Brazil vs. Portugal: Where Will You Learn Português fast?

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So, you want to be a Lusophone.

Portugal was one of the first nations in the world to build ships and venture out into the “new world” from old Europe. As such it made a vast impact on the shaping of global history, and a lasting influence on the people it colonized or traded with. To this day, Portuguese is spoken in pockets around the world ranging from Europe to South America to southern Africa.

portuguese poetry
Our handy tricks so you can become fluent in Portuguese fast

The two most popular locations where it’s spoken are undoubtedly Portugal and Brazil. The former is a past global power that today is one of Europe’s most progressive and charming countries. The latter is an emerging global influencer with one of the largest populations and economies in the world. In both, you’ll discover cultural riches and historical heritage that are rivaled by few other countries on earth-yet completely distinct from one another. 

[Get matched with Portuguese language schools]

Deciding on where to study Portuguese often comes down to the decision between these two countries. This choice fortunately amounts to “somewhere good” vs. “somewhere even better”—but only you can decide which will be which. We’ve compiled the following guide to help you make that decision. 

rio de Janeiro, Brazil

If you’re really torn between Brazil and Portugal, views like this won’t make the decision any easier… sorry to let you down.

What’s the best way to learn Portuguese?

The best way to learn Portuguese fast, like the best way to learn any language, is to study in a country where it's spoken natively. Supplementing your classroom lessons with the opportunity to engage Portuguese speakers every day in a fluent environment will challenge you to improve your language apprehension by leaps and bounds. Studying at a Portuguese language school in Brazil or Portugal will provide you with a complete immersive environment to focus on your language development.

[Are Language Immersion Programs All They’re Cracked up to be?]

What’s the difference between Brazilian Portuguese vs. European Portuguese?

To a casual listener, Portuguese might sound the same the world over. That’s if you don’t speak the language. But fluent—or even conversational—Portuguese speakers will easily pick up on some distinct differences between strands of the dialect in Brazil and Portugal. As such, where you decide to study Portuguese will go far to determine where you’ll have the easiest time as a Portuguese speaker in the long run.

Brazil—Why Learn Brazilian Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese is considered by many to be the easier strand to learn, with its open vowels and strong cadence (it’s also considered to be easier on the ears, for this reason). Brazilian Portuguese is generally more relaxed on the usage of formalities in addressing who you are talking to, and has evolved some distinct vocabulary and grammatical usages since diverging from its ancestral tongue across the Atlantic. If you learn Brazilian Portuguese, you’ll speak the most common dialect of the language.

[How to Prepare for Intensive Language Programs Abroad]

Portugal—Why Learn European Portuguese

European Portuguese is less accentuated than its Brazilian counterpart, and to many outside listeners sounds more mumbly. It is also stricter on the usage of formalities in the language (i.e. addressing a counterpart as tu or você), which can be difficult to grasp for the second language learner. These more challenging aspects while you learn European Portuguese, however, also can make it the more valuable in the long run to the serious student. You will be studying in the country of origin, and leaving no stone unturned while at it.

Red tram car through Lisbon, Portugal

Ride picturesque trams across town to meet a friend for (the best) coffee, a few pastel nata, and conversation practice.

Stacking ‘em up

So, where are the REAL differences between learning European Portuguese vs. Brazilian Portuguese? We lay them all out on the table… 

Accents

Because there are so many more Brazilians than Portuguese in the world today, Brazilian Portuguese is the dialect which you are likely used to hearing as a non-speaker. It has a more open, accentuated sound to it, while European Portuguese flows continuously to the point of being difficult to make out. 

Access to immersion

Brazil and Portugal both offer total access to immersive opportunities of many different kinds. This being said, English is more commonly known as a second language in Portugal than it is in Brazil (likewise in Europe vs. South America), so if you want to totally escape your mother tongue, then the latter is the more immersive option.

[10 Best Places to Find Language Schools in the Americas in 2018—GoAbroad Report]

Safety

Portugal is an advanced economy in Western Europe, which is a very safe place to study anything in the relative sense. Brazil is a developing economy in South America, and has struggled more to manage violence and social unrest. This being said, as an international student, you will be in a safe environment and looked after in either country.

Regional travel opportunities

Which do you prefer, Europe or South America? Both continents offer an entirely unique historical and civilizational legacy to explore, as well as adventure travel opportunities of all different sorts. Europe is more efficiently interconnected and offers more concentrated itineraries. South America is more vast and exponentially cheaper to travel throughout.

Lifestyle

Similarly to travel opportunities, the lifestyle differences between Brazil and Portugal (as between Western Europe and South America) are immense. Both have beaches, bars, restaurants, churches, and the like, but offer an entirely unique aesthetic. As an expatriate living abroad to study Portuguese, you will have the opportunity to mold whatever lifestyle you please.

[Save and compare programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]

Carnival dancers decked out in colorful feathers, Brazil

Celebrate your progress with Portuguese by getting in the spirit for Carnival in Brazil.

Recommended programs to study Portuguese

If you want to learn Portuguese fast, these are the organizations that will help you do it! 

Study Portuguese in Brazil

1. Portuguese Immersion in Rio de Janeiro with Languages Abroad

Come for the Portuguese, stay for the beaches! Only with Languages Abroad in Rio will you combine learning Portuguese with adventures on the best beaches in South America. Their language school is located in the business center of Rio, so you’ll be right in the heart of things with easy access to the rest of the city via public transport. There will be plenty of opportunities for immersion! 

2. Study Portuguese Language in Brazil, Salvador with Basica Lingua

Basica Lingua offers intensive, small-sized language courses in the charming city of Salvador. You’ll have the opportunity to learn Brazilian Portuguese by choosing from many different personalized educational options in a relaxing atmosphere with top-notch international teachers.

Lisbon, Portugal, bridge

Portugal is the OG place to learn Portuguese. If that’s what you’re into.

Study Portuguese in Portugal

3. Learn Portuguese in Lisbon, Portugal with Iberlinguas

Iberlínguas offers intensive, extensive, and private language-learning programs for would-be Lusophones at a school in the heart of Portugal’s famed capital, Lisbon. While they learn European Portuguese, students will also have the opportunity to engage in a range of extracurricular cultural immersion opportunities around the city.

4. Portuguese Language Course and Immersion in Porto, Portugal with Language Vacation

Language Vacation offers intensive Portuguese language-learning options of 4 or 6 lessons per day in Portugal’s second city, Porto. Students can choose from a variety of housing options while studying at a Portuguese language center in the heart of the city, exploring both on their own and through a variety of group excursions.

5. Portuguese Language Course and Immersion in Faro, Portugal with Language Vacation

Language Vacation offers a similar Portugues study program in the stunning beach town of Faro, for students who want the same immersive experience in a more remote environment away from the big city. Study European Portuguese intensively at the town center, just minutes away from the waterfront.

BONUS! 4 tips to learn Portuguese fast, regardless of location

boys at whiteboard
Mastering Portuguese is your destiny

1. Listen 

Even before you have a solid grasp of Portuguese, listening to it as much as you can in person, on tapes, on the internet, on TV, or by any other medium will train your ear in the right direction. Once you’re familiar with the sounds and able to discern certain words, it will be a cinch to learn Portuguese fast. Listening is always the hardest skill to learn, but if you start early you’ll be a pro in no time! 

2. Read

Forcing yourself to read in a language you are learning will make you struggle with comprehension and grammar of your own accord—a sure way to improve your ability. Start with a book you already know and love (I’d recommend Harry Potter), ideally something that’s already a lower graded reading level—think YA novels. That way, you know what happens, and it’s all learning new vocabulary. 

[10 Best Ways to Learn a New Language]

3. Study

In your free time you should be looking at flashcards, taking lessons, learning new words, and expanding your Portuguese horizons in every way you can. Download all the apps. ALL OF THEM. Start to gamify your studying, and it’ll feel less like studying—plus, you’ll internalize more language. The best way to learn is to take lessons, but you need to be putting in the work outside of your lessons, too. 

4. Speak

Perhaps the most important part of learning a language is to actually speak it, as much as you can. It’s how you build confidence, make neural connections, and start to feel more natural speaking and using the language. Take lessons, get a language exchange partner, go to conversation groups, talk to your TV if you have to! Whatever you need to do to get yourself talking, do it. It’s so important to use language, otherwise you lose it! 

Since you have the facts... Where will you learn Portuguese? 

Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro

No matter where you choose study, you have Christ the Redeemer’s blessing. Go Forth. Learn Portuguese fast!

Now that you know a little bit the differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese, it’s up to you to take the next step. Read up on both countries, look up some potential locations and programs, and research all your options carefully. 

Once you cross that line between motivation and action, you’ll be full steam ahead on your way to being a Lusophone in no time. Boa Sorte!

Find programs and you’ll learn Portuguese fast!