Learning a language and gaining fluency in it is always a rewarding experience. Portuguese, in particular, is a wonderful language to learn, seeing as it is spoken by over 200 million people across the world and is considered the seventh most spoken language in the world. However, it’s not known as being a particularly easy language to learn for native English speakers, as Portuguese does have its own challenges when it comes to things such as communication, notably pronunciation, and the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese. Having said this, it’s very possible to learn Portuguese, whether you’re a complete beginner, intermediate, or near-fluent speaker, and we highlight some of the ways you can learn the basics of this language below.
Tips To Remember The Portuguese Alphabet
There’s a lot for English speakers to be happy about when it comes to learning the Portuguese alphabet. For example, the Portuguese alphabet now contains the same 26 letters that feature within the English alphabet, so there are no new letters that beginners need to learn. While that’s the good news, the reality is that there’s a lot more to the Portuguese alphabet than simply understanding how many letters it has. For instance, each letter is understandably pronounced in a different way than it is in English, and it’s crucial that non-native Portuguese speakers find a way to learn both the letters of the Portuguese alphabet and their accompanying sounds. If you are a beginner and you’re learning Portuguese for the first time, then it’s important to take the time to learn the Portuguese alphabet properly and have it ideally fully committed to memory. This is because, once you know the alphabet back to front, it should really help you learn other aspects of the language, whether that’s writing in Portuguese or listening to others speak in Portuguese or Brazilian Portuguese. With that in mind, there are a few learning methods that you can try in order to memorise the Portuguese alphabet:
- Try to learn the letters and how they are pronounced by grouping them together – perhaps into groups of three to five letters, or by learning the vowels separately to the consonants;
- Regularly test yourself on your knowledge of the Portuguese alphabet – for instance, can you recite it back to front?; and
- See if it helps to find a rhyme or song that teaches you the alphabet in Portuguese – it may help you commit it to memory.
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How To Master Portuguese Pronunciation
As noted above, Portuguese pronunciation is known to be a bit tricky for English speakers to master. This is in part due to the fact that Portuguese is not a phonetic language. This means that the way a word is pronounced in Portuguese does not necessarily mirror how that word is written. This means that, in order to improve your speaking skills in Portuguese, you should ideally try to learn how Portuguese letters are commonly pronounced, and how common combinations of Portuguese letters (for example, CH) are pronounced. Additionally, one way to really improve your Portuguese pronunciation is to develop your listening and speaking skills in Portuguese. By regularly speaking with a Portuguese native speaker, or by listening to Portuguese language shows or radio programmes, you may find that:
- You have a better understanding of how Portuguese native speakers pronounce common greetings and expressions;
- You have a chance to ask a Portuguese native speaker whether you’re pronouncing certain words correctly; and
- Your Portuguese comprehension skills improve overall.
Finally, bear in mind that Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese are spoken differently. This means that, if you’d like to learn Brazilian Portuguese, that it may be better to focus on speaking with Brazilian Portuguese speakers and listening to Brazilian Portuguese more than you listen to Portuguese people and Portuguese-language shows, and vice versa. Superprof has a range of tutors that specialise in either Brazilian Portuguese or Portuguese, meaning that you should be able to find a tutor in your local area or online that can help you learn the type of Portuguese that you would like.
Basic Portuguese Grammar
Another key aspect of learning Portuguese is to understand the fundamentals of Portuguese grammar. While grammar often isn’t considered a particularly fun or exciting aspect of a language to learn, the fact is that understanding a language’s grammar is key to developing your proficiency in that language. For instance, once you’ve learnt basic Portuguese grammar, you should be able to do things such as:
- Conjugate basic regular and irregular Portuguese verbs in the present tense;
- Understand basic Portuguese syntax and construct your own sentences in Portuguese;
- Know the genders of common Portuguese nouns.
What’s more, once you’ve learnt the very basics of Portuguese grammar, you can continue to build upon your existing knowledge. For example, you can start to learn more complex tenses in Portuguese, from the future and past tenses to the conditional. This, in turn, should improve your proficiency in Portuguese, and transform you into an intermediate or even advanced learner, as opposed to a complete beginner. When you first start learning Portuguese grammar, there are a few different approaches that you can try:
- Try to identify which aspects of Portuguese grammar are most important to you as you learn the language – for example, are you more interested in being able to say common phrases and expressions, or do you want to know what the most common Portuguese nouns and verbs are?; or
- Spend some time developing your knowledge of all fundamental grammatical areas – from your vocabulary to your knowledge of pronouns and understanding of the Portuguese alphabet and how certain letters and words are pronounced.
The main thing is to try and ensure that you practice Portuguese grammar regularly, regardless of whether you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese or Portuguese. This is because committing basic grammar rules to memory will make it easier to learn more complex areas of the language, and should improve your overall level of proficiency in Portuguese. If you need any help learning Portuguese grammar, you could always try to reach out to a tutor at Superprof for some bespoke grammar exercises to make sure that you are improving your overall knowledge of Portuguese.
Learn How To Write In Portuguese
When you learn a foreign language, you’re often told that you should develop four different skills in order to improve your knowledge of that language. Those skills are:
- Your ability to read in the foreign language (reading skills);
- Your ability to write in the foreign language (writing skills);
- Your ability to speak in the foreign language (speaking skills); and
- Your ability to listen in the foreign language (listening skills).
Ideally, none of these skills should be developed in pure isolation. This is because often, the skills can complement one another. For example, when you speak to someone in Portuguese, you’re not only developing your speaking skills, but you’re also training your listening skills when you listen to your friend or conversation partner respond to what you were saying. While every Portuguese learner should take the time to develop each of the above four skills, it is equally true that some skills generally take longer to master. In this sense, many people find that they would like to improve their Portuguese writing skills, either because they feel that they write too slowly in Portuguese, or often find that they make grammatical or spelling mistakes. When it comes to improving your level of written Portuguese, then your first port of call if you’re a beginner is to make sure that you’ve got a solid grip on the Portuguese alphabet and the fundamentals of Portuguese grammar and syntax and to revise these areas regularly. Once you’ve mastered that, or if you’re an intermediate or advanced learner, then one great way to improve your Portuguese writing skills is to set some time aside to practice writing in Portuguese. Regardless of whether you prefer to write your own small pieces in Portuguese, or you’d rather copy out passages from textbooks, newspaper articles, or books, regularly writing in a foreign language can not only increase your writing speed, but by reading works in Portuguese and copying them down, you’re also working on your overall Portuguese comprehension skills. Ultimately, if you want to learn Portuguese from scratch, or would like to improve your existing level of Brazilian Portuguese or Portuguese, there are plenty of techniques and study approaches you can use to improve your proficiency. The key is having some regular practice and having the commitment to study and ask questions to a tutor or teacher if you’re unsure of the meaning of a particular word or a particular point of grammar. Remember, if you feel stuck when learning Portuguese, you could consider hiring a Portuguese tutor from Superprof, who can help guide and encourage you to improve your understanding of Portuguese as a foreign language.
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