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How to Learn European Portuguese: Your Detailed Guide

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Learning European Portuguese (especially with DailyNata) is fun and rewarding, but just like any new language, it is a challenging experience. By having the right strategy and knowledge, you will greatly improve your chances of success.
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There are many ways to begin your learning journey, and in this article, we cover as much ground as possible to get you started. 

How hard is European Portuguese grammar?​

photo of a road with several direction postsPortuguese grammar, while sharing similarities with Romance languages, presents a formidable challenge. Its complex pronoun system, like “eu” (I), “me” (me), and “mim” (me), can confuse learners.

Portuguese also uses a subject-verb-object structure, but its use of prepositions leads to unusual phrases for English speakers like “Eu gosto de chocolate” (I like of chocolate).

What’s more, remembering the gender for every noun is necessary as masculine and feminine grammatical genders influence articles, adjectives, and pronouns.

Finally, the intricate verb conjugation, with different endings for each person, tense, mood, and three verb groups (-ar, -er, -ir), can feel overwhelming.

Don’t be discouraged though; Despite its complexity, learning Portuguese offers a rich and rewarding linguistic journey.

Do European and Brazilian Portuguese Differ?

Yes, quite a bit actually. Here are the differences between the two varieties:

  • Pronunciation: Both varieties have distinct sounds. For instance, in Portugal, the letter ‘L’ at word endings is a clear consonant, whereas in Brazil, it sounds like a weak ‘U.’ Also, European Portuguese features many nearly mute vowels, while Brazilian Portuguese pronounces them more clearly.

  • Vocabulary: The two variants diverge significantly in vocabulary, especially in areas like food, culture, and geography. Compare “autocarro” (European Portuguese) vs. “ônibus” (Brazilian Portuguese), both meaning “bus,” or “chávena” (European Portuguese) vs. “xícara” (Brazilian Portuguese), both translating to “cup.”’

  • Grammar: European Portuguese speakers make regular use of more complex verb conjugations, particularly in the subjunctive mood, while Brazilian Portuguese speakers tend to use simpler verb conjugations overall.

  • Pronouns: The informal “you” in European Portuguese is “tu,” while in Brazilian Portuguese, it’s “você.”

  • Formality: European Portuguese leans towards a more formal tone with extensive use of titles and honorifics, while Brazilian Portuguese tends to be more casual and less formal.

There are several more differences that we won’t get into here, such as the use of the gerund, and the placement of the object pronouns. If you like to learn more about these topics, visit our grammar space for lessons on grammar on DailyNata Plus.

10 Tips Things to Get You Started

Image of stepsLearning Portuguese is a long-term project, and you need to approach it with a strategy. 

1) Define your motivation
Get clear on why you want to learn Portuguese. Your reason will guide your learning focus. For instance, travel motivations demand conversational phrases, while career-oriented learners need industry-specific vocabulary.

2) Assess your current level
Be honest with your proficiency. Starting from zero? It’s okay, but understand that fluency won’t come in a month.

3) Be realistic about your commitment
Reflect on the time, effort, and amount of money you’re ready to invest. Remember, substantial progress requires a substantial commitment.

4) Set specific goals
Avoid vague goals. Set measurable, concrete targets for yourself, like “Learn 500 new words in three months” or “Complete a beginner’s course in six months.” Most of our Plus members have the goal of practicing with every exercise we publish and asking their questions then and there. 

5) Break Goals into Smaller Tasks
Large goals can seem daunting. Breaking them down, like planning to learn a set number of words each day, makes them manageable.

6) Choose your Resources
Find learning tools that suit your style. Stick with those you find enjoyable and helpful.

Image of a hammuck7) Monitor your progress
Here are a few ideas:

  • Keep a language learning journal
  • Take tests like the DEPLE Portuguese Test
  • Listen to your own recorded speech to measure improvement over time
  • Use apps such as Anki to create daily flashcards


8) Keep It Real and Stick to It
Find what gets you going and keeps you on track. Maybe it’s a set study time each day, a tutor who keeps you in check, or a buddy who’s also learning Portuguese. Use what works best for you to stay on the ball with your Portuguese game.

9) Engage with Locals
Whether online or in-person, interacting with Portuguese speakers accelerates your learning. Consider volunteering or participating in Portuguese forums.

10) Make learning fun
Incorporate your interests into your study routine. If you are a music lover you can learn European Portuguese with music. Enjoyment in learning keeps you motivated and less likely to give up.

How to Get Started According on Your Level

We’ve simplified the European Portuguese learning process into clear, actionable steps. Keep in mind, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all guide. Experiment with what works for you and make learning as enjoyable as possible.

Total Beginner: A1

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  • Listen before you speak: Just as with your first language, immerse yourself in the sounds and rhythms of European Portuguese. Its unique cadence and sounds will become familiar over time.
  • Pay attention and engage: Repeat new words, write them down, and create context-rich flashcards. Early on, it’s all about embedding words into your memory.
  • Get some guidance: A course or tutor can help you learn basic grammar and vocabulary, including greetings, common prepositions, and present tense verbs. Ask your teacher to help you learn the most common vocabulary:
    • Greetings.
    • Verbs in the present tense.
    • Personal pronouns.
    • The most common prepositions used in Portuguese, like “de,” “em,” (from, of, by, to, in). Try to spot them everywhere and notice how they are used.
  • Start conversing: Use simple Portuguese phrases in interactions and learn to ask helpful questions like “How do you say this in Portuguese?” (Como se diz isto em português?) or “Can you talk slower?” (Podes falar mais devagar?). Keep it basic, like greetings, numbers, or ordering drinks.

Basic learner: A2

  • Grow your vocabulary: The more words you know, the more you’ll understand and notice language patterns. For example, English words ending in “-tion” usually end in “-ção” in Portuguese.
  • Deepen your grammar knowledge: Learn the simple past tense of common verbs and near-future structure to talk about your experiences and future plans.
  • Embrace technology: Use Portuguese-language apps, listen to music, podcasts, watch TV shows, and read content about topics you enjoy.

Intermediate learner: B1

  • Challenge yourself: Start thinking in Portuguese. Imagine explaining a recipe to someone, or rehearsing a conversation in your head.
  • Read a book: Choose a slightly challenging book, perhaps a young adult adventure or biography, to expand your vocabulary and comprehension.
  • Get creative: Send texts (or even audio messages) in Portuguese, comment on posts, or write your own short story. Experiment with the language to solidify your learning.

Upper-intermediate: B2

  • Reach for fluency: At this level, you can converse confidently about various topics, despite minor mistakes.

To progress past this level, focus on the more elusive aspects of the language that aren’t easily learnt through natural exposure. Implement systems that target these rare words and structures. Always remember that overcoming the plateau requires focused, strategic learning.

Questions & Answers

Is European Portuguese harder than Brazilian?

A bit, indeed. The pronunciation has more distinctive vowel sounds and a greater variety of them. Plus, European Portuguese generally leans toward more formal language and shakes things up with a slightly more complex verb conjugation system than what you find in Brazilian Portuguese.

Don’t worry though. The difficulty is not so much to dissuade you from learning. 

How long does it take to learn European Portuguese?

Well, the U.S. Foreign Service Institute tags Portuguese as a Category I language. That just means it’s one of the easier languages for us English speakers to get a handle on. They guess it takes about 600 hours of solid studying to get pretty good at Portuguese – that includes speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

So, when you think about it, it’s not really that long: if you knuckle down with Portuguese for 1-2 hours a day, five days a week, you could be chatting away pretty confidently in about 6-12 months.

But remember, everyone’s different. This is just an average, and you might pick it up quicker or need a bit more time.

How to connect to natives to practise learning Portuguese?

Well, there’s no shortage of ways to find Portuguese speakers to chat with! Here are a few ideas:

  • Look for local gatherings: Websites like Meetup or Facebook Events often have language groups where you can chat face-to-face with Portuguese speakers.
  • Try language exchange websites: Check out platforms like Conversation Exchange or Speaky. You’ll find plenty of folks willing to swap language lessons – they’ll help you with Portuguese while you help them with your language.
  • Join the virtual community: Social media groups focused on learning Portuguese can be a treasure trove of help and support. You’ll meet other learners, and there might even be a few native speakers lurking around to lend a hand.
  • Go pro: Hire a native Portuguese teacher. This is the surefire way to have regular conversations with a native speaker.
  • Jump right in: When it’s possible, visit Portugal. Nothing beats full immersion to boost your language learning!

Do I need a tutor to learn Portuguese?

While it’s not a must-have, a tutor can definitely add value to your Portuguese learning journey. Tutors can speed up your progress, offer you tailored advice and feedback, and keep your motivation levels high.

If you find it tough to stick to a regular study schedule on your own, a tutor can help by providing structure and holding you accountable. So, if you can, consider hiring one – it might just make your language learning journey a whole lot smoother!

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It’s a cliché, but remember that learning a language is not a sprint, but a marathon. It requires persistence, practice, and patience. Don’t be disheartened by the hurdles you face along the way; these are stepping stones towards fluency.

And most importantly, remember to enjoy the process. Immerse yourself in Portuguese culture, listen to its music, watch Portuguese films, read their literature, and interact with locals. Each step you take will not only broaden your language skills but also enrich your global perspective and personal growth.

Learning European Portuguese can be an adventure in itself. With the right strategy, resources, and mindset, you can definitely conquer it. So, are you ready to embark on your Portuguese language journey with DailyNata? Let’s get started, and as they say in Portuguese, “Vamos lá!” (Let’s go!).