Learning European Portuguese

portugal flag isolated on the blue sky waving in the wind

While Portuguese is spoken all over the world, it can be challenging to find good online resources for learning European Portuguese.

You can use Duolingo, but at this time, they only support Brazilian Portuguese, and while Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese do share many common words, there are many words that are wildly different (even sometimes confusing or offensive to each other!) so they are not interchangeable. Given the number of Brazilians in Portugal, you’ll likely be understood, but if you’re planning on moving there, you should really be learning European Portuguese.

I’ve been sifting through resources for quite some time, so I figured I’d share the best ones I’ve found. They’re not all free, but if I’m recommending them, it’s because I’ve actually used them and the ones you have to pay for are worth it.

Note: On the Brazilian Portuguese vs European Portuguese front, it’s far better to use DeepL over Google Translate for word/phrase translations, since DeepL will give you a choice between Portuguese and Brazilian, while Google Translate will only provide Brazilian Portuguese as an option which can lead you down some awkward paths in Portugal.

Practice Portuguese (iOS/Web) – This is by far one of the best resources I’ve found. They do have some limited free resources, but it’s absolutely worth it to pay the monthly/annual subscription. They use real, local Portuguese speakers with real accents, which gives you a crash course on how to train your ear for what to listen for. Comprehending the accent is a HUGE part of what makes Portuguese so tough, so seeing and listening to native Portuguese people speaking at a normal pace (fast!) is a huge help (though they also have slower versions of most phrases if you get stuck) and the writing exercises are really useful. They also focus a lot on idioms and grammar, and have a podcast as well as audio quizzes where they present a dialog scenario and you have to figure out what’s going on.

The recording analysis when you have to speak is surprisingly good as well.

Portuguese with Leo (Web) – His YouTube channel and paid courses are all excellent, and his main focus is on pronunciation. He speaks slowly and clearly, but sometimes there isn’t an English translation, so it can be a little tough for absolute newbies. Still, 100% worth it.

Drops European Portuguese App (iOS/iPadOS/MacOS) – this a listen/read only app, so it won’t help you with pronunciation, but it’s a pretty fun app to increase your vocabulary without having to stress too much about grammar. If you choose not to pay for a subscription, the app gives you 5 minutes of practice a day. The UI is friendly and fun to use.

Portuguese Newspapers (iOS/MacOS) – This app just aggregates newspapers from all over Portugal, which will help your learning comprehension as well as keep you informed about local and national news that might not make the mainstream media in other countries.

Mia Esmeriz Academy – I haven’t used this one fully yet, but I do find many of her public videos charming and useful. Not sure how it holds up as a full-time teaching program.

iTalki (Web) – iTalki lets you schedule and join one-on-one tutoring and/or group classes online. This can be really critical, since one big barrier to speaking Portuguese is… well… actually speaking it. It can be pretty intimidating, so finding a person or group of people you can practice with without judgement can be a big key to your success.

The tutor I found was incredibly friendly and very disarming, making me feel very comfortable, and even teaching me some mnemonics that helped me remember some of the irregular word genders and phrases. It’s obviously a bit more of a time commitment, since you have to plan ahead, and sometimes the time zones of your tutor can be frustrating to work around, but if you can make it work, it’s worth it. The prices for each tutor are listed along with their bio, and you get the chance to try out a few different ones for free if you don’t like the first one you pick.

Great YouTube Channels

  • Portuguese with Leo – in addition to his excellent online courses mentioned above, he also has a Youtube channel with plenty of free content.
  • Talk the Streets – while the YouTuber here is not a native Portuguese speaker, she’s very very good, and comes up with surprisingly useful (if niche) tidbits to do videos on (asking for tampons/waxing services, how to fake a really good Portuguese accent etc). She does a bunch of on the street interviews with local store and restaurant owners as well, and provides tons of tips on pronunciation and culture.
  • Learn European Portuguese Online – the material here is a bit dryer than the Talk the Streets lady, but they’re usually compressed into segments that are around 5 minutes long, so very digestible.

Misc and/or Fun Language Bits

The most important thing you can do is practice. A foreign language is like any other skill. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Most Portuguese people will be very appreciative that you’re trying, and will gently correct you if you make a mess out of a pronunciation or two. Just keep trying!

Até breve e boa sorte!
Alison (aka “snipe”)