Learning Portuguese, Take Off in Portuguese

Take Off in Portuguese

Authors: Michael Harland and Ana Saldanha

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Publication date: 2008

Price: the pack is no longer available to purchase, although there are still second-hand copies available

CEFR levels: A1-B1 (Beginner to Intermediate)

Components: Textbook (256 pages), 4 audio CDs

Number of hours: 40-50



  • Definite and indefinite articles
  • Masculine and feminine nouns
  • Verbs estar, ser and ficar
  • Regular adjectives
  • Plurals
  • Regular and irregular verbs
  • de + definite article
  • onde?, como?, quem?, quanto?, qual?, o que?, que?
  • nunca and nenhum
  • em + definite article
  • ter de/ter que
  • Present tense to talk about the future
  • ir + infinitive to talk about the future
  • Prepositions a, em, de
  • Subject pronouns
  • Possessive forms
  • muito
  • Cardinal and ordinal numbers
  • Direct object pronouns
  • Demonstrative forms
  • Imperative
  • Time expressions
  • Indirect object pronouns
  • Reflexive verbs
  • Present continuous estar a + infinitive
  • ‘Strong’ object pronouns
  • com + pronoun
  • The comparative
  • tencionar and pensar to express intentions
  • Future tense
  • Imperfect tense
  • por and para
  • Present subjunctive
  • in time expressions
  • Superlative
  • ou…ou, nem…nem
  • Imperfect continuous
  • Adjectives with muito and the –íssimo form
  • Preterite tense
  • deixar de
  • dever
  • Expressions with ter
  • Object pronouns
  • Dates
  • Imperfect preterite
  • durante to talk about the past
  • tão…como, tanto…como/quanto
  • Pluperfect
  • Past participles
  • Time expressions denoting frequency
  • brincar, jogar, tocar
  • Infinitive in formal instructions
  • Words showing the sequence of events
  • -se for instructions
  • Impersonal constructions
  • Passive
  • Diminutives
  • Imperfect subjunctive
  • Past tenses of


  • Greetings
  • Simple everyday phrases
  • Ordering food and drinks
  • Booking a hotel room
  • Giving personal details
  • Describing places
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Using local transport
  • Timetables
  • Directions
  • Asking how much something is
  • Asking how far something is
  • Buying petrol
  • Booking tickets
  • Saying where you live and where you come from
  • Adjectives of nationality
  • Saying what you do for a living
  • Giving an opinion
  • Talking about daily routines
  • Telling the time
  • Talking about events
  • Talking about shopping hours
  • Describing items (colour, size)
  • Talking on the phone
  • Making invitations
  • Arranging to meet
  • Making requests
  • Giving instructions
  • Weather
  • Expressing future intentions
  • Giving and asking for advice
  • Expressing opinions and doubts
  • Making announcements
  • Offering, accepting and refusing
  • Paying compliments
  • Talking about the past
  • Taking about your background and giving personal details
  • Parts of the body
  • Saying how you feel and where it hurts
  • Describing what happened
  • Understanding advice and giving instructions
  • Talking about past experiences
  • Expressing emotions such as surprise
  • Talking about family and friends
  • Talking about dates and length of time
  • Talking about hobbies, games and other interests
  • Expressing how much you like or dislike something
  • Compare the things you like or dislikes
  • Expressing how often you do something
  • Following recipes and manuals
  • Giving instructions on how to do something
  • Narrate a sequence of events
  • Congratulating people
  • Making toasts
  • Asking others to do something
  • Expressing hopes and wishes
  • Expressing surprise, feelings and sensations

Publisher claims

The course focuses on listening and speaking and allows you to progress at your own rate. It provides support with transcriptions of the audio, translations of new vocabulary and grammar explanations. You can build your knowledge of Portuguese vocabulary and grammar with activities, dialogues and summaries. There are test-yourself exercises which allow you to measure your progress.


The course focuses on European Portuguese. There is a recurring story with a group of Portuguese characters which allows you to hear natural conversations in an engaging setting.

The course is structured and there is clear progression.

The book is a nice compact size, which allows you to carry it in pocket or handbag.

There is plenty of listening and speaking practice, along with vocabulary and grammar activities. The speaking in particular is good in this course, as you are having virtual mini-conversations (where prompts in English are given by the woman on the CD).

There is a short test at the end of every unit, which gives a score at the end. The test only tests grammar and vocabulary, not listening or speaking.

There are regular reviews every three or four units which test grammar, vocabulary, listening and speaking. This does not have a final score at the end.

The themes of the units focus on functional language and there is a good progress in the level of the vocabulary.

The units are structured: presenting the new grammar and vocabulary in a dialogue and focussing on key phrases or sentences, doing written vocabulary and language building activities in the book before doing the speaking activity. There is a whole lesson in each unit dedicate to reading, which introduces information about Portuguese culture. The recurring story in the last lesson of each unit consolidates all the grammar and vocabulary. The unit ends with a Summary, which gives more speaking practice.

The methodology is very clear.

The endmatter includes the answers, a grammar summary, a Portuguese-English vocabulary list, a glossary of grammar terms and an index of the grammar covered in the book.

There is good coverage of pronunciation skills.

It gives a good grounding in the language necessary for the GCSE, CIPLE or DEPLE exams and makes a good revision course.


The design of the book is uninspiring. It is black and white text with no images.

The course is now out of print.

There are no track numbers for the CD in the book, which makes it hard to locate which CD and which track you need for the listening activities.

There is too much English explanation in the book and there is too much explanation given in English on the CD.

Activities often require the answers to be written in English rather than in Portuguese.

The audioscripts don’t appear anywhere in the book, so you can’t check a passage you may not have understood.

Each unit covers a lot of grammar and then quickly moves on.

The book doesn’t cover the future subjunctive.

The reading texts don’t get longer towards the end of the book and the activity types in the later units don’t seem a lot more challenging than earlier units.


Complete Portuguese, Learning Portuguese

Complete Portuguese

Author: Manuela Cook
Publisher: Hodder Education
Publication date: 2008
Price: £45
CEFR levels: A1-B1 (Beginner to Intermediate) (please note the publisher has listed it as A1-B2)
Components: Textbook (476 pages), 2 audio CDs
Number of hours: 40-50
⦁ Nouns
⦁ Articles
⦁ Preposition + article
⦁ Plurals
⦁ Object pronoun
⦁ Plurals
⦁ Present tense – regular and irregular verbs
⦁ Infinitives
⦁ Word order
⦁ Agreement of noun and adjective
⦁ Negatives
 ser, ficar and estar
⦁ Contracted words
⦁ Subject pronouns
⦁ Reflexive verbs
⦁ Colloquial future
⦁ Question words
⦁ Preterite
⦁ Imperative
⦁ Future indicative
⦁ Emphatic future
⦁ Comparatives
⦁ Imperfect
⦁ Continuous present and past
⦁ Passive voice
⦁ Present subjunctive
⦁ Future subjunctive
⦁ Perfect
⦁ Pluperfect
⦁ Superlatives
⦁ Conditional
⦁ gostaria, queria (would like), poderia (could)
⦁ Imperfect subjunctive
⦁ Auxiliary verbs
⦁ Possessives
⦁ Object pronouns
⦁ Personal infinitive
⦁ a, de, em, para and por
⦁ Intensifiers
⦁ Verbs without a subject

⦁ Greetings
⦁ Directions
⦁ Buying tickets
⦁ Signs in public places
⦁ Booking in at a hotel or campsite
⦁ Places in a town
⦁ Shops
⦁ Shopping
⦁ Transport
⦁ Introducing people
⦁ Talking about yourself
⦁ Telling the time
⦁ Days of the week
⦁ Clothes
⦁ Daily routines
⦁ Months
⦁ Seasons
⦁ Weather
⦁ Weights, measures and quantities
⦁ Material, design  and pattern
⦁ Illness and injury
⦁ Lost property
⦁ Accidents and breakdowns
⦁ Sports and hobbies
⦁ Food and drink
⦁ Describing a place
⦁ Banking
⦁ Invitations
⦁ Using services
⦁ Sightseeing
⦁ Apply for a job
⦁ Looking for property
⦁ Celebrations and parties

 Publisher claims

The book teaches both European and Brazilian Portuguese through real-life situations. The units are thematic with an emphasis on communication through useful vocabulary and everyday dialogues.
The first six units are aimed at learners who need enough Portuguese for a trip to a Portuguese-speaking country. The subsequent units consolidate and expand what has been learnt.
By the end of the they claim that you will be at B2 level of the CEFR.
There are tips and help for common problems.
There are grammar tips, pronunciation, tests and innovative exercises.


There are 25 units in the book, three of these are revision units. There is a through grammar and vocabulary syllabus, which gets more challenging as you progress through the book.
The themes are relevant for people learning Portuguese for a visit and in the later units for anyone planning to live in Portuguese-speaking country.
The book is a reasonable price.
The author is very knowledgeable and gives good explanations of the language with useful examples.
The themes of the units focus on functional language and there is a good progress in the level of the vocabulary.
Each unit follows a similar structure: new language is presented in one or two dialogues,  followed by a pronunciation activity, then there are sections focusing on expressions and cultural information, and finally a grammar section. The unit ends with a series of activities.
The exercises are very functional and include speaking activities.
The methodology is very clear.
There is a large section of useful endmatter, including an answer key, a pronunciation section, a section covering regular and irregular verbs and both Portuguese-English and English-Portuguese wordlists.
There is good coverage of pronunciation skills.
The book contains lots of interesting cultural information and includes vocabulary for technology. The section on writing letters in Unit 22 is very good and I often refer to it when writing business letters in Portuguese.
It gives a good grounding in the language necessary for the GCSE, CIPLE or DEPLE exams and makes a good revision course.


There is very limited listening. There are only 2 CDs and even in the latter units the listening texts are spoken very slowly and don’t offer any challenge. It does not prepare you for the speed that real people speak!
In some units a lot of new grammar is taught in the same unit, eg in Unit 17 both the present subjunctive and the future subjunctive are taught.
The design of the units is a bit confusing. The headings of the different sections aren’t clear and it isn’t always easy to know which section of the unit you are in. Also, the numbering of the activities is a bit unnecessarily complicated, eg 17.7.1.
The course aims to teach both European and Brazilian Portuguese simultaneously and the result is a confusing mix of the two. Both are taught from Unit 1 and as a beginner I found this very confusing. I ended up fast-forwarding the CD past the Brazilian pronunciation sections so that I could focus on the  European Portuguese speakers. It would have been better if it had focussed on European Portuguese, but introduced Brazilian Portuguese in a receptive way in the later units.
The book claims to take you to B2 level (which is A level standard). The grammar does go up to A level standard, but the level of the activities, including the reading and listening texts don’t go that far.
Despite the publisher claims, there are not any tests. They are review units.
It is a cheap-quality book comprising black and white text on rough paper, with very few pieces of artwork or photos. The pages are poorly stuck in and after I had finished working through the book the spine broke in several sections and pages started falling out.
Curso de Português, Learning Portuguese

Curso de Português

Author: Antonio Fornazaro
Publisher: Linguaphone
Publication date: 1987
Price: £179
CEFR levels: A1-B1 (Beginner to Intermediate)
Components: Textbook (344 pages), Handbook (382 pages), 8 audio CDs
Number of hours: 85-100
⦁ Present tense – regular and irregular verbs
⦁ Articles
⦁ Subject pronouns
⦁ Possessive adjectives
⦁ Preposition + article
⦁ queria (would), podia (could)
⦁ Adjective with noun and pronoun
⦁ Direct object pronouns
⦁ Imperatives
⦁ Comparatives
⦁ Demonstratives
⦁ Preterite
⦁ Indirect object pronouns
⦁ Imperfect
⦁ Plurals of nouns and adjectives
⦁ Past participles
⦁ Indefinite and negative pronouns
⦁ Reflexives
⦁ Present subjunctive
⦁ Pronouns
⦁ Future subjunctive
⦁ Agreement of noun, adjective and verb
⦁ Future
⦁ Superlative
⦁ Imperfect subjunctive
⦁ Conditional
⦁ cujo (whose)
⦁ Passive voice
⦁ acabar de, já, nunca, desde, há/faz, ter + past participle (have/has + past participle)
⦁ Object pronouns
⦁ Pluperfect
⦁ Inflected/personal infinitive
⦁ Object pronouns with the future and the conditional

⦁ Meeting people
⦁ Professions
⦁ Numbers
⦁ Nationalities
⦁ Greetings
⦁ Time expressions
⦁ Expressing likes and dislikes
⦁ Telephone language
⦁ Telling the time
⦁ Days of the week
⦁ Buying tickets
⦁ Making appointments
⦁ Months of the year
⦁ Directions
⦁ Introducing people
⦁ Everyday activities
⦁ Food and drink
⦁ Shops
⦁ Colours
⦁ Clothes
⦁ Media and current affairs
⦁ Motoring
⦁ Weather
⦁ Staying in a hotel or on a campsite
⦁ Holiday activities
⦁ Banks
⦁ Eating out
⦁ Parts of the body
⦁ Ailments
⦁ Entertainment
⦁ Shopping for food
⦁ Applying for a job
⦁ Renting or buying a house or flat
⦁ Engaging tradespeople
⦁ Emergency services
⦁ Business language
⦁ Sports
⦁ Christmas
⦁ Travelling by plane

Publisher claims

The course teaches how the language works and how to use it through practical topics and everyday situations, using the Linguaphone method of listen, understand, speak. It teaches over 2000 words. They claim it covers Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels (but don’t refer to the CEFR in this claim). The Textbook is written in Portuguese and contains the audio text, pronunciation sections and written and spoken exercises. The Handbook is written in English and contains bilingual wordlists, grammar and vocabulary explanations and instructions for the activities. Rather than learning vocabulary and phrases, you learn to express thoughts and feelings, understand native Portuguese speakers and be able to speak Portuguese.


The course focuses on European Portuguese. There are recurring characters (Portuguese Manuel and his Brazilian friends Ricardo and Maria Luísa) who appear in many of the units. The Brazilian characters are used for receptive language, not productive.
The course is structured and there is clear progression. By the end of the course the dialogues and reading passages are longer and the speed of the recordings is faster.
There is a variety of activities, which develop the four skills and grammar.
The book comprises 40 units and 8 CDs, which gives through coverage of vocabulary, grammar and listening.
There are regular reviews every five units and a test every 10 units. The test is timed and gives a score at the end.
The themes of the units focus on functional language and there is a good progress in the level of the vocabulary.
The units are structured: new vocabulary is presented through dialogues, there is  a pronunciation activity, and the grammar is taught towards the end of the unit.
The methodology is very clear and the instructions in the Handbook are useful.
The Handbook also contains an index of the grammar and a Portuguese wordlist indicating where the word appears in the Textbook, which makes it easy to locate where the word appears.
There is good coverage of pronunciation skills.
There are useful language and culture notes.
It gives a good grounding in the language necessary for the GCSE, CIPLE or DEPLE exams and makes a good revision course.


The course is very dated. It was published in 1987 and the only change that has been made to it is to convert the original cassettes to CDs. The artwork is old-fashioned and there is no reference to technology.
The design of the book is uninspiring. It is text heavy with black and white artwork.
The course is very expensive considering that nothing has been changed since 1987. It is disappointing that Linguaphone haven’t invested money into updating the course.
PDQ Portuguese Quick Language Course

PDQ Portuguese Quick Language Course

Author: Manolo Santos
Publisher: Linguaphone
Publication date: 1999
Price: £30
CEFR levels: A1 (Beginner)
Components: Coursebook (64 pages) and 4 audio CDs
Number of hours: 8-10
⦁ Nouns
⦁ Articles
⦁ Adjectives
⦁ Possessive adjectives
⦁ Present tense verbs: singular and plural
⦁ Plural of nouns and adjectives
⦁ Infinitive of verbs

⦁ Greetings
⦁ Places in a town
⦁ Food
⦁ Signs in public places
⦁ Nationalities
⦁ Family
⦁ Numbers 1-100
⦁ Adjectives to describe people
⦁ Parts of the body
⦁ Asking and giving directions
⦁ Rooms in a house
⦁ Adjectives to describe a house
⦁ Features of a town
⦁ Adjectives to describe a town
⦁ Hiring a car
⦁ Days of the week
⦁ Months of the year

Publisher claims

It is a short course aimed at complete beginners to get them speaking, writing and understanding Portuguese, with a focus on everyday essential language in a variety of situations using the Linguaphone method of listen, understand, speak. The key features are developing correct pronunciation with an authentic accent, learning over 500 words and phrases, the major verbs and key grammar, and gaining the confidence to express yourself in Portuguese. The recordings are in English and Portuguese and you have the option to study solely by using the CDs with the book as backup.


This is a very good introductory course for total beginners. It covers the basic grammar and introduces useful vocabulary.
It is thematic, covering functional language in everyday situations.
The premise is that Pedro Gomes is visiting Coimbra to record useful language for this course and as a result he finds himself in situations a visitor would find themselves in: greeting people, ordering food and drink, talking about yourself and your family, checking into a hotel, hiring a car, and being invited to someone’s house.
The course is very structured. Each unit follows the same format: the key language is presented; you hear the language being used in a real-life situation; you do exercises and repeat the dialogue to test your understanding of the key language; and at the end of the unit you listen to the end of the story.
It focuses on listening and speaking. You listen to a dialogue and then repeat the dialogue.
It moves at a surprisingly fast pace and by the end of each unit you have covered a lot of vocabulary.
It is good for people who need to learn Portuguese for a specific trip, but don’t want to commit to a long-term course.
The book is printed in colour on glossy paper with lots of photos.


It is not ideal for people who want to learn the language in more detail, as once you have finished the course you have to buy another course, which starts at beginner level, so you might as well buy the longer course in the first place.
As a total beginner to the language I noticed that the two Portuguese speakers pronounced some of the words slightly differently and I found it confusing when repeating after them.
There is no real writing practice.
The book is a bit dated. The photos look like they are from the original 1999 edition of the book.

Learning Portuguese, Michel Thomas Method

Michel Thomas® Method

Portuguese Foundation Course (now updated as Total Portuguese)

Author: Virginia Catmur
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 2008, updated in 2014
Price: £110
CEFR levels: A1-A2/B1 (Beginner to Elementary/Pre-Intermediate) in listening and speaking
Components: 8 audios CDs (plus for the new edition of Total Portuguese a CD-ROM with interactive activities and assessment)
Number of hours: 8 (+ extra for the CD-ROM activities – my version didn’t include the CD-ROM, so I am unable to comment on this component)
⦁ Present tense
⦁ estar a + infinitive
⦁ Question words: porque?, quanto?
⦁ Articles
⦁ Pronouns
⦁ Verbs for ‘to be’: ser, estar, ficar, haver
⦁ vou + infinitive
⦁ Formal and informal ‘you’: o senhor/a senhora, tu
⦁ Imperative
⦁ este/esta
⦁ Future tense
⦁ Future tense with pronouns
⦁ Double negative
⦁ Conditional tense
⦁ Preterite tense
⦁ acabar de
⦁ European v Brazilian Portuguese

Perfect Portuguese

Author: Virginia Catmur
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 2012, updated in 2014
Price: £120
CEFR levels: A2-B1 (Elementary to Intermediate) in listening and speaking
Components: 4 audios CDs (plus for the new edition a CD-ROM with interactive activities and assessment – my version didn’t include the CD-ROM, so I am unable to comment on this component)
Number of hours: 5 (+ extra for the CD-ROM activities)
⦁ Review of present tense
⦁ Review of command tense
⦁ Possessive pronouns
⦁ Future tenses
⦁ Conditional tense
⦁ Preterite tense
⦁ Imperfect tense
⦁ Past perfect
⦁ Modals
⦁ Present subjunctive
⦁ Future subjunctive
⦁ Personal infinitive
⦁ Imperfect subjunctive

Publisher claims

The Michel Thomas® Method is a method of language learning created by Michel Thomas which claims to teach you a foreign language in the same way as you learnt your native language. It is a CD-based course which does not use books. There is no writing or memorizing. The idea is that you learn by listening, absorbing and speaking. The premise is that you are in a ‘virtual classroom’ with a teacher and two other students; one student is quite strong and the other is weaker. When the teacher asks a question you should press the pause button and answer, then listen to one of the other students getting the answer right or wrong. If they answer incorrectly the teacher explains why and then a native-European Portuguese speaker says the correct answer.
Perfect Portuguese builds on your knowledge of the language already acquired on the Total Portuguese course and you will learn to express yourself using an even wider range of structures and vocabulary.


Total Portuguese course comprises of eight CDs which are each one hour long and Perfect Portuguese comprises of four CDs which are each one hour and fifteen minutes long, which makes the course manageable.
Total Portuguese begins at Beginner level and starts with words that are very similar in English and Portuguese, eg possible – possível, probable – provável and we are forming sentences quite soon into the course.
When the teacher wants us to create a sentence she will quite often give the literal translation in English to help us understand the word order, although it can sound odd, eg ‘I am at to write’ for Estou a escrever.
It gives a thorough introduction to Portuguese grammar. By the end of the Perfect Portuguese course you will have learnt all the main tenses, including the three subjunctive tenses. I had already completed another book-based course before beginning this course, so I had a basic knowledge of the grammar and a reasonable amount of vocabulary. This course was good revision of the grammar I had learnt, but was still struggling with. By the end of the course I was more confident forming sentences in different tenses and saying them out loud.
Virginia Catmur is very faithful to Michel Thomas’ methodology and uses a lot of mnemonics to help us remember words and grammar rules. I still use the ‘awesome’ rule to help me remember where the stress falls on words.


The lessons are exactly the same format throughout the entire course, the teacher will explain a grammar point and then give us sentences in English to form in Portuguese. It is a very repetitive format.
Although the course claims to be a listening and speaking course (and even says that Perfect Portuguese give a good grounding for A level listening and speaking), it is actually a grammar course. There is no real listening, except when the native-Portuguese speaker repeats the sentences back. You are not really speaking, as there is no opportunity to have a conversation, and it doesn’t really cover functional language for everyday situations. Some of the sentences we are asked to form don’t seem very useful outside of a grammar activity, eg ‘I did it for you yesterday’ and ‘When will you tell me where it is?’.
There is not much coverage of vocabulary and the lack of new vocabulary meant that even with good understanding of the grammar I was limited as to what I could talk about.
The grammar is taught at a rapid rate and there isn’t much time to absorb one grammar point before another is taught, for example on CD 7 of Total Portuguese the future, conditional and preterite tenses are all taught in the one-hour lesson!
Although I think the idea of mnemonics is good, some of them are a little irritating, eg to remember that faz means ‘to do’ or ‘to make’ the mnemonic is ‘Oh dear, you’re making such a fash about it’. Having said that, I do remember it!
The course doesn’t encourage memorizing and I must admit that by the end of the course I had forgotten quite a lot. I have listened to the CDs several times, along with using other self-study courses and I am slowly understanding the grammar, but this course is not a short cut to understanding Portuguese grammar.
The teacher on the CD, came across as slightly patronizing. Although the weaker student in the ‘virtual classroom’ made me feel good that I was doing better than her, I did find the extra explanation that she needed a bit irritating.
This course doesn’t replace a coursebook, as there is no practice of the four skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.
A little every day - ideas for learning Portuguese, Learning Portuguese

A little every day – ideas for learning Portuguese


As a former language teacher and someone who has worked on language teaching courses in the publishing industry for nearly 20 years, I am under no illusions that learning a foreign language is easy. I have been learning Portuguese since 2012 and have used a plethora of self-study courses in the aim of finding a method that works for me. While I can’t claim to be an expert of language learning, I would like to share my experiences of learning Portuguese and to give some tips based on what has worked for me.

Self-study courses

There are a wide variety of self-study courses available. All have strengths and weakness and I have written separate reviews of each of the ones I have followed. All of these courses teach European Portuguese. There is a larger choice of Brazilian Portuguese courses than European Portuguese on the market, and if you want to learn European Portuguese read the description carefully before buying.
⦁ Linguaphone PDQ Portuguese Quick Language Course
⦁ Linguaphone Curso de Português
⦁ Complete Portuguese
⦁ Michel Thomas® Method Portuguese Foundation Course
⦁ Michel Thomas® Method Perfect Portuguese
⦁ Take Off in Portuguese (now out of print)

Portuguese class

Self-study courses only take you so far. Speaking is crucial to learning a language and something that isn’t taught well on self-study courses, so I also attend a weekly Portuguese class with a native-speaker teacher. The teacher speaks in Portuguese for most of the class, only speaking in English to explain a grammar point. Sometimes it is frustrating wanting to say something and not having the vocabulary or grammar to say it, but it is a good way to discover what I can say with the vocabulary and grammar I do have.

Private lessons

I booked a course of ten two-hour lessons in preparation for taking the DEPLE exam. It isn’t something I would do regularly as it was very expensive (at £44 per hour) and I found the one-to-one teaching a little intense. It depends on the relationship that you have with the teacher but it can be a fantastic way to progress quickly.

Meet Portuguese people

I have joined a Portuguese-English language exchange group that meets once a week in the city where I live, which I found advertised on a social networking site. The group comprises native Portuguese speakers from Portugal, Brazil and Africa, plus British people and people of other nationalities who want to practice their Portuguese. We meet in a pub and chat about all kinds of things, just like any group of friends, but we speak in Portuguese. As it is purely a social group it takes some of the stress out of speaking the language, as no one is constantly correcting my grammar, and as a result I have found I am gaining confidence at speaking in Portuguese. I also have a very good Portuguese friend with whom I speak on the phone in Portuguese once a week. I find that listening to her without seeing her body language makes me focus on what she is saying more than when we meet face to face.

Portuguese television

I regularly watch the news on RTP (the state-owned Portuguese TV channel) via the internet. Each news story is preceded by a short written text giving a brief description of the story, which allows me to get the gist before I listen and the pictures usually help with understanding. The journalists tend to have clear accents, which makes understanding easier.
I also follow soap operas on RTP. Although the storylines are silly they are also quite predictable, which makes it easy to follow. I can also put Portuguese sub-titles on while I watch, which allows me to read any bits of dialogue I don’t understand, although I try and avoid doing this.
Watching Portuguese television has really helped my listening skills.


I have discovered a wonderful website, Practice Portuguese, run by Rui Coimbra and Joel Rendall who produce entertaining and informative podcasts in European Portuguese. The podcasts are great for developing listening skills without being as intimidating as genuine TV and radio broadcasts.

Newspapers and magazines

Most Portuguese newspapers are available online. I tend to select a news story which interests me, rather than just reading the front page, which tends to be about politics and uses specialised vocabulary. I usually buy a women’s magazine when I visit Portugal and read articles from time to time. As many of the articles are similar to those in British magazines it is easy to get the gist of the article.

Portuguese films

I have discovered a whole new world of Portuguese films, although I would avoid the films of Pedro Costa if you are watching them to hear European Portuguese spoken, as many of his films centre around the Cape Verdean community in Lisbon and are spoken in Creole rather than Portuguese. When I visit Portugal I always treat myself to  new film, but I make sure it includes English subtitles.

Portuguese literature

In some other languages there are parallel texts of some of their most famous literature, which comprises of a verso page of the original text and a recto page containing the translation into English.  I think this is a good way of enjoying literature in its original language when your level of that language isn’t very high. I haven’t managed to find any parallel texts of Portuguese literature, so I have created my own version, by buying a copy of the book in both Portuguese and English and reading them simultaneously: a chapter of the Portuguese version, the same chapter in the English version and then the Portuguese chapter again for a fuller understanding. This is really useful if you are studying for a GCE A level in Portuguese.

Portuguese exams

IMG_0671I have recently taken a Portuguese language exam (the DEPLE) and am now working towards the DIPLE. The main exams are:
GCSE in Portuguese (A2/B1 level of the CEFR)
GCE A level in Portuguese (Edexcel or Cambridge) (B2 level of the CEFR)
CAPLE exams – set by the University of Lisbon:
⦁ CIPLE (A2 level of the CEFR)
⦁ DEPLE (B1 level of the CEFR)
⦁ DIPLE (B2 level of the CEFR)
⦁ DAPLE (C1 level of the CEFR)
⦁ DUPLE (C2 level of the CEFR)
At the moment I feel that I am stuck on the ‘B1 plateau’, but I am studying texts from a higher level and  I find that working towards an exam keeps me motivated and willing to push myself.

Portuguese culture

I love finding out about Portuguese culture through literature, film, food and festivals. I feel that knowing the language helps me understand the culture and understanding the culture helps my language learning.

Visit Portugal

I try and visit Portugal at least twice a year, which isn’t enough but is better than nothing. While there I force myself to speak Portuguese at every opportunity, which is hard for me as I’m not a gregarious person and I do get a bit disheartened when the other person can’t understand me or I can’t understand them. However,  I do notice how my spoken Portuguese improves after being in Portugal for a week.

A little every day

I try and study a little every day. I have 20-minute train journey twice a day and I use that time to study. It is surprising how much I can do in that daily 40-minute study time.
I hope some some of these tips work for you and please don’t get disheartened when the level of the sentences you speak doesn’t match the level of vocabulary and grammar you have in your brain. This is perfectly normal and although it is tempting to not speak in Portuguese for fear of making mistakes, especially when the other person speaks very good English, persevere and it will get easier.

Boa sorte!