Still, memorisation plays an important and interesting role in this process. An often overlooked benefit is that it frees up mental energy and working memory load. When something is firmly planted in your long-term memory, you can access and use it with very little effort. This means all of your mental resources can go toward the rest of the conversation: understanding what you hear, formulating a response, and monitoring body language.

It’s helpful to memorise phrases that you use often, or that don’t have a straightforward translation. For example, take the simple phrase “Sei lá”. The literal translation is “I know there”, but it actually means “I don’t know”. Learning this phrase as a whole is going to be much more useful than just learning “sei” and “lá” individually.

Having a mental bank of go-to phrases like this is essential for getting through early interactions. Even if you don’t understand all the grammar yet, you can still ask simple questions and make appropriate comments to get through a basic conversation. Using a spaced repetition tool helps you memorise useful phrases more efficiently.

Of course, memorising phrases is different from knowing a language. Most of what we say on a daily basis cannot be predicted. We need to be able to adapt to what’s happening in the moment and reply accordingly. So it’s also important to be familiar with the rules. Some learners get lots of Portuguese listening practice and pick up the patterns more naturally. Others do better by actively learning the grammar, and studying how different elements of Portuguese are applied in realistic conversations. Most adults benefit from a combination of these approaches.

Integrating memorisation, grammar instruction, and exploration of the language, has developed an online platform for learning European Portuguese, as it’s spoken in in Portugal. A series of units covers A1 up to B2 grammar, a personalized Smart Review tool helps with key phrases, and there are hundreds of realistic dialogues and entertaining videos with translated transcripts, so you can follow along in both Portuguese and English. Happy learning!