5 Tricks to Learn Portuguese Vocabulary for Good | 007a

Portuguese vocabulary, vocabulario portuguesThere are 5 powerful tricks you can learn to dominate Portuguese vocabulary and beat WSS (I’ll explain later), I’m going to share these with you today!

“Why won’t it stick!? It’s like no matter what I do, it just seems impossible to keep this vocabulary down!”

This was me in the not-to-distant past…  The feeling of frustration and irritation was overwhelming, it’s like the word would go in one ear and out the other – without sticking anywhere in between.

And to be honest, this is not just a problem that I’ve had, it’s something that we all have in common when learning Portuguese.

As a matter of fact, it’s so common that I’ve come up with a term for it “WSS” or “Wont Stick Syndrome“.

But don’t worry, there is hope for us all as there is a way to reverse WSS!

Dominating Portuguese Vocabulary with 5 Tricks

As I looked through flashcard after flashcard, my Portuguese vocabulary was coming very slowly… You know those flashcard with the word in Portuguese on the front and in English on the back?

I had a whole deck of those things with tons of relevant words but it just wasn’t working fast enough.  Every time I would try spending time looking through them, it was like some outside power would take control and keep me totally distracted…DOH!

“wow, look how nice it is out today.  Oh my favorite TV show is on, I’d like to see what a fruta do conde looks like online!”

Yes, WSS had hit me like a ton of bricks and someone needed to get me a cure!

Funny enough, when I started to spend more time on my distractions then these traditional vocabulary learning methods, it was then that it started to stick.

Let me break down how this happened and the tricks I learned that helped my vocabulary stay for good.

Note: you are here in the Portuguese Acceleration Blueprint series:

Portuguese acceleration blueprint, dominating Portuguese vocabulary

Trick 1: Stop Being Distracted and BE Distracted! (HUH?)

As I looked at my stack of flashcards and just didn’t feel like touching them that day, I quickly ran to the computer and began being distracted by looking at different fruits in Brazil and how tasty they were – mmm…

There was the “fruta do conde” with its super sweet candy like taste, then there was the “jaca” which was half the size of me, a bit stinky and pretty yummy…

Wait a second, I just learned two new vocabulary words by being distracted!

Yep, being distracted in the right kind of way has its benefits when learning Portuguese vocabulary.

Your natural curiosity fuels your desire to pick up new words

You have an inner curiosity within that has lead you to the place where you are at today.  And along the span of your lifetime, this has brought you to be interested in certain things and molded you into the person you are today.

So why do we focus on what isn’t us when we learn vocabulary, when in actuality our inner curiosity is what will help us learn it?

Are you interested in food?  How about cars?  Or maybe travelling in Brazil?

My guess is that if you begin feeding that curiosity that it wil push you to learn new and relevant vocabulary words without feeling like someone turned off the fun switch.

In the end, you will most likely end up being around Portuguese speakers who are interested in the same subjects and have the same passions as you.  This means that it only makes sense to purse what you like!

Trick 2: The Loaner Word Shortcut

What if I told you that there was a shortcut to getting about 10% of your Portuguese vocabulary almost immediately?

Well there is and it’s called “cognates“.

A cognate is a word that two languages share either coming from similar roots or loaner words, and being that English has roots in romance languages, there are many “shortcut words” you can use to jump start your vocabulary.

Examples of Portuguese to English Cognates

I’m going to write a few words in Portuguese and I would like you to tell me how many you understand:

  1. agressivo
  2. inteligente
  3. zero
  4. total
  5. emergência

How many did you get, 4? Maybe all 5?


You see the trick is that your brain is able to recognize the beginning of the word and associate it with the meaning in English.

Of course you will have to get used to how it’s spelled and pronounced differently but just in having that cognate association, your vocabulary is boosted by huge amounts!

Over at Street Smart Brazil, they have a .  Take a look at them and see what you can do to get them down first before moving on to other vocabulary.

Street Smart Brazil wrote with other easy to learn vocabulary words that’s worth checking out too.

Note: you can also do a search on Google for “Portuguese to English cognates” and find more.

Dangerous cognates and how to avoid them!

You are probably thinking “wow, this whole cognate trick is pretty cool!” and you are right in thinking so.

Though, I need to give you a word of caution and make sure that you know the most important false cognates to avoid causing some jaw-dropping mistakes…

One of the first and most embarrassing mistakes I made with a cognate was the word “excitado”.  I approached a Brazilian lady and told her that I was very “excitado” to go to a Brazilian get together with her and others in the weekend…

After seeing her embarrassed reaction and laughter, I soon realized that she understood something completely different than what I wanted to say!

On first appearance, it may look like “excited” but it only means sexually excited or “turned on” in Portuguese.


There are several other false cognates and instead of repeating them here, there is about the 17 most dangerous ones you should check out.

Trick 3: Taking it One Day at a Time

WSS (Wont Stick Syndrom) is a serious condition and can only truly be defeated in one way: one day at a time.

Small victories lead to larger ones, and larger victories lead to conquering your Portuguese vocabulary!

Another mistake I made when first taking up Portuguese vocabulary was to try and dive into a whole Portuguese vocabulary list at once – bad idea!

It is pretty much humanly impossible to learn that much vocabulary in one day and it’s overwhelming.

So it’s important that you take a word or two a day, learn it, hear it and apply it naturally according to your interest and desires.

There are many good sites out there but that sends you a new Portuguese word by email each day with the pronunciation.

Another place I would like to refer you to is called Speak Like a Brazilian.

They focus on building and developing a free database of Brazilian slang together with pronunciation and definition.

Make sure to their site!

Trick 4: Visualizing Your Word

One of the most common mistakes that foreigners make when learning a new vocabulary word, is to translate the word into English and stop there.

Imagine seeing the word “Pedágio” and then you immediately translate the word to “toll booth”, and every time you hear this word it is translated into English in your mind.  This adds an unnecessary step in the language process and bogs you down.

This not only makes it more difficult to beat the Wont Stick Syndrome but reroutes your use of the Portuguese language through an unnecessary path.

Sure, translating makes sense for the more analytical types of people, but it’s important that you either phase out the English translation or completely go around them.

Going around them is done by visualizing the words you learn or AKA: the shortest route to your target vocabulary word.

How to visualize your vocabulary words

When I say “pedágio” this is what you should picture:

Brazilian toll booth

This is what naturally happened to me when I got distracted and started to learn about different (tasty) Brazilian fruits.

I would go onto Google, type the name in, and then look at different pictures of it.  After getting an idea of what it looked at, I would move onto it’s description in Portuguese (when I got a bit better at it) and learn more about it (and get more Portuguese vocabulary that way).

Some cool “visualizing” resources

My first and favorite resource is good old (the brazilian Google), just take a word in Portuguese throw it into the search field and click on “images”.

Then you get a lot of imagery of what the word looks like.

Another resources for general vocabulary is a youtube channel called PortuguesePod101, they have focusing on visual vocabulary.

Trick 5: Use it or Lose it

There’s probably no new science to the idea that if you don’t use something, you will lose it – and this is no exception when learning Portuguese vocabulary.

When first learning a new Portuguese vocabulary word, it sits very loose in your mind and the more you use the word the better it’s sits in a firm foundation within your memory.

This is why you often hear statements like “I had 3 years of Spanish in school but can’t remember a thing“.  This is due to the fact that within the classroom or other traditional learning scenarios, the atmosphere isn’t very good to cement the vocabulary into place.

This is truly done when you go out into the real world and begin using what you have – no matter how little or much you know.

I had a friend (God rest his soul) in Florianópolis who when just starting to learn Portuguese, would mix everything he learned into any conversation he had.

He had huge ambitions to use everything that he learned so that it stuck into is mind.

His sentences would be a mixture and mess of Portuglish but they only got better with time, this led him to building on his vocabulary until it brought him to Portuguese fluency.

Final Words

Do you feel your WSS starting to go away? Well these tricks sure helped in getting rid of my Wont Stick Syndrom and I’m sure that it will help yours too.

These 5 tricks are what should push you over the edge to learn Portuguese vocabulary super fast – all fueled by your curiosity and things you are passionate about.

I hope that this was helpful to you and of this series delivered to your e-mail.

All the best to you and your Portuguese learning adventure!

Valeu – cheers!

P.S. give this a thumbs up if it was helpful!

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