Portuguese is not an easy language to master - in fact it is considered quite difficult for a European language. There is a common perception that the British are particularly bad at learning another language, but this is often because wherever you go in the world there will be someone who can speak English!
If you are moving to Portugal permanently, it’s unwise to assume everyone understands English, especially in the rural areas. Any attempt to learn the language will make a tremendous impression on your neighbours, and you will win enduring respect – they will try to assist you and many firm friendships have been formed this way. You will discover that learning some Portuguese will allow you to ingratiate yourself further into the community – and not learning the language may indirectly lead to the end of your Portuguese dream.
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!
One of the best ways to learn Portuguese is to concentrate first on the spoken rather than written word. Investing in an inexpensive phrase book will go a long way to help, and of course there are many courses, books, CD teaching tools and computer software packages around that you can call on. To get a start, consider the following steps:
- Set some realistic, short-term and long-term learning goals
- Choose a good tool to help you – books, online courses, DVDs, CDs – or you may decide to go on a Portuguese course. Many Portuguese Buying Guide readers have sung the praises of the Rosetta Stone courses
- Tune into a Portuguese radio station on the Internet and listen at home, in the car and in shops when in Portugal
- Play yourself some Portuguese songs whilst you are at home or in the car.
- Watch Portuguese TV – watch anything: films, news, documentaries, the weather, football! It really doesn’t matter as long as you get regular exposure to the language
Hopefully one day soon you will find yourself speaking a few words to your neighbour! Use your developing Portuguese as much as you possibly can. Watching news programmes can be a tremendous help because newsreaders speak directly to the camera and often more slowly and clearly than actors in a Portuguese film.
One of the main reasons why expats repatriate back to the UK is that they have not learnt enough of the language to ingratiate. Communication is such an important part of every day life – not just for official business, or knowing what you are buying, but also for making friends and being part of the community!
And remember this: 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!