RESOURCES FOR LEARNING PORTUGUESE
While over 95% of the views of SmallAdvantages are from native speakers of Portuguese, I’ve recently discovered a small subset of users who are working in the opposite direction: native (or fluent) speakers of English who are learning Portuguese. Since I get a lot of comments about which tools I used to learn Brazilian Portuguese, I thought I’d lay out my favorite resources.
I am always adding resources to this list so keep checking back as the list grows!
MODERN BRAZILIAN PT GRAMMAR
Consider this your bible if you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese. John Whitlam dives right in so prepare to be slightly overwhelmed, but this is far from being a boring grammar book. More than any other tool, this helped me improve my informal, day-to-day Portuguese, largely because Whitlam provides so many relevant example sentences and situations. Despite trying to pack light, this book was so helpful to me that it was worth the weight to take it with me on my last trip to Brazil.
If you already have a working knowledge of Spanish – conjugation, vocabulary, grammar – this textbook will make learning Portuguese a lot faster for you! Written for native speakers of English who speak Spanish and who want to learn Portuguese from this foundation, you will find out exactly what the 50% similarities between the two languages are so you don’t have to waste time relearning certain concepts. Simões also does a great job incorporating Brazilian culture into his lessons – I learned a great deal about Brazilian rock music and cuisine from his example passages.
italki is an incredible community of language learners from across the world. You can find conversation partners, write notebook entries to be corrected, and schedule fun one-on-one conversation sessions with informal tutors, all who are native speakers of the language you’re learning. Since feeling comfortable when conversing is the whole point of learning a foreign language, I have loved using this platform, which is why I agreed to be sponsored by italki in some of my YouTube videos. Because of this sponsorship, if you create an account on italki through my link on the left and add $10 for a conversation tutoring session, you instantly receive another $10. Try it out!
Without a doubt, this is the app that most helped me increase my Portuguese vocabulary. Anki is a flashcard sorter, allowing you to insert your own decks of vocabulary, verb conjugations, pronunciations, or whatever else you create or find on the world of Anki. When you go through the flashcards, Anki automatically sorts how soon you will see a card again based on how comfortable you are with it. It’s a basic concept, but it truly works. The only catch: it costs $25 for the iPhone version (it’s free on all other devices).
This podcast out of the University of Texas is so cool! Orlando Kelm, a native speaker of English, hosts two Brazilians and a Venezuelan on each episode. Together they discuss an aspect of Portuguese grammar or pronunciation and then give line-by-line situational dialogs in each of the three languages to compare and teach the important differences. With my firm base in Spanish, this was an incredible resource. This was also some of the first conversational Portuguese I had ever heard, and I still speak like a Bahian at times due to Valdo’s accent.
I tried Rosetta Stone, DuoLingo, and various other multimedia learning platforms, but was ultimately left underwhelmed… until I discovered Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese. While the price for these audio lessons is high (I got them from my local library, thankfully), the return on investment is massive. I appreciated that I could listen to the lessons on my bike commute, and I also appreciated that certain confusing aspects of Portuguese grammar or pronunciation were explained in plain English rather than hoping that I absorbed the premise through full immersion.
Nerdcast by Jovem Nerd is my favorite Brazilian podcast that I listen to – a great mixture of science and culture, and like any podcast you can choose which episodes appeal to you. Hundreds of episodes. In the intermediate stages of learning Portuguese, it was fascinating hearing the hosts interact in informal Portuguese and also more formal Portuguese during guest interviews. And hey, I learned a thing or two! It’s amazing when you start to gain knowledge and forget which language you originally absorbed it in.
While working on my PhD in atmospheric science I would often put Brazilian radio on in the background, even in the beginning stages of my Portuguese learning, in order to get a subconscious feel for the rhythm and diction of the language. Radio Garden is a new platform that allows you to literally explore the world through radio stations. News stations and talk radio are great, but so are music stations for cultural exposure and lingual inspiration.
Enter a word and click on the map to hear real people from across Brazil (or across the world) give their pronunciation. I’m so glad that this exists.
MY FAVORITE BOOKS IN PORTUGUESE
- O Alquimista by Paulo Coelho
- O Fantástico Mistério de Feiurinha by Pedro Bandeira
- O Vendedor de Sonhos by Augusto Cury
- Ela e Outras Mulheres by Rubem Fonseca
- + ADVANCED
- Capitães da Areia by Jorge Amado
- Laços de Família by Clarice Lispector
- Grande Sertão: Veredas by João Guimarães Rosa
- Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas by Machado de Assis
I made two videos (in Portuguese) talking about my process of learning Portuguese and how much time I dedicated to each learning activity during each stage. My Portuguese was still at an intermediate level back then. Check them out: