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10 Ways to Expand Your Portuguese Vocabulary

My husband tells me I have the vocabulary of a 12 year old. But not in my first language. In Portuguese, a language I’ve been studying 10 years. I’m pretty proud of packing that 12 years into 10 though. Often tasks to expand your Portuguese vocabulary can be a bore, a chore and downright unproductive especially when words slip out of your memory within a week or two. Expanding your vocabulary is more of a mindset.

I have different types of students. Those that ask for each word they don’t know and those that find a back channel around gaps in their vocabulary. I believe the second stems from emersion abroad or a professor who doesn’t know a word of your native language.

You can’t ask a stranger in whatever country you find yourself “I am looking for the -insert supermarket in native language that the person has zero knowledge of-.”  You have to explain: I am looking for the place that sells food.

There’s always a way. Just find what you mean to say. Think the tactics of a 3-year-old. And in the meantime, work on the 10 tips below to steadily and organically expand your Portuguese vocabulary.

1. Buy 501 Portuguese Verbs Book

501 Portuguese verbs not only lists the most common verbs it is congugates them on a neat page.

I bought this book when I started to learn portuguese. Given I began at A and now a lot of verbs beginning with A, B and C. But it’s a good clear layout and for those of us that like physical reosurces this a great one to have buy your desk.

Good For:

Put a physical copy on your desk. The book includes the complete conjugations for each verb. Repetition means you add vocab while memorizing the conjugations.

Avoid the Pitfalls:

Don’t read from front to back or you’ll learn a lot of A,B, C verbs and not many X,Y,Z verbs. Open on a random page, add a post it note once you’ve learnt the contents. Repeat.

2. Learn the Top 1000 Portuguese verbs

http://hackingportuguese.com/sample-page/the-1000-most-common-verbs-in-portuguese/

Good For:

A reference list to check off verbs you’ve learnt

Avoid the Pitfalls:

There are no conjugations included in the list. Many common verbs are irregular, so look up the conjugations via reverso.com

30-Portuguese-Phrases to expand your Portuguese vocabulary.

3. Read our 30 Portuguese Phrases You Should Know

Good For:

Learn colloquial and very common Brazilian Portuguese phrases.

Avoid the Pitfalls:

Watch Brazilian series or novelas to hear how these phrases are used in context. This will give you confidence to use them yourself.

4. Buy an Amazon Kindle for Reading in Portuguese

Good For:

Read a Portuguese language book on your Kindle and you can hold down the word for the definition. Much quicker than typing into the dictionary each time.

Avoid the Pitfalls:

Choose books that are not too challenging or you’ll be bogged down by unknown word fatigue. Rather than novels, choose non-fiction books in a subject that interests you or on something in your industry.

5. Watch these Instagram accounts that highlight a different Portuguese saying everyday

https://www.instagram.com/streetsmartbrazil/

https://www.instagram.com/theportuguesedictionary/

Good For:

Bitesize content of idioms and slang.

Avoid the Pitfalls:

Follow one profile at a time and go back to their timeline to review the Portuguese vocabulary after a week or too. This helps solidify what you’ve learnt.

6. Subtitles in Portuguese When Watching ANY Movie

Good For:

Quickly seeing the Portuguese alternatives for everyday words.

Avoid the Pitfalls:

Keep a notebook near you to write down words that strike you as essential. This prevents the words going in one ear and out the other.

7. For Each Word You Learn, Look Up Its Relatives

For example you learn the noun confusion. In your vocabulary glossary write down the following:

Noun: Confusion = confusão

Adj: Confusing/ confused = confundido or confuso

Verb: to confuse = confundir

Adv: confusingly = confusamente

Good For:

Quickly bunching vocab together and learning the common endings for word types (verb, noun, adj, adv)

Avoid the Pitfalls:

Use the words in sentences because learning them together can mean you get mixed up. Using them in context clarifies this. Over time you’ll automatically learn how to transform a verb to a noun etc.

8. Make a Synonym List to Expand Your Portuguese Vocabulary

Brazilians have a hundred ways to say cool for example. Use this website for Portuguese synonyms https://www.sinonimos.com.br/bacana/ to add to your glossary.

  • Beleza
  • Legal
  • Bacana
  • Show
  • Maneira
  • Joia
  • Maravilha
  • Foda
  • Ótimo

Good For:

Expanding your adjectives, so you sound more than a robot.

Avoid the Pitfalls:

Run verbs through a dictionary like Linguee to check the synonym can be used in the context you are expecting.

Translate news headlines to expand your Portuguese vocabulary.

9. Translate a Couple of News Headlines Each Day

Look up the words you don’t know as you translate the news headlines.

Try these news sources:

https://www.bbc.com/portuguese (most simple language)

https://brasil.elpais.com (Spanish based newspaper)

https://www.cnnbrasil.com.br

https://www.folha.uol.com.br

https://www.correiobraziliense.com.br

https://www.estadao.com.br

Good For:

To expand your Portuguese vocabulary of news and it is less tedious than translating whole articles. You can read the headlines without subscribing to the news source.

Avoid the Pitfalls:

Vary the news source as each has different tones. Also vary the genre for example ‘technology’ one day, followed by ‘health’. This helps expand your Portuguese vocabulary across different topics.

10. Try a Different Word Game Each Day

The Geniol website has numerous games, quizes and puzzles in Portuguese for free. The “Jogos de Palavras,” can expand your vocabulary when paired with an online dictionary.

Good For:

Learning small words and the correct feminine or masculine endings to words. Also a great spread of difficulty in the games for all levels of Portuguese language learners.

Avoid the Pitfalls:

Make sure you use a dictionary like Linguee.com to search for the meanings of the words. In games like the Anagrams can end up just punching in letters and hope the best. To use your time valuably, create a glossary with the most useful words you learn.


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