With over 260 million Portuguese speakers around the world, the decision to learn the language will transform your life. From expanding your social circle to having new job opportunities, becoming fluent in Portuguese will bring about a number of benefits for you, especially if you plan to move to Brazil, Portugal, Angola, or any of the countries that have Portuguese as their official language.
And while Portuguese and English are not linguistically related, they have certain features in common. For example, the words banana or flamingo come from the Portuguese language. Meanwhile, English words like merchandising, freelance, or performance are commonly used when speaking Portuguese. Start taking lessons with a tutor today and soon you’ll realise how much you already know! And while you’re at it, have a look at our Portuguese language guide below to get started.
Portuguese Accent Marks
What many times makes Portuguese look difficult to English native speakers is their accent marks. The cedilla (ç), for example, may seem intimidating but, in reality, it’s just a variation of the sound /s/, as in “sister”. So, take a look at this short explanation of Portuguese accent marks to understand how they are used in everyday words.
These are the 5 most common diacritics:
- The acute accent (á) as in cáfe (coffee) indicates an open vowel that carries the stress of the word.
- The circumflex accent (ê), which also shows the vowel is stressed but has a lower quality than the vowel with the acute accent. Some examples are bebê (baby) or avô (grandfather).
- The tilde (ã/õ) gives these two vowels a nasal quality, as in bênção (blessing) or irmã (sister)
- The grave (à) shows a contraction of two consecutive vowels such as a + aquela = àquela. While it’s an accent mark, it does not indicate that the vowel is stressed.
- The cedilla (ç) looks like a “c” but it’s actually pronounced like an “s”, as in sister. Some examples are cabeça (head) or abraço (hug).
Some Features of Portuguese Pronunciation
The good news regarding Portuguese pronunciation is that most sounds are the same as in English. For instance, the letter <c> in cultura is pronounced like a /k/ as in “culture”, while the <c> in centro is pronounced like an “s” as in “centre”. However, there are many other exceptions, like the ones outlined in the table below:
|Letters||When?||Portuguese example||English approximation|
|R/ RR||Word beginning / middle of the word||Resolver / Correto||Doesn’t exist. It’s a guttural R that also exists in French & German.|
|NH||—||Canhão||Similar to canyon.|
|LH||To turn the page.||Ilha||Brilliant|
|X||Word beginning or after diphthong||Xampu/ caixa||She|
|Middle of the word||Taxi||Taxi|
Is Portuguese Easy to Learn?
The answer to this question is never definitive. The perceived difficulty of a language depends on a lot of factors that go from native (or second) language to motivation and available time to study. Let’s analyse together the elements that determine whether Portuguese will be (or not) an easy language to learn for you:
The Languages You Speak
Portuguese is a Romance language, which means it has a lot of similarities with other languages of the same family, such as Romanian, French, Spanish, or Italian. If you already speak any of these languages (even as a beginner), you’ll have a head start when learning Portuguese for sure! Additionally, the Foreign Language Service of the USA has defined Portuguese as a Category I language, the easiest to acquire for native English speakers.
You Are Learning a foreign language is always a long-term investment that requires a lot of effort, patience, and time if you plan to become truly fluent. Without motivation, it’s not easy to stay focused for the months or even years you’ll need to learn Portuguese for communication. So, you’ll need to reflect on your reasons for learning Portuguese and try to focus on your end goal. Do you need to learn the language to get a promotion? Are you moving to Portugal or Brazil soon? Would you like to have a fluent conversation with new friends who only speak Portuguese? The stronger your motivation, the faster you’ll learn the language.
Your Studying Techniques
Learning how to learn is a skill on its own. For example, acquiring new vocabulary in Portuguese can be exciting or endless torture, depending on the techniques you use to remember them. You can use traditional coursebooks and try to learn new words by memorizing them or you can resort to songs, poems, and even games to make new terms stick into your memory. Some examples of apps and resources you can use include Spotify playlists or Lyrics Training for music or Vocabulando for vocabulary. Plus, your native teacher will be able to help you find the best techniques and resources to learn not only vocabulary but also grammar, pronunciation, and all the abilities you need to sound fluent in Portuguese.
Portuguese Survival Phrases
One thing you should not forget when learning a new language is conversational phrases. While learning grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation rules is essential, without mastering certain phrases used by native speakers, you’ll never sound truly fluent. In the table below, we show you many survival phrases that will help you get by in Portuguese-speaking countries, like Brazil or Portugal, especially if you are only a beginner. And if you’d like to learn more, you can read our article with some of the top Portuguese survival phrases!
|Greetings||Hello / Hi||Olá / Oi|
|How are you?/ How are you doing?||Tudo bem? / Como você está?|
|Good Morning/afternoon/night||Bom dia / Boa tarde / Boa noite|
|Thanking others||Thank you! Thanks! (You're welcome)||Obrigado(a)! / 'Brigado(a)! / De nada|
|I appreciate it.||Agradeço.|
|Asking for repetition||Sorry, can you repeat?||Desculpe, poderia repetir?|
|I don't understand. Can you say that again?||Não entendo. Você poderia repetir?|
|What do you mean by...?||O que você quer dizer com…?|
|Rejecting an invitation||No, thank you||Não, obrigado(a)|
|I'd love to, but I'm busy right now.||Eu adoraria, mas estou ocupado(a) agora.|
|Thank you, I have other plans.||Obrigado(a), mas tenho outros planos.|
|Asking for help||Where is... the bathroom/the kitchen?||Onde fica…o banheiro/a cozinha?|
|Can you help me with... my luggage/my phone?||Você poderia me ajudar com…minha bagagem/meu telefone?|
|There is a problem with/ I have a problem with...||Tem um problema com/Tenho um problema com…|
Are you ready to start learning Portuguese from the comfort of your home? Get in touch with us and we will pair you up with a native Portuguese teacher who understands your needs and level. All of our programmes are completely personalised, so you can learn Portuguese regardless of your background, age, or level. Meanwhile, take a look at the free resources we regularly post on our blog and on social media!