Learning Portuguese

How to learn the local language effectively

Learning Portuguese

Learning Brazilian Portuguese is certainly a challenge. Yet the reward you get of being able to integrate with the locals and improve your job perspectives, is definitely worth the effort.

There are various ways of learning Portuguese all of which will include a lot of self-discipline and exercise.

The best way to learn Portuguese is to immerse yourself in it as soon as you arrive in Brazil. Try to mingle with the locals and start conversations whenever you can, with your neighbours, at the shop, or with the cab driver. It might sound like a painful exercise but it is worth it in the long run. The more effort you make at the beginning, the quicker you will learn and the sooner you will feel comfortable speaking to any one about anything.

Brazilian television

Watching television is probably the quickest (and certainly the most entertaining) way to increase your listening comprehension. It is free and you are guaranteed to hear people speaking naturally and fast. The more you listen and watch, the quicker you will find yourself picking up words and phrases. Brazil is also known for its telenovelas and a growing film industry, so you should be able to find something that suits you. And beside the language you can also learn something about the country's culture and customs.

Language schools in Brazil

A language school might be the best option if you are serious about learning Portuguese. Taking courses at a language school combined with practice outside the classroom will yield excellent results. As far as language schools go in Brazil there are many choices. Brazilian language schools can be found in many cities and for a variety of prices. You will get the widest choice in large cities such as Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, whereas the variety in smaller cities will be much smaller or nonexistent. You will often find classes of 10 students or less – these small classes are ideal in that they offer both opportunities for practice with other students and individual attention from the instructor.

Language exchanges in Brazil

Learning Portuguese with a Brazilian language partner is not only the cheapest option, but you can also learn a lot about the country. With a bit of searching on your own you will find many people willing to exchange their Portuguese for your language. To find a suitable partner you can search local or online classifieds. Expatriate websites are the best places to search as they have the most variety.

Private tuition

Private classes are a great option if you find that language schools do not provide enough individual attention. The best way to find a private teacher is to look online on expatriate websites, but you can also look on university boards, or at expatriate cafes.

Using books, CD's and Online Learning programmes on your own is helpful if you are a highly motivated self-learner. If not, then you will find this method difficult and ineffective. However, books and CD's can offer excellent practice for learning the basics before you go to Brazil. While books can help you with grammar and vocabulary, CD's can help you with pronunciation.

Regardless of whether you use it as a learning tool, you should bring a pocket dictionary or phrase book with you to Brazil.

Another option is using computer programs designed for language learning. While they are no replacement for lessons and practice with other people, these programmes are more interactive than books and CDs and can actually test you on your grammar, writing, speaking and listening.

As publishing houses have long responded to Brazil’s rising language emancipation, most books and CD’s are available specifically for Brazilian Portuguese, so you should pay attention to choose the right language.


The CELPE-Bras (Certificado de Proficiência em Lingua Portuguesa para Estrangeiros) is a language certificate for Brazilian Portuguese as foreign language. It is the only one in Brazil which is officially recognised by the Ministry of Education (Ministerio da Educação do Brasil). You can make a CELPE-Bras test in numerous language schools throughout Brazil.

Further reading

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