be able to hold a 5 minute conversation with a native speaker at the end of 30 days. I was able to hold a 15 minute conversation in Russian after 30 days, which I wrote about here.
For context that was about 50 hours of total studying time, with 10 of those hours with a teacher. About 7 of that was spent on pronunciation drills, about 20 was spent following along with audio programs, and the rest was with books, writing out sentences by hand, playing around with videos on Youtube or talking with people I met.
Russian is the 6th language I’ve started to learn in a serious way so I had already overcome many of the mindset challenges that come with language learning. I also had the benefit of being an experienced self-guided language learner, so I didn’t waste any time wondering what I should be doing or if what I was doing was really going to work.
Your results will vary, but if you were a committed and serious learner it’s perfectly reasonable for you to be able to have a 5 minute conversation completely in Portuguese after 50 hours of study.
It always helps to have professional assistance when trying to reach a specific outcome under time constants like this. If you’re interested in learning Portuguese in a serious way during a 30 day challenge like what I described you’ll want to take note of the course that I’m launching soon.
The course is going to be based on the outline I wrote above. The course will go deeper into the areas that I covered on and I’ll be providing hands on support to you in order to ensure that you reach your language learning goals.
I’ll be sending out more details about the upcoming course via email, so if you’re not already signed up do so using the form below.
Even if you don’t join me on the challenge, I do hope that you give yourself your own challenge and push yourself to learn more Portuguese in the next 6 months than you have up until now.
Do reach out to me if you have any questions or if you want clarity on a specific part of the plan. The best way to do that is in the comments below so that others can benefit from your questions.