Quick Links

While English can help people navigate many countries while traveling, it's also a good idea to know the basics of some other languages. For example, Portuguese has over 232 million native speakers, according to Babel, and it's the official language in Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Although travelers won't experience a cultural shock in most of those countries, knowing at least some Portuguese could make traveling easier on at least three continents. Although it's easy to travel in Portugal speaking only English, the rule doesn't apply to all countries. In Brazil, for example, only 5% of the population speaks English, so it's always a good idea to try to learn some Portuguese before exploring the country's natural beauties.


Knowing more about the language will also enrich the experience of visiting other countries, as tourists can connect with locals and learn more about its culture. Discovering Portuguese is also an immersive experience in a new culture, with a dynamic language and fascinating history.

Another great reason to learn Portuguese is that it can help people to learn other Romance languages, including Spanish, French, Romain, and Italian. Of course, it also increases opportunities for people looking to move to one of those Portuguese-speaking countries.

There Are Key Differences In Each Country

Before diving into Portuguese, people should be aware that there are differences in the language depending on the country. Officially, there are two types of Portuguese: European and Brazilian. In the past, Brazil used to be a Portuguese colony and received influence from indigenous and enslaved people living there, which helped to create a new language. The country also has a continental size, and, naturally, the language evolved differently there.

Although Brazilian Portuguese speakers can understand European Portuguese and vice-versa, there are remarkable differences between them, including grammar, verbs, and vocabulary. For example, the word breakfast can be translated as café da manhã in Brazil and Pequeno almoço in Portugal. A cellphone is called celular (Brazil) or telemóvel (Portugal).

RELATED: Find Out Why These Underrated Spanish Cities Should Be On Your Bucket List

African Portuguese is more similar to European Portuguese. But what Portuguese should you learn? The answer will depend not only on where people want to travel, which culture they are more interested in, and even which accent they prefer.

Immersion Is The Best Way To Learn Portuguese

The best way to learn Portuguese and any other language is to have as much contact with the language as possible. Traveling is obviously a guarantee of having contact with the language 24/7, and in almost every major city, it is possible to find classes for foreigners. Although it's normal to feel insecure about communicating when you are not fluent, native speakers often appreciate the effort and try to help.

It's also possible to start learning before traveling. According to Babbel, there are nearly 700,000 Portuguese speakers in the U.S. and 220,00 in Canada. The good idea is to try to watch movies, novelas ( soap operas are extremely popular), series, read books and listen to music and audiobooks in Portuguese. Those are great ways to become familiar with the sound of the word and how to spell them correctly.

Those aiming to become more confident while speaking can record themselves reading something. Listening to the audio will help to identify points that can be improved.

The Main Challenges While Learning Portuguese

Portuguese is a beautiful language, but it is also tricky. While most sounds are familiar to English speakers, some simple words can be challenging. Here are some of them.

Nasal Words

The language features a lot of nasal words, which is often one of the main pronunciation challenges. The nasal sounds happen in words such as pão (bread), maçã (apple), and calção. (shorts), and in words with vowels followed by M or N: Mentira (lie) and panela (pan).

As the sound doesn't exist in English, the best way to practice is by listening to it and repeating the words.

RELATED: How To Communicate With Locals In Spanish-Speaking Countries

False Friends

While studying Portuguese, people will find words that sound almost identical to English but have completely different meanings. Therefore they are called false friends. Here are some of them:

Atender: answer ( the door, the phone). Attend: participar

Assumir: take over a position. Assume: presumir

Colégio: school College: faculdade

Costume: habit Costume: fantasia

RELATED: Mouth-Watering Dishes You Must Try While Visiting Brazil

Technology Helps A Lot

It's needless to say how technology has made traveling easier in recent years. Of course, it also helps to navigate a country where a traveler is not fluent in a language. For example, if someone is struggling to order a dish in Lisbon, they can use Google Translator. A great tip is downloading the language catalog so it's possible to access it even when the phone service isn't available.

When technology isn't available, it is always possible to use sign language that helps tourists to find directions or order dishes, for example.

Portuguese Words and Expressions

Olá = Hello

Como vai? = How are you?

Tchau = Goodbye

Por favor = Please

Me ajude = Help me

Com licença = Excuse me

Banheiro = Bathroom

Comida = Food

Água = Water

Hotel = Hotel

Aeroporto = Airport