Discover more from Nomada Newsletter
How to *Actually* Learn Portuguese
Without all the DuoLingo "Viadagem"
“Mas tu tá tão, tão linda com esse rabetão”
- Lan, MC
Top tier game in Portuguese. Just drop the line above on any cavala you see in Brazil and you’re sure to be mating ASAP.
Só que não.
That, of course, if you managed to spell the „ão“ correctly.
Tis the biggest gringo tell in all of Portuguese. Master this and you’ll be far above the rest.
In all seriousness…
If by now you‘re interested in all Brazil has to offer, from the high IQ city of São Paulo, the degeneracy of Rio or the many hidden gems across the country, then you need to realize:
Your semi-decent Spanish is not gonna cut it.
And unless you’re in the fancy Selina Hostel or Nomad villages in places like Pipa.
Your English is not gonna cut it either.
To truly enjoy Brazil to the max, you have to learn Portuguese
Because most Brazilians do not speak English. This is not Mexico. We’re not flooded with gringos.
Even in a place like Rio, most tourism is internal – from the over 205 million Brazilians traveling around.
Similar to how in the US Americans travel a lot within their own huge country.
It’s just a fact that if you wanna talk to most Brazilians, you will need Portuguese.
That said, there are two other benefits to learning Portuguese besides enjoying Brazil.
First is the similarity of the Latin languages:
Your current Spanish knowledge will help you learn Portuguese faster
Your Portuguese knowledge will help you learn other Latin languages faster
You’ll be a demigod in Brazil. Life on easy mode.
Brazilians already love gringos. Not that many gringos speak Portuguese, so Brazilians (specially da womanz) will not only be eager to help you learn, but they’ll appreciate you once you speak the language.
Of course, you’ll only really learn if you focus on stuff that actually moves the needle forward.
As such, we shall follow the same fail-proof 4-step process to learning Spanish that Jake outlined.
If you follow the plan below for 3-6+ months, you will be fully conversational in Portuguese.
Eu te prometo.
Nomada Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
1. Move to Brazil
First ting’ you need to do…
Book a flight.
While you can start studying before you arrive, the only way to truly learn Portuguese as an adult is…
That means living in a Portuguese-speaking country for 3-6+ months.
I would not recommend Portugal for this endeavor:
Their accent sucks – everyone says Brazilian Portuguese sounds better
99% of all culture, be it music, movies, Youtube vídeos, etc, is produced in Brazilian Portuguese
The Portuguese actually speak English, making it too easy for you to avoid forcing yourself to learn
You can also consider Portuguese Africa…
This may be interesting, especially the safer islands of Cape Verde or São Tomé. But that’s if you’re into Africa.
Brazil is where it’s at for both the most used and fluid version of the language.
Now, some places are better to learn than others. You see, even inside Brazil, we have different accents.
Don’t overthink it, as they are all mutually intelligible. That said, if I were going to pick one, there are some that stand out:
The Carioca Accent, from Rio:
Some people hate it. However, it is generally regarded as sexy by those from other states.
I’m not even carioca, but I must admit that when I started speaking with carioca accent, the girls noticed ;)
The Mineiro Accent, from Minas Gerais:
Generally regarded as friendly and fun. Everyone likes mineiros.
Manézes Accent, from Floripa and surroundings:
This accent is derived from the Azorean colonists, and is likely the closest you’ll get to European Portuguese in Brazil.
There is only ONE accent that I would absolutely NOT recommend…
The Paulistano Accent, from São Paulo city:
This is tied with the carioca accent as the most hated in Brazil. But unlike the Carioca, it’s not sexy. ESPECIALLY the Faria Lima version.
It’s the accent of the Californians of Brazil. People who use loan words from English all the time and who eat avocado toast. Steer away from it.
PÔÔ MEEU, why are you talking bad about paulistano accent!
São Paulo and Rio, might not be the most economical places to study, but besides that, the rest of Brazil is pretty ok in terms of cost of living.
Maybe the upscale areas of Brasília or Floripa would be as expensive, but apart from that, the 28+ cities with over 1 million inhabitants are not nearly as expensive as São Paulo and Rio.
Book a flight.
Book an Airbnb for 3-6+ months in the city of your choice — if staying for 3+ months, use the Nomad visa.
Make sure the wifi is good.
Plan to fully immerse yourself in the Portuguese language.
2. Start Studying with an Online Tutor
Now we’re getting to the good stuff…
Yes, you’ll actually want to actively study the language.
When most people start out studying Portuguese, they download some app — often DuoLingo.
Jake said it best:
Just. Don’t. Do. It.
The opposite of Nike.
DuoLingo can work. In practice, the vast majority of people “studying” on DuoLingo for 3-6+ months still can’t order food in a restaurant properly…in Portuguese.
Other folks buy an online course, like a Rosetta Stone or some shit.
Also not worth the time or money.
“Alright… so how the hell am I supposed to study Portuguese, bruv?”
You will take online classes with a professional tutor.
And it’s far cheaper than you think.
Here’s the game-plan once you’re actually in Brazil…
One-hour of Portuguese study with a professional tutor, Monday through Friday…no weekdays off.
So, where do we find these professional tutors?
Unfortunately, Language Blend is not available for Portuguese
However, there’s another economical option that works damn well.
Italki is an online language learning platform that allows you to book classes with professional language teachers.
These classes cost anywhere from $5-20 USD per hour and prices generally vary based on the quality of the teacher.
Only book with “professional teachers” on Italki. The others ones usually suck.
I did not study Portuguese on Italki, as I am Brazilian lol — but Jake used the platform to study Portuguese and it works quite well.
3. Go on as Many Dates as Humanly Possible
You’re fully immersed, living in Brazil, and studying Portuguese every damn day.
While ideal, these two steps alone will NOT get you conversational in three-months.
Actually using what you’ve been studying and having long-form conversations in Portuguese.
Now, you could probably do this by going to a few “language exchange” nights in the city you’re in and practicing Portuguese that way.
It would help.
But there’s an issue…
You don’t have anything invested in these conversations.
You don’t have any motivation outside of learning the language.
Which is why we absolutely must add in one thing…
Dating is an integral part of learning any language.
Because you’re highly invested in the conversation. Because if the conversation goes well you could be enjoying bunda later on that evening. Grátis.
So while you’re living in Brazil and studying Portuguese with an online professional tutor daily, you’ll also be striving to go on dates with females that do NOT speak English…
Download Tinder. Download Bumble. Swipe your life away.
Spam Instagram models in your city with DMs.
Go out at night and party hard. Have mating on the mind. Meet women.
Use your dogshit Portuguese to flirt with the cute barista as best you can. Ask for her Instagram and them DM her.
Be an absolute degenerate…in the name of learning Portuguese.
But it worked damn well. That’s how you learn a language.
Every single date you go on with a non-English speaking Brasileira is 2-3 hours of Portuguese language practice.
Sure, you’ll have to use your translator app part of the time. Who cares? I can promise you that fertile young latina sitting across from you is not too worried…as long as you’re making the effort to learn and speak her language.
Do NOT skip this step, sers ;)
4. Consoom Portuguese Content w/ English Subtitles
At this point, you are living in Brazil, studying Portuguese with a tutor every damn day, and dating at least 1-2 cute latinas.
Now, you have to actually become Brazilian.
I don’t mean you have to spend 4 years to get citizenship, no sers.
What I mean is that you have to immerse yourself in Brazilian culture.
Brazil is, on its own, one of the great powers when it comes to cultural production. Even though we don’t export it that much.
Brazil has an insane amount of slang and inside references that only makes sense to Brazilians or those that make an effort to learn them.
While that would come naturally to you throughout the years, speeding up the process will make you understand the country and its people better.
And of course, make you funnier and able to understand inside jokes.
Alas, let’s go through some top content you can immerse yourself in.
In terms of TV and Cinema, some titles that can be found with English subs:
Tropa de Elite 1 and 2 — absolute classics and source of many memes
Cidade de Deus — absolute classic
Cidade dos Homens
O Mecanismo — on Netflix
O Auto da Compadecida
You can also choose to watch international movies with Brazilian dubs.
Make sure the audio is in Portuguese. Then make sure the subtitles are in English.
While I know many are against dubs, the Brazilian dub industry is one of the most professional I’m aware of, and most times beats the shit I’ve heard dubbed in German or Spanish by a mile.
Once you get a good level of understanding, you can watch A Grande Família, a classic of the classics and again, source of many memes.
Sadly impossible to find with English subtitles, so it will be a test for once you’re more fluent.
With all this content, you’ll pick up on the flow and tonality of the language, while learning a bit of vocabulary.
But we don’t stop there.
When it comes to music, Brazil has a lot to offer too. Figure out which local styles you like most and listen to it — or go dance it:
Bossa Nova – start with Tom Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes. Here’s a good playlist.
Pagode – Grupo Revelação is huge
Forró – Barões da Pisadinha is huge
Some international styles are well-represented in Brazilian music too:
Rap – Marcelo D2, Racionais MCs, Facção Central, Cone Crew Diretoria, Xis
Rock – Raul Seixas, Zé Ramalho, Capital Inicial, Ira, Pitty, Camisa de Vênus, Engenheiros do Hawaii, Titãs, Charlie Brown Jr., Skank
Country – Chitãozinho e Xororó, César Menotti e Fabiano, Rolando Boldrin, Leandro e Leonardo
Last but not least: Internet content!
For short, subtitled comedy skits, Porta dos Fundos is a great channel with hundreds of videos that was the source of many a Brazilian meme.
That said, as the typical Brazilian artistic class, they are quite lefty, so I’d steer away from the religious vídeos if you are a more religious guy. Cringe atheist type stuff.
Once you get to a decent level of listening, you can start to listen to podcasts. Here I have some recommendations as well:
Flow Podcast: Basically the Brazilian JRE. Huge guests, even interviewed Lula and Bolsonaro.
Fernando Ulrich: Investing, finance. Especially interesting if you wanna invest in Brazil too.
NerdCast: Biz, tech, fun stories. They have gotten quite lefty as time passed, but pre episode 450-500 there are some hilarious stuff. I would start with a listen of the “The Best of” from all episodes before 500.
Tapa da Mão Invisível: Politics, culture, econ.
Contra o Vento Podcast: Residencies, offshoring, second citizenships
In Tropa de Elite, Wagner Moura played Brazil’s most iconic TV antihero, BOPE squad leader Capitão Nascimento. You may recognize him as Pablo Escobar, from Narcos. Dude is legit playing both sides of the drug war...
It’s that Simple…
If you follow the steps above to a “T” — you will be speaking conversational Portuguese in 3-6+ months.
Speaking Portuguese that’s a higher level than many an expat that’s lived in Brazil for damn near a decade.
And here’s the kicker…
You’ll be enjoying the hell out of it. Immersed in a new culture, learning a new language, and dating beautiful women.
Not spending all day on some lame language learning app that doesn’t even work.