“A different language is a different vision of life.” - Federico Fellini

It’s a fact that foreign languages have become an important part of an increasingly globalised world. Every language will open doors to a part of the world you didn’t know before.

While Portuguese isn’t our mother tongue, it does mean you can speak to people in Brazil, Mozambique, and Portugal, of course. In Portugal, it’s spoken by 95% of the population and is the official language so it’s probably worth knowing if you plan on living there.

So do you need to speak fluent Portuguese before you move there? Can you get by with just English?

This is what we’re going to have a look at in this article!

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Portuguese, the Tool for Adapting to Life in Portugal

No matter which language you’re learning, you’ll probably ask yourself at some point whether or not your level is good enough to get by in the country where it’s spoken.

Do you need to speak Portuguese in Portugal?
You can learn before you arrive or once you get there, but either way, you should learn Portuguese. (Source: RichardMc)

In some cases, it'll be fine, but in others, there may be a bit of work to do.

What about Portuguese? How much do you need to get by in Portugal?

Check out our guide to moving to Portugal.

When You Need to Speak Portuguese

Like all foreign languages, learning it and speaking it to natives can be seen as a sign of respect and almost everyone appreciates it when you make the effort to speak their language, especially the Portuguese.

There are a few benefits to learning Portuguese beyond just understanding what people are saying. You’ll be able to understand local information in a way you wouldn’t if you didn’t speak it. Listening to the radio, reading local maps, or speaking to locals is all possible once you know a bit of the language. From there, you can also gain a deeper understanding of the culture.

Here are some of the situations where you can benefit from knowing Portuguese:

  • Listening to the radio
  • Reading newspapers
  • Making friends
  • Understanding Brazilian Portuguese
  • Using the right Portuguese words
  • Finding work
  • Making local friends
  • Understanding Portuguese admin
  • Finding a Flat in Portugal
  • Understanding Portuguese politics
  • And many others...

Speaking the language will make adapting to life in Portugal much easier and help you to settle in. Portugal, however, is quite outward-facing and metropolitan and there are situations where you won’t need to speak Portuguese.

Discover why you should move to Portugal.

Situations Where You Won’t Need to Speak Portuguese

With 60,000 British expats, you’re likely to find English-speakers everywhere from the Algarve to the streets of Lisbon. It might be useful to find people who speak your language, especially if you’re feeling a little bit lost.

Where can you practise Portuguese?
In Portugal, there are so many social situations where you can practise your language skills. (Source: rperucho)

However, Portuguese language skills will certainly help but they mightn’t be necessary from the second you arrive in Portugal. You can still learn the language once you get there, though.

Speaking English can certainly help you get by since the level of English spoken as a foreign language in Portugal is the seventh-best in the world according to EF. The Portuguese also tend to be very welcoming and happy to help you no matter which language you’re speaking.

Here are some of the situations where you mightn’t have to speak Portuguese:

  • Posting a letter
  • Working certain jobs
  • Doing your shopping
  • Meeting new people
  • Travelling around the country

In short, you can move to Portugal without knowing the language, but it will certainly make your life a whole lot easier as settling in any country is easier if you speak the language.

Find out more about the cost of moving to Portugal.

Learning Portuguese Once You Arrive

Portuguese is the third-most spoken European language in the world so learning it would certainly help to make yourself understood by a large number of people.

Can you learn Portuguese in Portugal?
Some people learn far better just by diving in the deep end and learning in Portugal. (Source: RichardMc)

Learning this new language might certainly feel complicated at first. However, if you’ve already learnt Spanish, Italian, or French, things might be a little easier as there’ll be concepts you already understand.

Portuguese has similar grammar to these languages and a lot of lexical similarities with Spanish.

After all, Portuguese is a Romance language like these other examples. Of these examples, Spanish is probably the best language to have learnt before learning Portuguese. Practise makes perfect, too, though.

Much like with English, Portuguese has many different accents so don’t worry too much about which one you’re learning. You can start learning Portuguese from the second you arrive. This will take a bit of work, especially when it comes to integrating into local life.

Find out more about settling in Portugal.

How Can You Learn Portuguese by Living in Portugal

To get ready for the move, you may be tempted to get language lessons to feel comfortable on your arrival. With practice, your level could rival that of the natives.

Can you learn Portuguese through immersion?
By living in Portugal, you'll have endless opportunities to practise your Portuguese. (Source: franky1st)

There are a few ways to improve your Portuguese. For example, look for lessons in the UK before you go and keep them up once you arrive.

Why not choose an intensive lesson?

Generally, language schools are a good option for learning Portuguese. Whether you’re doing night classes or intensive lessons during the holidays, learning Portuguese is quite easy once you’re there.

For example, here are a few decent language schools in Lisbon:

  • Worldpuzzle
  • CIAL
  • Study & Live in your Teacher's Home

If you won’t have time once you get there and have some time before you go, you might want to look for online Portuguese lessons.

This is probably the best option for learning how to speak Portuguese before you get there. Knowing how to speak a language spoken by millions of people is rewarding.

It’s easy to get lessons so what are you waiting for?

You can move to Portugal without these language skills but having them is a plus. You can use English to get by but it’s probably a good idea to know the language if you want to get integrated into your new home. In the short term, you’ll want to get the basics down to help you get settled. To live life to its fullest, you’ll need to speak the language.

If you've decided that you'd like to learn some Portuguese before you move or once you get there, you can search for Portuguese tutors on the Superprof website.

You can learn Portuguese face-to-face with a tutor, online, or with a tutor in groups. Each type of tutoring comes with pros and cons in terms of the teaching approach and the cost so think carefully about which will work best for you.

Face-to-face tutorials are an excellent way to learn a foreign language. For one, you'll always have a tutor on hand to correct any mistakes you make and teach you exactly what you need to know. Similarly, as you're the only student in the class, you get a lot of opportunities to practise speaking your new language.

One-on-one tutors can tailor every lesson to their student, but this extra time spent planning every lesson can come at a cost and these are usually the most expensive type of tutoring available. Of course, since every minute in the session is spent teaching you, they're often the most cost-effective sessions.

Online tutoring is another great way to learn a foreign language. As the tutor doesn't have to travel and can schedule more tutorials each week, they tend to charge than face-to-face tutors. With online tutoring, you can also find tutors from all over the world. This means that you could even find a tutor from where you're planning on living in Portugal, learn some Portuguese before you move, and then start getting face-to-face tutoring from them once you arrive.

For those on a budget, group tutorials are an excellent idea. While you mightn't get as much time practising your Portuguese with your tutor, you can practise with the other members of the class. This is useful as they'll often be at a similar level to you. If you're moving to Portugal as a family, this is something you could all do together before you go. In this case, it'll probably be cheaper per person per hour but more expensive than a typical one-on-one session with just one student.

A lot of the tutors on Superprof offer the first hour or session for free. Use these sessions to try out a few potential tutors and discuss the finer details of the tuition before settling on the right tutor for you and your family.

Need a Portuguese teacher?

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