Geared toward Absolute Beginners, this course gives you a solid start and foundation to build upon.
This is an introductory course to the Portuguese language as spoken in Portugal. Throughout the course, we will focus on the Portuguese sound system and basic Portuguese grammar.
You will also learn how to introduce yourself and day-to-day, useful phrases. Finally, we will discuss learning resources and strategies to support your learning journey.
After the course, you will have a basic understanding of European Portuguese pronunciation and grammar. You will also be capable of engaging in simple, short oral interactions. Last but not least, you will be aware of a variety of learning resources and strategies to help you succeed at learning the language.
I will keep you updated on upcoming course seasons
This intensive course is for language learners striving toward the A2 level.
As you start your Portuguese learning journey, you might wonder about how different Portuguese grammar is from its English counterpart.
Portuguese and English grammars are fairly relatable since both languages belong to the Indo-European family. As such, they share many grammatical features, namely, their basic syntax and word order.
However, since Portuguese and English belong to separate branches within the Indo-European languages – Portuguese is a Romance language, whereas English is part of the Germanic-languages subfamily – their grammars differ in several other aspects.
In what follows, I will walk you through some of the similarities and differences between Portuguese and English grammar.
The way you will experience Portuguese hinges to a great extent on what your first language is.
For instance, according to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), Portuguese is – along with Spanish, Italian, and Dutch – one of the easiest languages to learn for English native speakers. Lucky you if English is your mother tongue!
How challenging Portuguese comes across also depends on if you speak or have learned any other Romance language in the past.
If you’re not familiarised with Romance languages at all, then Portuguese grammar might appear somewhat intricate.
Conversely, if your mother tongue is a Romance language, or if you at least are acquainted with any other language of this subfamily, you will certainly feel much more at home with it.
Now, compared to English, Portuguese grammar has a few features that make it seem a little convoluted.
Say gender, for example. You have to mind which nouns are masculine and feminine and make sure that pronouns, articles, and adjectives’ endings agree with it.
Also, when it comes to verbs, there’re way more conjugations and endings to keep track of in Portuguese than in English.
At this point, you might be tempted to conclude that Portuguese grammar won’t be a walk in the park. Well, again, whether or not that’s the case will depend on your mother tongue.
One thing is for sure, learning a new language as an adult, no matter which one, will always be challenging (in the most positive, interesting, and compelling way).
Both Portuguese and English originate from the same large language family: the Indo-European languages. As such, both tongues share much in common, even if their similarities are not that apparent to many of us.
Portuguese and English are SVO languages (SVO stands for Subject-Verb-Object). Let’s look at a simple example:
S > V >O O Pedro comprou um carro. Peter bought a car.
In the sentences above, (S)Peter/Pedro is the subject, (V) bought/comprou the verb, and (O) car/carro the object. As you can see, either language follows the same word order.
Granted, you’ll find on either side sentence constructions that won’t conform with this SVO sequence. Nonetheless, SVO word-order is what you get by default.
If you are familiar with the different word classes in English, then you’ll feel comfortable learning Portuguese grammar. In general, both languages use similar terminology and conceptualize grammar and syntax the same way.
In Portuguese, as in English, most of the words fall into 4 word classes: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
These are also called “open” classes since there’s a constant flux of new words coming in and old ones dying out and leaving the “club” as time goes by.
Similarly, both languages share the same “closed” word classes (also known as “function words”), namely articles, prepositions, pronouns, numerals, and conjunctions.
The Portuguese verb system is more nuanced and intricate than the English. For instance, there are ostensibly more conjugation endings and verb forms to keep track of in Portuguese. Take ter (have) as an example:
What’s more, in Portuguese, you can express different time-flow qualities by tweaking between different so-called verb aspects within a tense.
In English, however, the expression of different time-flow qualities is not marked with different verb aspects. Instead, it is left to either the context or rephrasing.
Let me illustrate this with a couple of examples:
(1) Hoje, a Joana comeu o almoço às 13h. Today, Joana ate lunch at 1 pm.
(2) Antigamente, a Joana comia o almoço às 13h. Before, Joana used to eat lunch at 1 pm.
Both sentences above relate to the past tense. However, they express different time-flow qualities – the first one denotes a single, completed action, whereas the second implies continuity and repetition (something used to be/happen in a certain way).
In Portuguese, by only replacing “comeu” with “comia” – different verb aspects of the same verb (preterite vs. imperfect) – we go from expressing a punctual and complete past action to imply a repetitive and durable one.
In English, however, we need to rephrase it into a compound verb structure (auxiliary + main verb) to go from the first to the second situation.
Do you have to study Portuguese grammar to learn the language?
The answer is, not necessarily. Whether or not you spend much of your time studying and drilling Portuguese grammar depends on your learning style.
Many students learn Portuguese more organically by engaging with reading and listening materials, and by daring to speak in their target language from day one. I personally fall for this approach.
There are, on the other hand, language learners that are keen to understand the rules “governing” Portuguese. That’s fine too, as long as you don’t overdo it and neglect the much-needed exposure to the living-and-breathing language.
See, while grammar certainly has its place in language learning, it can too, when overdosed, harm your ability to communicate, namely by making you self-conscious and insecure when you are speaking in Portuguese.
Above all, this doesn’t need to be an either-or-not thing.
As a language learner, you’ll probably find yourself somewhere along a nerdy-grammar vs. all-organic spectrum – tune into the mix that works best for you at any given time (yes, it is natural for this grammar-organic balance to change over time. It can go in periods).