Brazilian Portuguese was the 6th language that I learned.
I actually didn’t find Portuguese that difficult. There are a few sounds that might be tricky in the beginning, but overall I would say it’s doable to become conversational in Portuguese in a few months.
Portuguese has lot of common vocabulary with Spanish, Italian, French, and even with English and which makes learning vocabulary much easier.
I’ve documented my entire Portuguese journey from the beginning. In this article I will show you step by step how I learned, which learning techniques I used, the challenges I had to face and I will share with you my best tips to become conversational in Portuguese quickly!
This article includes some very informative videos in which we demonstrate various learning techniques so keep reading…
At the end of 2013 I decided to go to Brazil to see if I could become conversational in Brazilian Portuguese in a month:
By the end of the month, this was the result:
One month is not enough to learn a language but it’s possible to reach a level at which you can hold conversations, even if you don’t understand everything.
But I wanted more than just that…
So by the end of 2014 I went back to Brazil where I spent another 2 months.
After having spent 3 months in Brazil in total, this was the result by the end of my Portuguese mission:
As you can see, it went much better after the 3rd month. I was not speaking like a native, but I was speaking and able to hold spontaneous conversations quite easily.
Once you reach a level at which you can hold conversations, it’s easier to improve your level by getting a lot of exposure to the language and a lot of speaking practice. Unfortunately many of us never get to that level and give up before reaching that level.
Let me tell you which 5 simple steps I followed to become conversational in Portuguese and in 9 other languages.
Step 1: Motivation
My English teacher at high school told me that I’d better choose a career for which I would not need English. That’s how bad I was at foreign languages. (I’m a native Dutch speaker).
But when I managed to become conversational in Mandarin after five months in China, I thought that I might actually become quite good at languages.
I had heard good stories about Brazil, so I decided to take on Brazilian Portuguese.
Just learning a language because you’ve heard good things about the country where the language is spoken is unfortunately not enough to become fluent in a foreign language.
Therefore, I had to look for other things that could motivate me and keep me accountable.
I decided to move to Brazil for a few months, document my learning journey and share my progress with everyone on my blog and on YouTube.
We don’t think it’s necessary to move to another country in order to learn a language, but it can motivate you for sure!
Your personal motivation to learn Portuguese can be different!
Maybe your partner is a Portuguese speaker, maybe you need it for your work, for your travels or maybe you’re just interested in the language and culture. It doesn’t really matter why you want to learn Portuguese as long as you at least have a very strong ‘’why’’!
Learning a language costs time and takes effort. If you’re reading this article and you’re interested in learning Portuguese (and I guess you are), ask yourself the question;
‘’Do you really want to learn Portuguese?”
”Do you know what it takes and are you ready to make an investment in yourself?’’
After having learned 10 languages myself and having worked with some of the world’s most accomplished polyglots, I can honestly tell you that you can’t learn a language effortlessly.
You need a strong ‘’why’’ and you need be able to enjoy the learning process in order to become successful.
Make a list with at least 10 reasons how learning Portuguese will make your life better.
Make sure that you know why it’s worth all the effort.
My personal motivation for learning Portuguese:
Making it easier for me to travel in Brazil and other Portuguese speaking countries.
Connect to Brazilians.
Learn another Romance language and to become a “real’’ polyglot.
Enjoy my stay in Brazil and experience as much as possible.
Documenting my learning journey and helping people to learn Portuguese.
Want to learn more about motivation?
Watch the video below in which I explain how important motivation is and how you can find motivation!
Are you still in?
Good, let’s continue with step #2 then!
Step 2: Create your Gameplan
Learning languages becomes more fun when you set goals for yourself and create a plan for how you can achieve those goals.Don’t be too ambitious; ‘’speak fluent Portuguese by the end of this year’’ sounds cool but it’s not very specific. Better, work with so-called ‘’mini-goals’’; goals that are relatively easy to accomplish within a few months or a few weeks.
My mini-goals for the first month were:
– Learn the 250 most important words in Portuguese.
– Hold a 15-minute conversation with a native speaker
– Travel to a Brazil and speak only Portuguese with waiters, taxi drivers etc.
How I reached those goals:
1. I took Portuguese lessons online with Lucas over Skype, something similar to theLanguage Boostcamp. We did not have the Boostcamp back then unfortunately. I took 4-5 lessons per week.
In the Language Boostcamp you learn the basics of the languages with an experienced tutor focusing on essential vocabulary and basic grammar.
We do this with many so-called interactive drill exercises.
To get an idea about how these drill exercises work and how you can do them yourself, watch the video below to see how we used drill exercises when I was learning Russian:
2. I studied relevant vocabulary for about 30 minutes per day. I had to make lists with relevant vocabulary myself as we didn’t haveVocaBooster Portuguese
If I could do this learning mission again I would definitely useVocaBooster Portuguese for this, as it would save me a lot of time!
4. I tried out the word and phrases I learned with the people in Brazil in restaurants and taxis.
Step 3: Learn the most important vocabulary
You need to find good language learning materials that teach you the most important words and phrases first.
Learning from books that teach you difficult words and tricky grammar can be overwhelming, frustrating and time consuming, so don’t do that!
Instead: Learn useful words and phrases that you can use straight away and create momentum!
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule) basically states that you get 80% of the results from 20% of the work. This principle can be applied in language learning as well.
Languages contain hundreds of thousands of words but only a fraction of them are used on a daily basis by native speakers and only a fraction of THOSE, are words that you need for your first conversations.
Your first conversations in a new language will always be the same; ‘’What’s your name?’’, ‘’Where are you from?’’, ‘’What do you do here?’’, ‘’Do you live here?’’, ‘’For how long have you studied…..?’’.
To create your first sentences you need words like; I, you, to like, can, to do, today, to want, to be, expensive, big etc.
You will be surprised by how many things you will be able to say by knowing only 200 words and knowing how to use them. Of course your speech will be limited, but it’s a great way to start!
So that’s exactly what I did, I only focused on the most relevant words in the beginning. Words I knew I was going to need often.
We’ve put a language course in which we focus on the most important vocabulary (VocaBooster), but you can use any resources you like to learn important vocabulary.
This is how we learn new words and phrases:
First I ‘’decode’’ the language in order to get an idea about how the language works. (input)
I listen to audio files to practice the pronunciation and it also helps me memorizing the words. (input)
I revise the vocabulary and phrases I learned using Spaced Repetition with Anki. (output)
Video: How I became conversational in Russian with VocaBooster (also available for Portuguese now)
Step 4: Speak and use what you know
Now that you have a basic idea about how the language works and you have learned your first words, it’s time to start speaking!
Don’t wait too long with speaking. Practicing the words and phrases you have just learned straight away is the perfect way not to forget them and it’s fun! We recommend that you start with your first speaking sessions right after you have made yourself familiar with the language (step 2), and you have learned your first 20-50 words and phrases in your new language. This is the scariest part of language learning and many people don’t do this!
This is also why most people give up at this stage. But not you, right? If you want to become a good language learner this is probably the most important step of all.
Why you shouldn’t wait too long to speak:
– Using the new words you have just learned in your speech will help you to memorize them better.
– By speaking you also find out what important words you are missing and what basic grammar features you need to know. – Speaking a new language is exciting, adds the human aspect, makes it something ‘’real’’ and is good for your momentum.
Now you might think by yourself ‘’how can I speak a language if I only know 100 words (or less)?’’
Two things are important here:
1. You need to be creative.
2. You need a good teacher or conversation partner who can make you speak with limited vocabulary.
In the beginning the main goal of your speaking sessions is to simply interact in your target language with the basic words you know. At this stage it’s not important what you say, it’s more about trying to say something and keep the conversation alive. Making mistakes is 100% allowed!
In this video we give a demonstration how you can ‘’speak’’ a language with very limited vocabulary. As you can see in the video, the role of the teacher is very important here, so make sure you find a good teacher online or join our bootcamps!
Step 5: Practice, practice, practice
It’s almost like going to the gym. There are tons of tricks you can apply in order to gain more muscle in less time but in the end, you need to do it regularly and you need to put in some hard work.
Many language learning products claim that learning can be almost effortless. Unfortunately it’s not. The real reason why some people succeed in language learning and others don’t is that some people don’t have enough motivation and willingness to practice the language over a longer period of time.
Sometimes, it might seem to be too difficult, but in fact it’s only a matter of more practice.
If a baby can learn a language then so can you. It takes a child about 6 years to ‘’speak’’ their first language. We assure you that with the right attitude you can do it in much less time.
As you can see in the videos, I’m not super fluent in Portuguese (yet), but at this stage the way forward is to keep finding fun ways to keep practicing it.
Learning Portuguese has bought me many good things in life. I still have many unforgettable experiences in Brazil and speaking the local made is what made it possible. Lucas, who helped me with my Portuguese in Sao Paulo ended up to become the person I would start LanguageBoost with.
Also when I travel around the world, I often get the opportunity to speak Portuguese with people from Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde or recently even with someone from Mozambique!
Today it has been 3 years that I went on this language mission and although I haven’t used my Portuguese very often recently, I still do remember most of it.
Watch the video below to watch an interview I did on the Cape Verdean radio in Portuguese last month:
I hope this article gave you some insights on how you can get the most out of your Portuguese learning mission (or any other language).
Do you know someone else who wants to learn Portuguese?
Please share this article with them!
What do you think of my study plan? Is there anything you disagree with? Let me know on our Facebook page!
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