How to improve Portuguese speaking?
Portuguese is a Romance language originating in the Iberian Peninsula of Europe. It is the sole official language of Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Brazil, while having co-official language status in East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, and Macau. A Portuguese-speaking person or nation is referred to as “Lusophone” (lusófono). As the result of expansion during colonial times, a cultural presence of Portuguese and Portuguese creole speakers are also found around the world. Portuguese is part of the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia and the County of Portugal, and has kept some Celtic phonology and its lexicon. With approximately 215 to 220 million native speakers and 50 million second language speakers, Portuguese has approximately 270 million total speakers. It is usually listed as the sixth-most spoken language and the third-most spoken European language in the world in terms of native speakers. Being the most widely spoken language in South America and all of the Southern Hemisphere, it is also the second-most spoken language, after Spanish, in Latin America, one of the 10 most spoken languages in Africa, and is an official language of the European Union, Mercosur, the Organization of American States, the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, an international organization made up of all of the world’s officially Lusophone nations. In 1997, a comprehensive academic study ranked Portuguese as one of the 10 most influential languages in the world.
Speaking is usually the #1 weakness for all Portuguese learners. This is a common issue among language learners everywhere. The reason for this is obvious: When language learners first start learning a language, they usually start with reading. They read online articles, books, information on apps and so on. If they take a class, they spend 20% of their time repeating words, and 80% of the time reading the textbook, doing homework or just listening to a teacher. So, if you spend most of your time reading instead of speaking, you might get better at reading but your speaking skills never grow. You get better at what you focus on.
What makes speaking Portuguese difficult than other Romance languages?
The Portuguese language features lots of nasal sounds. Nasal vowels and diphthongs, such as ‘ã’, ‘om’, ‘ãe’, and ’em’ may be hard to pronounce. ‘Pão’ is one of the words our students find the most difficult to pronounce. Especially because this is a tricky one — mispronounce ‘pão’ and you might embarrass yourself. Check this blog post if you want to know why.
Portuguese can be complex because of all of the conjugation of verbs. But after a while, you understand that regular verbs have similar patterns and it gets easier. Of course, the irregular verbs will be more difficult for anyone to learn, but we are sure you will get the hang of it eventually.
S sounding like Z
If you are focusing your studies on written Portuguese, you might struggle with a few words. Like, why do we write the word ‘casa’ with S if it sounds like Z? Your teacher will help you understand all of those things!
Brazil is a huge country and the Portuguese language shows great variation across regions. The way people speak in Santa Catarina is much different from the way locals speak in Pernambuco. Even though São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are close in proximity, the regional accents are much different in each state. But don’t worry if you find it hard to understand Portuguese when visiting other parts of Brazil. Even Brazilians sometimes struggle to understand the different accents around the country.
Portuguese is known for having lots of ‘false friends’. These are words that sound the same but have completely different meanings.
Rules & exceptions
Believe us! For each rule in Portuguese grammar, there will be at least one exception for it! Even well-educated native Brazilians will speak or write in bad Portuguese once in a while because of this.
You can “study” Portuguese for years and still struggle to hold a fluid conversation with a Portuguese person. This is because “studying” vocabulary and grammar won’t give you the most fundamental skill of Portuguese conversation: Portuguese Pronunciation!
So if you want to improve your speaking skills, you need to spend more of your study time on speaking. Let's see what else should and should not do!
Common Portuguese mistakes to avoid to speed up your learning and achieve your goal of reaching Portuguese fluency.
Do not use written words as crutches
People begin learning to read and write in Portuguese. This reliance on visual media to learn new things in Portuguese could be acceptable fir reading and writing but it’s a self-defeating methodology for Portuguese speaking skills! By using the written word as a crutch, you are also denying your ears the opportunity to adapt to the Portuguese word sounds.
Grammar is important, but think it over. Do you really need to memorize all those charts and technical terms? Do you think all Portuguese speakers know all that high-level grammar? How does a Portuguese child or an uneducated Portuguese native speak Portuguese fluently without ever knowing grammar?
Using English to speak Portuguese:
Agreed, Portuguese pronunciation is hard and you probably had no help to know how to do it properly before, so you just default to English pronunciation because it’s easier. You should refrain from these pronunciations as the more you build them the longer it will take you to fix them.
Translating from English to Portuguese:
Being fluent in Portuguese means you will think in Portuguese – you shouldn’t be translating English in your head. The only way to develop this skill to speak without thinking is to build a habit of mimicking.
Speaking Portuguese word for word:
Portuguese people never speak Portuguese word for word. Instead, they blend words together naturally into larger phrases.
Let’s now look at what you must do to garner speed! Here are five tips to help you get started:
Identify your learning style. Every individual has a unique learning style that empowers them to speed up their learning. Some people are more comfortable with visual learning while the others are more comfortable with structured lesson to lesson learning.
Look for a conversation partner to improve your Portuguese speaking skills and seek instant feedback.
Set realistic goals. Think about the level you’re currently at, and identify the key things you’d like to improve on initially.
Readout loud. If you’re listening to a lesson and reading along, read out loud. Try your best to pronounce the words correctly, but don’t obsess about it. Repeat read to get reasonable speaking speed. Read swiftly, emote and put some inflection on the sentences. Reading aloud helps to train the muscles of your mouth and diaphragm to produce unfamiliar words and sounds.
Indulge in advance preparation. Prepare what you need to say ahead of time, so that you are not at loss for words in conversations. This will help you not only to learn how to say the words, but how to say them in the right context.
Use Shadowing (repeat the dialogues as you hear them in movies, in audios, podcasts, etc). Shadowing is an extremely useful tool for increasing fluency as well as improving your accent and ability to be understood. Shadowing helps create all the neural connections in your brain to produce those words and sentences quickly and accurately without having to think about it. Shadowing helps develop muscle memory in all the physical parts responsible for the production of those sounds.
Practise. Review. Correct. This is the key to perfection! Most learners don’t review! If you review and repeat lines again and again, you’ll be speaking better, faster and with more confidence.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’d be surprised by how many people try to avoid talking! The more you speak, the faster you learn – and that is why you’re learning Portuguese. Practice speaking every chance you get: whether it’s ordering coffee, shopping or asking for directions.
Be consistent. You won’t improve unless you’re reviewing and repeating things to yourself on a regular basis. Record yourself, hear yourself, improve yourself and repeat the entire process until you get it right!
Every bit of practice counts. Aim to speak in Portuguese at least once a day. You can start with a few minutes of speaking to yourself first, then build up to longer periods of time talking both to yourself and others around you.
Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask others to give you their opinion or advice. Whether you’re talking to a language tutor or a native speaking friend, knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you reflect on what you need to work on.
The secret lies in focusing on Portuguese pronunciation, to start seeing your Portuguese learning pains fade away within a week!
The right method, right resources, right classes, right teachers will ensure:
You start to tune into the nuances of Portuguese sound and recognize more words in fast speech.
Your tongue and lips start to loosen up and the words flow out naturally.
You start to recognize sound patterns and remember new words and expressions faster.
You start to impress native speakers with your more authentic accent.
Portuguese may be the hardest language for you. But it can also be the easiest. It all depends on your linguistic background and efforts to learn.
You might struggle with pronunciation or understanding at first. But if you keep your motivation high and make learning Portuguese fun for yourself, there is no reason why you shouldn’t succeed!