Roadmaps to Fluency


Here are some goals you might set for yourself as a beginner:

  1. know the sounds of the language and learn how to make them
  2. know all the subject pronouns (eu, você, ele, a gente, etc) and when to use them
  3. know some basic greetings and conversational skills (hello, goodbye, what’s your name?, how are you?)
  4. know the definite and indefinite articles (um, uma, o, a, os, as)
  5. know how to ask questions using question words (quem, o que, quando, onde, porque, como, qual, quanto)
  6. internalize a bit of the sentence structure of Portuguese
  7. know the basic differences between ser and estar and know how to conjugate them
  8. know how to conjugate a few common irregular verbs like ter and ir
  9. learn the top 20 commonly used verbs
  10. be able to count to 20
  11. know some words for everyday things – colors, foods, days of the week
  12. learn how to conjugate regular -ar, -er, and -ir verbs in the present tense and how to make them negative
  13. learn some basic prepositions (em, de, para) and how they contract with articles (no, na, do, da)
  14. learn the basic conjunctions (e, ou, mas)

And here are some resources you might use:

Portuguese in 10 Minutes a Day to start picking up some basic vocabulary

Língua da Gente podcast – an audio course for beginners, from the outstanding BrazilPod project

Semantica Series 1 videos to get exposed to the sound of Brazilian Portuguese and learn some basic phrases and grammar

Tá Falado pronunciation podcasts, to study pronunciation in more depth

PortuguesePod101 to learn beginner vocabulary and grammar

A textbook like Muito Prazer or Teach Yourself Brazilian Portuguese to start learning some basic grammar

Pimsleur Comprehensive Level I to get you speaking and listening

StreetSmart Brazil to practice conversation and learn basic grammar

I’m certainly not suggesting using all of these simultaneously, just giving some options that you can choose from depending on your learning style and your budget. If you have very little time to study, any of these would be fine on its own. But if you have more time, by using different resources together you can make up for the weaknesses of each one and learn in a balanced way.

As reference materials and tools, you could use:

  • Linguee, to quickly look up new words
  • Forvo, to hear the pronunciation of words
  • Anki, to help you study vocabukary

Finally, here’s some ways you might combine these resources to produce a well-rounded study regimen if you really want to accelerate your learning.

Every day, or every other day,

  • spend 10 minutes working through 10 Minutes a Day
  • listen to one half-hour Pimsleur lessons

Every few days,

  • watch a new Semantica video (watch 2 or 3 times)
  • listen to a Tá Falado podcast

Every week, or every two weeks,

  • schedule a one-hour StreetSmart Brazil lesson

Every month,

  • aim to complete one chapter in your textbook

Low Intermediate

Go through the Tá Falado grammar podcasts

Move on to Pimsleur Level II

PortuguesePod101 low intermediate series

High Intermediate

Get a copy of Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar. Best $45 you will ever spend.

Get the Frequency Dictionary of Portuguese or 501 Portuguese Verbs and start learning some verbs.

For listening practice, check out ClicaBrasilSemantica Series 2, and PortuguesePod101‘s intermediate & advanced level audio lessons.

Keep a language notebook for writing down new vocabulary, and use Anki to help you memorize the new words you learn.

Read, as much you can.

You might be ready for a more advanced textbook. I suggest Português via Brasil, Panorama Brasil, Novo Avenida Brasil 2 and 3, and  Para a Frente.


Conversa Brasileira

Semántica Advanced series

9 Responses to Roadmaps to Fluency

  1. Adam says:

    Your site has been very helpful, thank you!! I’ve gone through John Whitlam’s book at least 5 times, and looking for something to continue with. I purchased Português via Brasil but it seems a bit academic/ formal and geared towards a class lesson or to be used with a tutor. By any chance have you checked out Modern Portuguese by Mario A. Perini? I’ve read that it is quite controversial as it teaches very colloquial/ “incorrect grammar. However some seem to write that it is helpful…

    Also just want to add that the series “O Mundo Segundo os Brasileiros” has been extremely helpful in learning Portuguese and fun to watch. The whole series is on YouTube. There is also a european portuguese version “Portugueses pelo mundo”. Great way to pickup spoken Brazilian portuguese as well as learn some of the linguistic differences in other lusophone countries (Angola, Mozambique, Portugal), from the point of view of Brazilians living there.

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Adam, I do own Perini’s book and you might have even read my review on Amazon. It is a very thick tour-de-force of a book that is without a doubt the most comprehensive grammar I have seen. Perini is a linguist and he has essentially tried to write a grammar of the language in all its different registers, from formal to very informal. It’s not a textbook, and I dare say it’s not even really intended for language students at all because he uses a lot of linguistic jargon and gets into some excruciating detail at some points. His approach was basically repackaged into a more student-friendly format by Whitlam. But if you are looking for something similar to Whitlam’s book that gets a little more into the weeds, then you might enjoy it — I certainly have.

    • Lauren says:

      Also, thanks for sharing O Mundo Segundo os Brasileiros!

  2. Adam says:

    Yea love it- my favorite tv show! Also find it interesting to hear how the Brazilian speakers who have lived for many years in other lusophone countries have adapted their language and accents.

    Another documentary on YouTube you may enjoy is, “Línguas: Vidas em Português” :

    Thanks for the input on Perini’s book! Definitely intrigued to check it out as it has such intense and varying reviews.

  3. Adam says:

    Hi Lauren,

    Would you say that Perini’s book helps with understanding very colloquial “street” Portuguese? I’m pretty fluent but when I find myself in some situations or watching certain Brazilian films I have a hard time understanding everything.

    Or are there any other books or methods you would recommend to improve with this?


    • Lauren says:

      Hey Adam, Perini is not going to help much with that, though if you’re like me, and it sounds like you are, you might enjoy it anyway. I’ve found that the problem in understanding real world Brazilian speech is often not street slang exactly (for which the Dicionário Informal is useful) but some combination of rapid speech/clipping of words, idiomatic expressions (cadê instead of onde está, xô ver instead of deixa eu ver), and ‘wrong’ (but common) grammar. I think the solution is to do more active listening with structured, native-speed input — but it’s hard to find good content for that. Two things that helped me:

      1) BrazilPod’s Conversas Brasileiras. SO MUCH advanced stuff here that will never be taught in any book, and the commentary tracks are fascinating (to me anyway :-)

      2) Semántica’s advanced video series

      Learning the understand the language that Brazilians actually speak is a HUGE issue for Portuguese education and one that no one has really solved yet. I think most people just pick it up ad hoc by living in-country over many years. But I’m really interested in writing about this, so please let me know what you find that works for you!

      • Natalia S says:

        Hi, Lauren,

        thanks so much for this website — it’s super helpful. I’m Brazilian, but I’ve lived in the Bay Area for five years and I’m now trying to help my American boyfriend learn Portuguese. We’re off to visit my family in June, so we’re trying to pick up the pace, and I found the website as I was looking for materials that would allow us to do that. (Your review sold me on a subscription to Semântica, by the way. :))

        Listening has proved really difficult (which we expected, of course), so I’ve been thinking a lot about the best ways to work on that skill. I thought it might be helpful to produce an audio resource in which I record some sentences at 3 speeds: first, slow, word-by-word; second, slow, but featuring all the contractions and liaisons of normal speech (I’m a linguist, btw); third, natural speech. It will probably be a little while longer before he can benefit from that, but it seems like a decent idea, and it sort of sounds like it might help address the problems discussed in this thread. But I’m not sure how to come up with a good set of sentences that would make for productive examples.

        Do you have any thoughts on that?

        Thanks for all your great work!

  4. Yom says:

    Olá Lauren! Totally relieved that a very comprehensive website for learning Portuguese exists! :) I’ve been browsing through its contents and so far I think almost everything’s been covered by your posts. It’s interesting to note that there’s actually a good number of materials for Portuguese, though a huge number is currently unavailable here in the Philippines.

    At the moment, I have ‘Teach Yourself Brazilian Portuguese’ and ‘Portuguese: An Essential Grammar’ (published by Routledge). I’m actually thinking of using them together – Teach Yourself with its audio to pick up the basics (e.g., phrases, vocabulary, and grammar), then the grammar book to further support my learning. What do you think about that? :)

    Also, do you have individual reviews for these materials? And will this be enough for around three months of learning conversational Portuguese?

    Hope you could answer my questions as I feel eager to learn the language and get the hang of it. I can’t wait for the day when I get to read ‘The Alchemist’ or football-related news in Portuguese. :)

    Muito obrigado!

    • Lauren says:

      Oi Yom – I too bought Portuguese: An Essential Grammar when I first started, but I don’t recommend it. It was published in 1966 and teaches a very formal (and European-biased, which may or may not be what you want) version of Portuguese that is quite a far cry from how most people speak today. I recommend instead John Whitlam’s grammar book, which I review here.

      I have only limited experience with Teach Yourself. From what I have seen it is alright, but rather dry. It seems to me that the book+cd approach is becoming a rather outmoded way to study languages on your own.

      I still think Pimsleur is the fastest way to get conversational in 3 months short of finding a good teacher. It too is dry and overly formal at first, but the fact that it is 100% conversational has much to recommend it. I think it serves as an excellent foundation for whatever comes next.

      Have you also considered the BrazilPod/Semántica/StreetSmart Brazil trifecta? All very enjoyable and modern approaches to self-study.

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