Learning Portuguese

Where to learn Portuguese in Portugal

Learning Portuguese

Most people can teach themselves a great deal through the use of books, tapes, videos and even CD-ROM computer-based courses.

However, even the best students require some help. Teaching Portuguese is a big business, with classes offered by language schools; colleges and universities; private and international schools; foreign and international organisations; local associations and clubs; chambers of commerce and town halls; and private teachers. Classes range from language courses for complete beginners, through specialised business or cultural courses, to university-level seminars leading to recognised diplomas.

Most Portuguese universities offer language courses all year round, including special summer courses. These are generally cheaper than language schools, although classes may be much larger. If you already speak some Portuguese but need conversational practice, you may wish to enrol in an art or craft course at a local institute or club.

Language Schools

There are language schools in all Portuguese cities and large towns. Most offer a range of classes according to your current language ability, how many hours you wish to study a week, how much money you want to spend and how quickly you wish to learn. Courses are usually open to anyone over the age of 18 and some also accept students aged from 14. Courses are graded according to ability, e.g. beginner, intermediate or advanced, and usually last from 2 to 16 weeks. All schools offer free tests to help you find your correct level and a free introductory lesson.

Don’t expect to become fluent in a short time unless you have a particular flair for learning languages or already have a good command of Portuguese. Unless you desperately need to learn quickly, it’s usually better to arrange your lessons over a long period. However, don’t commit yourself to a long course of study, particularly an expensive one, before ensuring that it’s the right course for you. Courses generally fall into the following categories:


No. Of Hours Per Week





Total immersion


Some schools offer combined courses where language study is linked with optional subjects including business Portuguese; Portuguese art and culture; reading and commentary of a daily newspaper; conversation; Portuguese history; and traditions and folklore. Some schools combine language courses with a range of social and sports activities such as tennis or golf.

The most common language courses in Portugal are intensive courses providing four hours tuition a day from Monday to Friday (20 hours a week). The cost of an intensive course is usually quite reasonable, e.g. a four-week intensive course costs around €400. The highest fees are charged in the summer months, particularly during July and August.

Commercial courses are generally more intensive and expensive, e.g. €550 for two weeks and a total of 60 hours tuition. Courses that include accommodation are often excellent value and some schools arrange home stays with a Portuguese family (full or half board) or provide apartment or hotel accommodation.

Accommodation with a host family typically costs €100 to €150 per week for half board. For those for whom money is no object (hopefully your employer!), there are total immersion courses where study is for eight hours a day, five days a week. Whichever course you choose, you should shop around as tuition fees vary considerably.

Private Lessons

You may prefer to have private lessons, which are a quicker although more expensive way to learn Portuguese. The main advantage of private lessons is that you learn at your own speed and aren’t held back by slow learners or dragged along by the class genius.

One way to get to know the Portuguese and improve your language proficiency is to find a Portuguese partner wishing to learn English (or your mother tongue), called a ‘language exchange’ ( intercâmbio). Partners get together on a regular basis during which half the time is spent speaking English (or another language) and half speaking Portuguese.

You can advertise for a private teacher or partner in local newspapers, on bulletin and notice boards (in shopping centres, supermarkets, universities, clubs, etc.), and through your and your spouse’s employers. Don’t forget to ask your friends, neighbours and colleagues if they can recommend a private teacher.

Teachers often advertise in English-language publications in Portugal. Lessons cost from around €10 an hour at a school and from around €15 an hour from an experienced private tutor.

Further reading

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