"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

(Nelson Mandela)

In the United States, Portuguese is amongst one of the most popular secondary languages, with the American Cultural Survey estimating over 800,000 fluent speakers across the country.

During the late 19th Century, a sizable Portuguese community gathered in the cities North End, East Cambridge, and East Boston. Although the population had depleted during the 20th Century, the city welcomes a notable size of Portuguese speakers every year.

The Archives of Boston had also recorded that more people speak Portuguese as their second language than French, and have even gone as far as to say that the language is secondary to English due to its ever-growing community. 

This influx of Portuguese speakers across the city is mainly accredited for those that have traveled from South America, particularly Brazil, which is the largest country in the world for Portuguese speakers with a population of over 200 million people. 

So, if you are looking to develop your Portuguese speaking skills and you are based in the great city of Boston, you truly are spoilt for choice when it comes to the variance of opportunities at your doorstep. 

Portuguese Learning Opportunities in Boston

A student and teacher discuss practice Portuguese
Specialist language tutors usually offer an hourly rate and they often reduce their prices if sessions are purchased in bulk. (Source: Visualhunt)

Whilst the United States does not have a nationwide foreign-language mandate in its schools, many cities, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, are responsible for setting requirements for the state-schools within their sector. 

In Boston, from grades 6-10, students have the opportunity to learn either Spanish or Mandarin up until years 1-5.

These are each graded from levels 6-10 (respectably through each year group), and there is no obligation to study Portuguese.

Although some schools do offer this, most within the Boston area do not. 

Therefore, it is most likely that students going through the schooling system within the city haven’t received any learning opportunities when it comes to the language. 

If you have, as a student, decided to embark upon learning Spanish, you may find yourself with a head start upon proceedings.


This is because both of the languages derive from Latin, and it is been said that there is around a 90% lexical similarity between the two

Yet, although the majority of Spanish and Portuguese vocabulary may sound similar, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the same. 

This is because of the differences in both pronunciation and syntax; with the latter being defined as the arrangements of words within a sentence. 

So, although you may have a strong understanding of the Spanish language, you may find yourself in trouble when it comes to understanding and communicating with others in Portuguese. 

Portuguese Courses in Boston 

A Portuguese flag
As well as one-to-one tutors, there is an abundance of structured evening classes in which aspiring Portuguese speakers can learn together. (Source: Visualhunt)

With such a high number of residents speaking fluent Portuguese, it opens the door to a range of opportunities for those on the lookout to enhance their speaking and writing skills. 

Across the city, there are a wealth of daytime, evening, and weekend language programs that are run by specialized language teachers. 

The Boston Language Institute offers a Portuguese program for students that takes place over a period of 6 levels of proficiency, and students are able to choose the time in which they partake in each lesson in accordance with their personal schedules. 

They also offer immersion programs in which small groups of students can sign up together for a crash course experience to help them develop their knowledge of the language within a reduced period of time.

The Boston Area Spanish Exchange (BASE, and don’t be fooled by the name), also offer Portuguese programs for prospective students. 

Centralized in the Boston area (unfortunately not yet in Cambridge), they offer courses that take part over particular terms, and if you are not a beginner, you may well be in luck!

A quick scan through their website uncovers programs that are targeted towards different levels of proficiency, so if you already have a firm grasp over the basics, you can enroll in both intermediate and advanced programs. 

Although such courses can be widely popular amongst linguist enthusiasts, it isn’t the only option. 

Many students prefer to work independently and take it upon their own accord through the use of the library and online resources. 

Although this can suit some, there are unfortunately a number of disadvantages when it comes to riding solo. 

Firstly, your conversational skills will not be tested for your eyes are likely to be glued to a screen or deep within the confines of a textbook. 

Therefore, if you can’t find opportunities to discuss your learning as well as conversing in the language, you may find that your speaking and listening skills may not develop as quickly as you wish. 

So, what are the alternatives?

The Benefits of Hiring a Personal Tutor

Similar to Houston and Chicago, Boston boasts a plethora of language centers across the city.

Although some of the programs may well fit the needs of some, others may find it both distracting and lacking a personal touch: this is where one-to-one tutoring comes in. 

Due to there being such a high concentration of Portuguese speakers in the city, many of them offer their language skills as a service. 

There are a wealth of associated benefits when it comes to one-to-one tutoring, these include: 

The personal touch. The difference between tutoring and group-based learning is that many students can often feel isolated in a large group. With a one-to-one approach, the tutor can concentrate on one student, and therefore the attention to detail is far greater. 

A tutor can identify and work on your weaknesses. Language learning can at times be incredibly challenging. With the Portuguese language said to have over 170,000 words within its itinerary, memorization becomes an integral process. 

A tutor will support you with the delivery of such words whilst grouping them in terms of importance and relevance to the present. Also, they can identify which areas of your knowledge are lacking to ensure you are best supported in areas of your learning you may find challenging.  

Error correction, explanation, and feedback are immediate. One of the most current effective teaching methods is the act of immediate feedback. When in a group-based learning situation, you aren’t entitled to this as there are more students in the class, with a one-to-one tutor, this can be done so throughout each scheduled session. 

The student contributes to the course of the lesson. Unlike group-based learning, your tutor will be spending their time actively involve the learner. This allows for a greater time in which the student is discussing and revising vocabulary and sentence structures to help develop their speaking and listening skills at an improved rate. 

The student works at their own chosen speed. When there are fellow students in the class, it is only natural that people endorse and comprehend information in different ways and this influences the speed at which the teacher will conduct their lessons. 

For some learning principles it may take longer, whereas, for others i.e. grammar-based learning, it may be quicker. If the student is working explicitly with a tutor/mentor, they can be sure to work at a pace that is reflective of their own choosing. 

Portuguese Tutors in Boston

From native Brazilian speakers to those that have learned the language from Portugal, there is an abundance of tutors willing to take new students immediately. 

A glance at Superprof’s website will introduce you to those that are currently available to take on regular tutoring sessions. 

From Providence, Hadley, Witham to inner-city Boston areas; it is important for students to identify how close a prospective tutor is, and if either you or they will be willing to travel. 

Many of the tutors include this within their profile, and as a student, you must decide if you are willing to commute to partake in regular sessions, or if you wish for them to be taken at your home.

With the developments of technology, an increasingly popular choice has been to conduct language lessons online. Through the use of Skype, Zoom, or even Facetime, tutors have been opting to conduct their lessons online, and there are a range of benefits (as well as downfalls) associated with this approach. 

First, the commuting issue for both students and tutors is resolved. For no longer will either have to set foot from their home to partake in a lesson. 

Also, there can be an effective use of sharing resources through a shared file, and tutors often opt for a shared google drive in which both can access - this also reduces paper waste and allows the tutor to check on the student's developments in-between scheduled learning sessions. 

Although there are such benefits associated with online language learning, it is said that some students believe it reduces the more personal edge toward face-to-face tutoring, and when the connection of your Wi-Fi at times acts poorly, it can negatively affect the fluency of the lesson. 


Finding the Best Portuguese Tutor For You 

The word you as graffiti on a wall
Looking to learn Portuguese? There are a wealth of opportunities available at your doorstep. (Source: Visualhunt)

Outlining what it is you wish to achieve from hiring a personal tutor is incredibly important. 

With so many people offering their services on the Superprof website, each come with differing levels of experience and expertise within language teaching, and as said earlier, this can reflect the overall cost. 

Let’s analyze a few profiles to help identity which tutors may be applicable, depending on the student's language proficiency and specific goals. 

A professor with over thirty years of language teaching experience, boasting a master's in linguistics and has worked with students at various levels from elementary/foundation to those with a fundamental grasp of the language. 

This particular profile is impressive, simply down to the individual’s amount of experience. So, if you were a complete beginner, this could be a viable match, but also experienced Portuguese speakers may also benefit from the tutor's expertise to move them to a more advanced level. 

Fundamentally, the choice relies on the expertise the tutor holds, and how that reflects the ambitions and aptitude of the student. 

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