We all know that a successful lifestyle in or in connection with Brazil requires that you learn Portuguese fluently, though with a jungle of resources out there, it’s hard to know where to start and what dots to connect.
With that said, I’ve been through a lot of different experiences, programs, courses and more when learning how to speak Portuguese and it was quite a challenge to figure out the best path to fluency.
I tried courses like Rosetta, Pimsluer, a Portuguese language academy, grammar books, memory games and so on without success, though my breakthrough came in an unexpected form…
It was through a series of techniques that would be my pleasure to share with you today.
Having Confidence to Speak Portuguese
The first problem we have is always in the confidence department… we don’t believe that it will be easy to be fluent and this keeps us from approaching anyone who speaks Portuguese out of fear of failure.
This is part our own fault but also part due to misleading information given by many portuguese courses out there, they are usually designed by Brazilians who’ve never had to learn Portuguese like us, full of grammar and proper language rules, though none of them show you the key to getting fluent: confidence in yourself that you can do it.
One great confidence boost, is by following 3 simple steps outlined on this website.
Being a Part of the Portuguese Speaking Community
The whole reason behind learning Portuguese is to be able to communicate with Brazilians and explore the open doors it will give you. So why sit at home, when there are plenty of the Brazilian-loving communities around?
I realized how important it was to be part of a great community and that with other people it would be possible. Though, back in 2004, there was no easy access to the community like there is today so I had to roll up my sleeves, go out and find them!
Since then I’ve decided to offer the community a platform in itself so that we can have our own little Portuguese learning incubator.
Another great place to find a community of passionate Portuguese learners is through www.meetup.com, communities.skype.com and obviously Facebook Groups.
Focusing on What Works Well to Learn Portuguese
Figuring out exactly “how to learn Portuguese” is no easy task in it’s own… though after countless tries with different courses, one thing is for sure: none of them teach the functional side of speaking Portuguese. Most of them focus on making you learn Portuguese by the books!
Brazilians avoid speaking correctly, so here’s what you can do to save about 40% of your time in learning Portuguese:
1: Remove the “nós” Grammar Form
Brazilian’s use “a gente” which is the same rule you use for “he, her, you”. I.E. “a gente vai” (we go) but courses teach you “Nós vamos”, “vai” is also used for “ele vai” (he goes), “ela vai” (she goes), “você vai” (you go).
So avoid “nós”.
2. Remove the “Tú” Grammar Form
In courses and grammar books, they insist on teaching you to say “tú” (you) but the reality is that in Brazil, they only use “você” (except in the far south, but a small area). This excludes a HUGE amount of grammar too as instead of saying “Tú vais” (you go), you can say “você vai” (you go but the same rule as above in “1”!).
3. Focuse on Cognate Words that Transpose Directly Into Portuguese
This will unlock TONS of instant vocabulary, for example:
-able/ible words in English become -ável and -ível words in Portuguese: probable = provavél, possible = possível etc.
-t words in English become -te words in Portuguese: important = importante.
-ity words in English become -dade words in Portuguese: city = cidade.
-sion words in English become -são words in Portuguese: transmission = transmissão
Note: I teach all this in Video 1 of my free Portuguese crash course
4. Learning the Most Common Used words in Portuguese First
You can then join them together with the above cognates and simplified grammar = a huge platform to work off of!
You can get a free list of the top 100 used Portuguese words over at Portuguese Pod 101
Make sure and check out Speak Like a Brazilian for a great database of current Brazilian slang!
5. Keeping Exposed to Speaking by Watching TV and Movies in Portuguese.
This can be done by either using a VPN from abroad to get access to instant streaming services in Brazil (like Netflix: free access in Brazil if you already have an account!) or by going onto YouTube and finding different Brazilian TV shows and movies.
This is one of the biggest key factors in order to learn Portuguese from abroad as it exposes you to the spoken side and tunes your ear in.
On YouTube, a great way is to find a documentary or movie in Portuguese with English subtitles, or an English speaking video with Portuguese subtitles.
Here is a great happy medium about the history of soccer/football in Brazil:
It has interviewees like Pelé and others and a mix of both English and Portuguese.
6. Keeping Exposed to Portuguese via Brazilian Music
This allows you to hear the language be used in a way that helps it stick better. If you hear a phrase like “Dias melhores como esses” (better days like this) cemented to a cool rhythm, it will stick in your mind better. BTW: that is an actual sentence from a song I learned back in the beginning of 2005!
I usually recommend finding songs on YouTube, iTunes or my personal favorite letras.mus.br. The latter of the three is what most Brazilians use as it combines the power of YouTube video with the song lyrics and organizes the genres and artists for you.
Here’s how to find some great and FREE songs!
STEP 1: go to letras.mus.br and click on “Artistas” then “Top Hoje” (Top Today) or “Top XXXX” (whatever you want)
STEP 2: see who’s ranking high and click on them.
STEP 3: see their list of songs (sorted by amount of plays automatically) and click on one.
STEP 4: Click play on the YouTube button and enjoy!
7. Playing Portuguese Language Games
We all love to relax and play games right? Well, if we take this time that we would normally spend shooting zombies, racing in circles (or whatever) and transform it into an experience that satisfies your gamer side along with teaches you Portuguese, then you have a win:win situation here my friend!
A great game is Mind Snacks for the iPad
It let’s you play several games in the free version that are interactive and let you learn by association, though you have to pay a bit for the premium version.
Learning “Unspoken” Portuguese
Body language is roughly 90% of your communication in any language, so it’s important to realize the importance of adapting to Brazilian body language. There are 6 distinct body language types that present themselves and I have laid them all out on this page.
Adapting to the Brazilian Portuguese Speech Patterns
It’s one thing to speak Portuguese words, it’s something totally different to actually learn how to pronounce your words like a Brazilian. This is something that we as foreigners have a hard time mastering, but never fear as it is possible to train your mouth to speak just like a Brazilian.
Idahosa Ness over at mimicmethod.com has broken this down for us step-by-step in this amazing (and well detailed) pronunciation blog post and again in this podcast episode.
Living Your Portuguese Learning
The best thing I ever did in my Portuguese-learning journey was to let it become a part of who I was. After all, I was learning Portuguese for the specific reason of opening doors and living in Brazil and it was important to be that person I envisioned.
This type of determination to metamorphic into your future result is what will allow Portuguese fluency to become a part of who you are. This means that your music taste may change a bit towards the Brazilian side, you probably start following in Brazilian soccer/football, current affairs in Brazil become interesting and you probably start getting really interested in the open door you are looking at walking though.
Living it has to do with your whole reason and purpose for learning Portuguese in the first place, are you doing it because it’s “a neat thing” or because you have a purpose for it. If you have a purpose for it, then I guarantee that keeping your eyes fixed on that will bring you to your prize. It’s the whole donkey carrot vs. donkey whip metaphor all over again. You can whip your donkey to keep walking while he cringes and hates it the whole way through OR you can hang a carrot in front of his face so that he is inspired and pro-actively motivated to keep going (maybe giving him a few along the way). Would you prefer sun and samba or boring grammar books?
I can’t stress how important it is for you to become part of a community of people who wish to live it too, this will really be what puts everything else into the right swing.
This guide will continually be updated…
Successo para ti!