Bem-vindo!

There are a lot of websites for learning Portuguese out there. This isn’t one of them. This is a website about how to learn Portuguese, as intelligently and efficiently as possible. Hacking Portuguese refers to hacking in the sense of “any sort of trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency“. Recently, some linguaphiles on the web have been applying the art of hacking to language learning. On this site, we’ll look at how we can apply these techniques to learning Portuguese in particular.

Because hacking any language involves having the right tools and resources at your disposal, much of this site is dedicated to collecting and reviewing the resources that are out there. I’ve spent the last 3.5 years obsessively combing through every book, audio course, app, video, podcast, and blog I could find in my own journey to become fluent in Brazilian Portuguese. This website is the result of all that effort, a place to share with you those resources that I’ve found to be indispensable for motivated learners. I hope the tools here will be useful for both intermediate students who want to reach fluency faster, and for beginners wondering where to start. I’ll also apologize up front that though the name of this website is not Hacking Brazilian Portuguese, there is a deep Brazilian bias to this site that reflects my own love of Brazilian culture.

So what’s so great about Portuguese?

Portuguese is one of the world’s most beautiful and expressive languages, spoken by 300 million people in Brazil, Portugal, five African countries, three southeast Asian principalities, and Brazilian expat communities throughout North America, Europe and Japan. It is a truly international language, the fifth or sixth most spoken in the world depending on how you count, with two main dialects (Brazilian and European) and numerous creoles with African languages. It’s the most spoken language in South America (nope, not Spanish!) and, in fact, in the entire southern hemisphere:

Learning-Portuguese-Which-Country

While similar to Spanish in many ways, it has a distinctly different sound and grammar, which render it only semi-intelligible to Spanish speakers. The sound of the language varies widely between Portugal, Africa, and the different regions of Brazil. Have a listen to some of these diverse sounds of Portuguese: Alice Sant’Anna (Rio de Janeiro) , Caetano Veloso (Bahía, Brasil) , Seu Jorge (Rio de Janeiro) , Marina Silva (Acre, Brasil)Cesária Évora (Cabo Verde, West Africa), Amália Rodrigues (Lisboa, Portugal). Here’s a bonus clip of the late Cesária singing in criolo, a Portuguese creole language that is the vernacular of Cabo Verde, an island nation off the coast of west Africa.

With Brazil poised to become the world’s first ‘developed’ nation in the tropics, Portuguese is becoming an increasingly important language for business, tourism, urban studies, environmental studies, and fans of Brazilian arts like samba and capoeira. Rio de Janeiro — already famous as the cultural capital of Brazil, home of samba, bossa nova, Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, Ipanema beach, favela culture, Maracanã football stadium, and Carnaval — will be even more in the spotlight when it hosts the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. The Amazon basin, the majority of which lies within Brazil, has global importance as a reservoir of cultural and biological diversity, as a major front in the debate over sustainable development, and as a crucial bastion against climate change.

A roadmap to fluency in Portuguese

When I first started learning a bit of Portuguese in 2009, little did I know that I would fall in love with it so much that two years later I’d be reading newspapers, writing blog posts, and chatting with Brazilian friends entirely in Portuguese. Little did I realize how bit by bit it would become a major part of my life, like playing music.

Learning a language has its challenges. There are every day hundreds more books, podcasts, youtube videos, iPhone apps, audio courses, blogs, social websites, desktop apps claiming to be able to teach us a new language. How do we sort through this mess, this information overload? How do we choose the best resources and create an actual plan for learning instead of spending all our time finding out what works and what doesn’t?

Since I began studying Portuguese, I’ve learned that there’s a lot of junk out there, and a lot of people out to make a quick buck from other people’s desire to learn a language. But there are also a few people and companies that have dedicated themselves to producing high-quality resources that can be invaluable for a self-learner.

This website is essentially what I wished I’d had when I started out: a roadmap to learning Portuguese. Instead of carving up the content into a million blog posts, I’ve decided to publish a small number of very comprehensive articles so that everything is well-organized and easy to find. Every page is constantly updated as I find and review new resources and integrate them into my own learning. On the blog, I’ll document my own journey through the language, posting about new things I learn, personal challenges, and philosophical musings on language learning. Aproveite!

31 Responses to Bem-vindo!

  1. Kevin MacDuff says:

    I saw your review of the Portuguese grammar book on Amazon and followed you here. I just picked up a Pimsleur CD set to learn Braz-Port, and am excited about moving to Rio within the next 2-3 years. I expect to glean a lot from your site (I taught English overseas for four years).

    • Lauren says:

      Kevin – thanks for your comment and congratulations on starting a new language! I think Pimsleur is a great way to start, just keep in mind that the language it teaches you at first is a bit overly formal. And please let me know if you have any questions about other resources.
      -Lauren

      • Kevin says:

        The woman from whom I get Thai massages is from Brazil, and I plan to locate other sources of authentic speech so I can practice. I am well aware that CD or computer-based language programs, if learned pedantically, will make you talk like you have books in your mouth.

        I already checked out your post on good learning sources and have ordered the Semantica and am trying to find the dictionaries.

        Oh, you’ll be hearing from me again and again!

        • Kevin-
          It’s even more nuanced than that, sort of like Arabic has one written and a different spoken language. Brazilian Portuguese is the same- Pimsleur teaches ‘theoretical’ Portuguese, and it was actually a detriment to me when I first moved here 6 months ago. I have yet to find anyone who talks like that, and I didn’t know simple phrases.

  2. Nate says:

    This site…wow. Incredible. I’m jealous of you – I also started in 2009 but I am nowhere near fluent. Congratulations, you’ve found some amazing stuff here.

  3. André Luiz Barreiros de Lima Rodrigues says:

    Lauren, sou brasileiro, carioca, primo da Daniela e adorei o seu website! É muito bom ver o seu interesse na língua portuguesa, pois ela é realmente muito bonita! Eis um link de uma música de Portugal cantada por uma portuguesa (Dulce Pontes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCahD0M9cv4&feature=related e outro da mesma música, interpretada por uma brasileira http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clZo4_DOMxs (Lucila Lopes). Tente perceber a diferença de sotaque! Beijos!

    • Lauren says:

      E aí André, muito obrigada por dar um pulo no meu site e por escrever uma mensagem tão gentil! Já aprendi muito de português (e claro um pouco de carioquês) da sua prima talentosa. Que fado dramático que vc me mandou, né? Curti as músicas e consegui perceber sim a diferença de sotaque – pra falar a verdade, eu prefiro o sotaque brasileiro pq é mais distinto de espanhol, com seu próprio som único.
      beijo grande,
      Lauren

      • Romero says:

        Ola pessoal!
        Parabens pela iniciativa de voces. So gostaria de salientar que os videos em questao nao sao o melhor exemplo das diferencas entre os sotaques do portugues falado no Brasl e em Portugal porque a cantora brasileira canta imitando um pouco o sotaque portugues, por isso, a diferenca nao fica tao evidente.

        Um abraco.

        P.S. Nao consigo colocar acentos nas palavras no meu palmtop porque ele foi importado. Sorry! rsrs

        • Lauren says:

          Romero – você refere à brasileira Marisa Montes, no vídeo em que ela canta com Cesária Évora, não é? Isso é uma muito boa observação que eu não percebi antes. Espero que os outros vídeos sirvam de exemplo do português brasileiro no lugar desse.

        • Lauren says:

          Ah, desculpa, acabei de ver que o seu comentário foi uma resposta a aquele do André. Faz mais sentido agora!

          • Romero says:

            Exatamente, Lauren!
            Eu nao tinha tido tempo de esclarecer, mas voce percebeu antes disso.
            Valeu!

            P.S. Fico constrangido de escrever sem acentos numa pagina que divulga nossa lingua. Pode passar a impressao, para os menos familiarizados com o Portugues, de que eles (os acentos) nao sao importantes

  4. Nasha says:

    I want to thank you for this website. This is one of my favorite portuguese site.

  5. Marcelo says:

    Olá Lauren.
    Agora é a minha vez de apertar a tecla sap e escrever em Português hehe.
    Fiquei encantado com o seu site e interesse pela lingua Portuguesa, fico admirado quando vejo um Americano/a querendo aprender Português.
    Como descrevi no meu blog, eu sou apaixonado pelo Inglês Americano, gostaria de poder falar Inglês como falo Português, tenho fé e persistência que esse dia chegará.
    Foi muito legal descobrir o seu site, de hoje em diante vou ficar antenado nele! :-)
    Parabéns pelo seu site/blog e sucessos no seu aprendizado.
    Um abraço.
    Marcelo

  6. Vivien says:

    Hi there, great work here…

    I’d like to know if any of you could refer me to a good brazilian radio station: 90% talk shows and 10% music to help me improve the hearing & listening.

    If you have any other suggestions to help me improve my hearing apart from movies & sope operas (I can’t find free time to sit before the tv) don’t hesitate I’m all ears!

    Thanks

  7. Lissette says:

    Hi Lauren,

    I’ve spent the past few days going through your site – it’s so well organized, informative, and inspiring! Is there some kind of Portuguese language group that you’re a part of where you practice speaking that you could recommend? I live in Southern CA, and if you don’t know of a specific group, maybe you know of a site I could check out besides something like meetup.com? Obrigada!

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Lissette! I’m in Los Angeles, and the only informal groups I know of that are free to join are the ones on meetup.com – there’s one that meets in Santa Monica, one in Long Beach, and one in Orange County. In fact, there’s a meetup happening this Saturday in SM.

      I can also recommend my teacher, Gisele Losso, who runs small group classes around the LA area for about $30/session, in addition to private tutoring. She has a website that you can google and is also on facebook. And of course Street Smart Brazil up in SF offers fairly inexpensive conversational practice via Skype.

      The only other alternative I can think of is to find a language exchange partner — hard to come by, but I did meet someone once by posting on a blog for Brazilian english language students.

      Thanks for stopping by, and do let me know if I can be of any more help.

  8. Lissette says:

    Awesome, thanks a lot!

  9. Patrick says:

    Hi Lauren, I am happy to stumble upon your site! I just returned from Brazil, Ilha Grande and Ipanema (my first visit) It was the most wonderful vacation I have ever had! Though my mother spoke Portuguese with my grandmother (from Madera) when I was a child, I never picked up on it. I want to take Portuguese classes and appreciate all you have to offer in guidance on your site! I have asked my friend, Samba instructor Valeria Ruggieri to source a good instructor in the LA area. She has a name she will share at samba class tonight. I noticed your mention of Gisele Losso. I left her a phone message yesterday and hope to hear from her soon. So.. After work today I am going to pour through your site. Thank you so much for all of your insight and research!
    -Patrick

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Patrick, thanks for stopping by and welcome back from Rio! I never got to Ilha Grande but it sure looks beautiful. Madeira is another place I’d like to go someday. Glad you got in touch with Gisele – she’s a great teacher. Best of luck on starting Portuguese, and be sure to report back and let us know how it’s going. Tchauzinho!

  10. Patrick #2 says:

    Wow! Are you sure you’re a geologist? Maybe a reincarnated linguist!

    I read some of blog posts and you hit the linguistics dead on every time. It’s obvious you’ve put a lot of work into this (not to mention you are very intelligent).

    I also fell in love with Portuguese the same way you did. Unfortunately none of these blogs existed back when I was studying it, but I came to many of the same conclusions that you have concerning developing a plan and identifying ways to improve skill level. I noticed that after a certain point, many of the techniques I had previously used were no longer working very well so it takes some adaptation and flexibility, just like you wrote about.

    Just last year I was thinking about starting some type of blog/resource regarding Portuguese and Brazil but between you and the other blogs, you all seem to have it covered! Well done.

    Oh and to anybody who is on the edge on whether or not they want to try it…learn just a little bit and go visit Brazil. It will change your life in a positive way being able to talk to such wonderful people.

    -Patrick #2 (I’m a different Patrick)

  11. Mike says:

    Hi Lauren,

    Great Blog! We just created a new Portuguese app for the iPad called Noyo Portuguese

    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/noyo-portuguese-vocab-builder/id553381669?mt=8

    It is an app with over 200 interactive slides teaching 1800 words and phrases in Portuguese.

    I would love to offer you a free copy to review! I hope to hear from you. All the best,

    Mike@noyo.com

  12. Dharma says:

    Being Brazilian, I can say we grow up hearing we have to learn English, Spanish and any other languages. This makes us think no one cares about Portuguese. That’s why finding this website made me so happy, it’s just too cute knowing there are some of you out there who are willing to learn my precious language!

    Abraços!

    • Lauren says:

      Dharma, there are many of us English speakers who think that Portuguese is an exceptionally beautiful and useful language. Especially in California where I live, there is a large community of Brazilians and Brazil “enthusiasts” who enjoy Brazilian culture. Every year, for example, there is the very popular California Brazil Camp, and here in Hollywood we have not one but two annual Brazilian film festivals. I think as brazil is more in the news internationally, Portuguese will increasingly be seen as a vital world language.

  13. Mick O'leary says:

    Wow Lauren! Great resources on here. And you started learning portugues in 2009 and by 2011 you were reading newspapers and blogging???? You are a natural wonder! I’m learning 2 years now(started Pimsleur in April 2011)and feel a long way off fluency. I liked Pimsleur, but having completed levels 1-3, there are no more and I feel(or felt)a bit stranded, where to go next?

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Mick! First of all, congratulations on finishing all of Pimsleur, that is quite an accomplishment, not to mention a solid committment to the language. I really believe that Pimsleur gives you the best foundation for conversation of any of the beginner courses out there.

      From now on, there’s no one thing that’s going to take you on the next leg of the journey, so you’ve got to diversify. But there are many resources out there that can help you:

      1. Pimsleur teaches a very limited vocabulary, so you’ll want a vocab boost. Portuguese in 10 minutes a Day is a breezy, effortless book that gives you a solid foundation of the most common everyday words – clothing, colors, foods, etc. The Learn Everything Brazilian Portuguese Book is a similar book that focuses more on grammar.

      2. ClicaBrasil – this is a free online series for intermediate students that I like a lot. The lessons are all based on video interviews with Brazilians that will sharpen your listening skills.

      3. Semantica – Series 1 will be mostly review for you (tho if you feel like you could use a review, it’s very good). Series 2 will probably be tough to understand. But sometime in the next month (I hope!), they will release their new Intensivo series which will fill the gap, and though I’ve only seen previews I know it’s going to be great.

      4. You’ve probably spent a lot of time talking back to a recording. Now is the time to find a person to practice with. There are all kinds of ways to do this, on skype vs in-person, a paid tutor vs. a language exchange friend. This is where this page comes in. Personally, I have had a wonderful experience with StreetSmart Brazil. If you do just one thing on this list, give them a shot. They will evaluate where you’re at and build a custom lesson plan for you (and tell Luciana I sent you, she may give you a discount on the first one).

      5. Get a good textbook, if you don’t have one yet. One of the best, but unfortunately very expensive, is Muito Prazer. A cheaper alternative that is still very good is Ponto de Encontro. You could then focus on doing one chapter a month. Another book you may want to have eventually as a reference is Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar.

      6. In terms of paid online courses, the best one at this stage is PortuguesePod101.com. The lessons aren’t quite as thorough as I would like, but there is enough graded material here to keep you busy for at least a year.

      I’m not suggesting you do ALL of these, just giving you options. But no matter what you choose, always think about being “well-rounded” — that is, take time to practice all 4 modes of communication: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

      So you’ve already got a good foundation — give it another year of study using some of these tools, and trust me, you will feel MUCH closer to fluency by the end!

      um abraço,
      Lauren

  14. Asbjorn says:

    Hi!

    Thank you for getting my Portuguese going again with all the awsome recommendations listed on this site. Had some of the books already, Falar…Ler…Escrever…, and have now bought memberships on The Portuguese Pod 101 and Semantica. Very good material! My wife is from Natal and I’m visiting Brazil for the first time in 2 months. I really need to get my listening going as the spoken language is very hard to dicipher even though one’s vocabulary is quite good and for that the mentioned material is really good. I want to recommend comic books and magazines in BP such as Pato Donald. You can learn quite a lot from the dialogues which are not so far from spoken language. :-)

  15. Drew says:

    http://tatoeba.org/eng/

    This is a extremely useful website when you want many example sentences of a word.

  16. Timon says:

    Hey Lauren,

    First of all I think you’re doing a great job on your website, keep up the good work!

    I read your list of most frequently used verbs and based on that made a new Anki set for the first 100 verbs, English to Portuguese, inlcluding the conjugation in the present tense. In case you’re interested in sharing it on your website let me know, I think it could definitely benefit people just starting to study Portuguese.

    Kind regards,

    Timon

  17. Georgia says:

    Could you post something about the differences between european and brazilian portuguese? Such as if one were to learn and study from these brazilian portuguese guides could they still go to Portugal and be able to speak and understand the locals? Or are the two dialects too different?

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