Being able to speak Portuguese, even a few words, is a huge advantage for anyone planning to move to this lovely country. Yes, many Portuguese people, especially those under 40, speak very good English. They are ready to help you even if you start off speaking to them in their own language. But they are usually delighted when you show that you’ve made the effort to learn and they will often compliment you on your halting sentences.
Portugal is becoming a popular potential retirement destination for an increasing number of people from the US. If you are one of those considering a move, it is worth making a scouting trip to explore different parts of the country and get a feel for life here. It is also very valuable to familiarize yourself with the language before you come.
That said, if your pronunciation is off you may get blank stares even though you think you have said the word correctly. It’s worth mentioning that there is a big distinction between the Portuguese spoken in Portugal and that spoken in Brazil. Think about the variations between the English spoken in the UK, the United States and Australia. Or the Spanish spoken in Spain versus that used in Cuba, Mexico or Argentina.
Online language learning options
There are several online options to learn Portuguese. I followed an online course offered by Babbel.com. It was simple, practical and fun. The monthly subscription is currently $11.15 if you sign up for six months, less for longer subscriptions. Duolingo as an app you can use on your mobile phone with a free option. It gradually builds your vocabulary and grammatical skills. It also nags you daily to keep going. Babbel and Duolingo only offer the Brazilian version, but I still found them useful. After all, Portugal still has close ties with its former colony Brazil. There are hundreds of thousands of Brazilians now living in Portugal.
There are options for learning European Portuguese too. You can try the app Memrise, which does have a limited free version. There is also PracticePortuguese where you can listen to short conversations. If you subscribe, you can follow along with the text. The idea was developed by a Portuguese guy and his Canadian partner. It has useful information on the nitty gritty stuff like verbs as well. PortuguesewithLeo is a fun alternative available on YouTube.
Lost in translation?
There are of course a lot of Portuguese people who do not speak English. Some people use Google Translate to help them communicate in those situations. However, it’s not always foolproof. I know one woman who somehow managed to ask a very formal Portuguese man she met at a grand country hotel if he would marry her! Luckily he had a sense of humor. I have found the app Deepl to be very helpful when I need to translate a sentence quickly.
A couple of words and phrases that will stand you in good stead. “Casa de Banho” pronounced “cah-zah de bahnyo” means bathroom. A conta “ah cawn-tah” means the bill at a restaurant. Cerveja “ser-vay-zhya” means beer. Thank you is “Obrigado” for a man, “Obrigada” for a woman. “Bom dia” is good morning, “boa tarde” is good afternoon. So, good luck, or boa sorte, with learning Portuguese.
Follow my blog to learn about daily life in Portugal and check out my novel “The Power of Rain” on Amazon.