Learn Portuguese for free online

Text of "Grande Sertão, Veredas", by João Guimarães Rosa, one of the essential Brazilian literary masterpieces. Photo by Anderson Sutherland/Flickr

There are some 250 million Portuguese native speakers out there – can you communicate with them?

It is is, indeed, a crowd: 190 million in Brazil, 11 million in Portugal, 22.9 million in Mozambique and 18.5 million in Angola. It is also the main language of Cape Verde, Guiné-Bissau, São Tomé e Príncipe and East Timor. Plus, you can find big communities of Portuguese speakers in the US, Canada, Japan and several European countries. Finally, you might hear it, occasionally, in other former Portuguese colonies, such as Goa, in India, and Macao, in China.

You do the math. Well, I did it already for you:  one in every 28 people speaks the language.

Do you want to communicate with this slice of the world, learn about their lives and culture? If you have discipline and some spare time, you might want to check on the web. It offers some interesting free resources for those among you that want to learn or perfect your Portuguese.

I made a list of a few e-resources available:

Basic survival vocabulary

The BBC offers a whole series of resources focused on European Portuguese, including basic phrases in mp3 and video.

Portuguese Learning, also focused in Portugal’s Portuguese, organized all sorts of vocabulary lists that can be quite helpful: verbs, adverbs, adjectives, transports, introductions…

Survival Phrases delivers what it promises – although you might have to listen to the podcast for almost five minutes to learn all the particularities of the word obrigado (thank you), it is light and fun. But it simply forgot to remind the audience that women always use the feminine form, obrigada. Plus, only very few classes are free.

World Nomads, a fake dialog between an Australian tourist (I guess)  in Portugal and a Brazilian girl who teaches him basic vocabulary and some Portuguese etiquette. It is slightly bizarre because many times the girl offers the Portuguese version of certain words with Brazilian accent. This website also offers an IPod APP.


Byki – you can download a software and  interact with other students. It offers free access to a basic version and can purchase a more complete one.


Learning Portuguese is produced by a Brit that studied European Portuguese for long years. He offers a few sweet features, such as essential vocabulary podcasts, tips on pronunciation (with podcasts of isolated words pronounced),  not-s0-basic grammar and a little glossary of colors, numbers, medical terms and so on. Sonia-Portuguese, produced by a Brazilian teacher based in Singapore, offers similar content. You could also try BrazilianPodClass, produced by Marina Gomes, that teaches the language in Toronto, Canada. Every week she launches an audio podcast that lasts between 10 to 20 minutes, focusing on Brazilian culture, dialogues, interviews, vocabulary and Portuguese grammar. You can also read the transcription. Also, PortugueseLingQ offers both Brazilian and European Portuguese dialogues of different degrees of difficulty and their transcriptions.

Tá Falado is a cool (and sort of funny) series produced by the University of Texas in Austin that targets those that already speak Spanish but might get lost with all the false cognates (such as esquisito, weird in Portuguese, and exquisito, tasty in Spanish). It includes 24 pronunciation podcasts built around dialogs illustrating specific sound differences, and 20 grammar podcasts that focus on grammatical differences between Spanish and Portuguese.  It is possible to download pdf transcripts of the classes and participate in a discussion blog for clarification of questions.


If none of these works for you, try Brazilian Portuguese Pod, which charges for most classes. Plus, it might be a little painful for English native speakers, pronunciatio-wise.


ForvoDon’t know how to pronounce a word? This website offers over 95 thousand words that can be researched alphabetically. It indicates if the speaker is male or female, Brazilian or Portuguese or maybe from one of the Portuguese speaking African countries. Unfortunately, they don’t indicate their native regions or cities.

Check, for instance, these two different ways of saying saudade, that could be loosely translated by nostalgia: Portuguese woman and Brazilian man

Social network

These two projects, similar to Facebook, allow you to meet other people interested in practicing the language: Livemocha, that claims to be the world’s most popular language learning site, and Italki (“members come from 200+ countries and use 100+ languages”).

So, my friends, enjoy the ride and let me know your opinion about these websites and others that I might include.

You might also like these posts: 30 words that separate Brazil from Portugal and Brazilian Babel and So you think you understand Portuguese?


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