Is Portuguese Hard to Learn?

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Written By Francesca Stephens

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

Is learning how to speak Portuguese on your wishlist?

Well, we can’t blame you; Portuguese is one of the most charming languages in the world.

It’s also one of the most spoken languages, so learning Portuguese is quite useful too.

But is Portuguese hard to learn? How long will it take you to master the basics?

The difficulty of a certain language depends on many factors. However, some characteristics make a language generally easier to learn.

Keep reading if Portuguese is one of them!

How Hard is it to Learn Portuguese?

It’s not easy to determine whether a language is difficult to learn or not. One of the most important factors is your mother tongue as well as your previous language learning experience.

Portuguese is a Romance language. So, if you have knowledge of Romance languages, you’ll find it easier to learn. But if you don’t have any connections with this language family whatsoever, it will probably take you longer to learn it.

Also, if you’ve been taking any language classes, you’ll learn more quickly. The more languages you speak, the easier it gets, no matter what your mother tongue is.

However, this factor doesn’t have to affect your Portuguese lessons. Even if you don’t speak another Romance language, you shouldn’t have too many difficulties learning it.

Learning Portuguese

The thing is, according to Foreign Service Institute, Portuguese is one of the easiest languages to learn.

But what makes Portuguese easy to learn?

Well, if you’re accustomed to the Latin alphabet, you won’t have to spend time learning another writing system. Languages with a different alphabet are usually considered a lot more complex. So, for English speakers, Portuguese is not that hard to learn.

The fundamentals of Portuguese are quite easy and straightforward. For example, the word order is SVO (subject-verb-object), the same as English.

Moreover, the Portuguese language doesn’t have inversions. To ask a question, you just need to add a question mark to the end of the affirmative sentence. From that perspective, Portuguese is easier than English.

Pronunciation

When it comes to Portuguese pronunciation, English speakers often find it quite challenging.

Portuguese nasal sounds can indeed be intimidating. The tilde (~) indicates the nasal sound, like in Não (No). The ‘-lh’ and ‘–nh’ combinations, like in Dinheiro (Money), is also a bit complex. Either way, these sounds are very unusual for English and many other speakers.

On the other hand, once you get the hang of the Portuguese spelling rules and pronunciation, you’ll realize they are also straightforward.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the quality of your learning source. It’s important to find an online course or an app that teaches pronunciation in the right way. And you need to practice – a lot.

Vocabulary

Most of the Portuguese vocabulary comes from Latin. However, the language has many other influences as well.

Nevertheless, Portuguese vocabulary is not so hard to learn. There are many English cognates that make things easier. Cognates are words in two languages with the same origin and similar meaning, pronunciation, and spelling.

Some of the Portuguese words you already know are:

  • Animal – Animal
  • Natural – Natural
  • Familiar – Familiar

And some words have different endings, but you’ll guess the meaning anyway:

  • University – Universidade
  • Basically – Basicamente
  • Recent – Recente
  • Positive – Positivo

Learning English-Portuguese cognates is always a good place to start. You just need to check how to pronounce these words – sounds can often be different.

Either way, learning Portuguese words shouldn’t be an obstacle, regardless of your knowledge of other languages.

Grammar

Language learners are always concerned about learning grammar. Well, grammar rules can be a bit daunting, but they shouldn’t be something to be afraid of.

Portuguese grammar is not as hard as you think. But of course, it does come with its challenges.

One of the challenging parts of Portuguese grammar is word gender. Portuguese nouns have grammatical gender, and that also affects their articles.

But if you learn the rules and follow them, you’ll realize they are quite logical. However, there are always exceptions, so you can’t expect to know all the feminine and masculine words. At least not right away.

Is Portuguese hard to learn

The subjunctive mode is another aspect that Portuguese learners find challenging.

In the Portuguese language, the subjunctive mode is used to convey doubt or uncertainty. There are three subjunctive tenses, and the verbs are conjugated according to the tense.

Nonetheless, the subjunctive mode is not the first thing you will learn in your Portuguese course. Therefore, you shouldn’t worry about it. Once you get to it, you’ll already know the basics of Portuguese grammar so everything will seem a whole lot easier.

Challenges of Learning Portuguese

Learning Portuguese comes with its challenges. But that’s true for any foreign language.

Gaining language skills takes time, and mastering Portuguese is no different.

First of all, mastering Portuguese pronunciation can be tricky for many people. There are many nasal sounds, vowels, and unusual accents.

For example, Spanish is much easier to learn when it comes to pronunciation because words are spoken as they are written. But Portuguese shares the pronunciation difficulties of, for example, French.

Another problem we mentioned earlier is gendered nouns. It’s not so hard to learn the rules, but countless exceptions make this part of Portuguese grammar a bit harder to master.

However, with the right approach, you’ll overcome all the obstacles to learning Portuguese.

But there’s one more challenge that comes after you’ve learned the basics, and it’s related to a variety of accents.

As you already know, there are European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. It’s the same language, but these two dialects have some significant differences.

For example, European Portuguese has fewer foreign words, and it generally sounds different because Brazilians speak vowels longer and wider.

Learning Brazilian Portuguese

Nevertheless, if you learn Brazilian Portuguese, you’ll be able to understand someone from Lisbon. But if you want to gain intricate language skills, you’ll have to work harder to learn the differences.

Tips for Learning Portuguese

Whether you should learn Brazilian or European Portuguese depends entirely on your preferences and goals. Regardless of what you choose, you should find a reliable learning source that fits your learning style.

Luckily, Portuguese is one of the popular languages, so there are many great options, especially on the Internet. In fact, online language courses and apps for learning Portuguese are more affordable and more convenient than traditional language classes.

If you find a good online Portuguese course, you’ll be able to learn at your own pace as well as choose your own material. But you shouldn’t skip lessons. Although some grammar lessons might seem daunting at first, they are absolutely essential, especially if you want to become a fluent speaker.

But even if you want to learn basic Portuguese, you need to learn it in a step-by-step manner. And you shouldn’t rush. Learning a new language requires dedication and regular practice.

Besides choosing a reliable learning source, you should surround yourself with the language as much as you can. Listen to Portuguese music and podcasts, read a book or magazine in Portuguese, watch Portuguese TV shows… Possibilities are endless.

Learning Portuguese by yourself

If you surround yourself with the language, you’ll get used to the accent and flow of the language. But you’ll also pick up new words and grammar concepts.

Plus, this will help you add fun to your learning process. And making things interesting and engaging is crucial. That way, you’ll stay motivated and focused, and that can only lead to better results.

So, at the end of the day, it all comes down to your motivation and persistence.

Finally, you need to use it as much as you can. If you get the chance to talk to native speakers, don’t be afraid to do so. It’s important to talk, even if you make a mistake. That’s the most effective way to strengthen your language skills, expand your vocabulary, and increase your comprehension.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Portuguese is not as difficult as it might seem. According to language experts and learners, it’s actually one of the easiest languages to learn.

Portuguese grammar is quite straightforward, but it comes with its challenges. Portuguese pronunciation can also be tricky, but it’s nothing you can’t master.

With the right learning resources, you can learn the basics rather quickly. But if you want to build strong language skills, it’s important to stay persistent.

Finally, when it comes to learning a new language, it’s important to mix it up a little. Take advantage of online learning tools, surround yourself with the Portuguese language, and make it fun!