Learning Portuguese for your move to Portugal
It is unlikely to surprise you to learn that learning Portuguese is the key to a successful integration in Portugal, and more relocations fail due to not speaking the language than any other reason.
Learning a language can be hard, and Portuguese is not an easy one to master! In fact for a European language, Portuguese is considered particularly difficult –which makes it easy for Brits (who quite often can find someone to converse with in English) to put off learning it.
However, it is unwise to presume that everyone in Portugal will speak English – especially in the rural areas. It’s also good to remember that any attempt to learn the language will make a tremendous impression on your neighbours, who will respect and try to assist you.
Any attempt to learn the language will make a tremendous impression on your neighbours, who will respect and try to assist you.
Language in the day-to-day life
Whether you need repairs, help at the local grocery store, need to consult a local builder or want to programme your phone answering service, understanding and speaking the basics will reduce your stress level – and that of those around you! Communication is such an important part of everyday life – not just for official business, or knowing what you are buying, but also for making friends and being part of the community!
Top Tips for learning Portuguese
1. Do as much work as you can before arrival
A vast number of expats say they wish they’d put more work into learning the language before moving abroad. So don’t fall into the “I’ll pick it up when I get there” trap. Unless you’re less than ten years old, it just doesn’t work like that.
It’s easy to start learning before you leave: use Post-It notes to remember the words for household objects by sticking them around your home, replace your music CDs with language CDs, and begin to look at Portuguese websites with a little help from Google Translate (beware – take some of the more literal translations with a heavy helping of salt!). It all adds up in acclimatising yourself to the new language.
2. Ensure you listen to pronunciations
Portuguese is not a language to simply learn from a book: several words look similar to Spanish, but the pronunciation is completely different. You really need to learn the words as they are spoken to have a chance of being understood yourself.
3. Learn the correct Portuguese!
There are two distinct versions of the Portuguese language: Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. Many people liken the difference between these to UK English and American English.
Although they are similar, the accent is different, as are several words, so make sure you learn European Portuguese if you’re moving to Portugal.
4. Beware of local dialects
Just as Londoners tend to sound rather different to individuals from Newcastle, accents vary significantly across Portugal!
This is particularly noticeable in the Algarve, where there is a tendency to clip words, sometimes at the beginning AND end! If you’ve been learning from a language course, you may well find you can understand people from Lisbon, but struggle to comprehend “Algarvian” Portuguese.
It’s also worth accepting that if you live and learn in the Algarve, this is the dialect you will end up speaking yourself!
In the Algarve there is a tendency to clip words, sometimes at the beginning AND end!
5. Don’t be afraid
The only way to develop your Portuguese is to constantly work on it. It can prove daunting, but sometimes you’ve just got to strike up a conversation and give it a go. Even if you get it horribly wrong, people will have more affection and respect for you than if you didn’t try at all.
Practice at the town hall
Portugal is something of a bureaucratic country! However maddening this can be at times, you can turn it around: for example, should you have to go to the town hall (câmara) to find out anything about your property, your land or simply to register for any course or local festivity, use the time you are there to practise your Portuguese. Listen to the way they explain things, the expressions they use. There you have it – perhaps your first Portuguese lesson!
The Portugal Buying Guide is designed to support you through each stage of buying property in Portugal, providing relevant, up-to-date information and tips from Portugal property experts and expats who have been through the process themselves. It helps you to: