But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to learning Portuguese.
We all have different goals and learning styles, which is why it’s always important to choose the strategies and resources that are most relevant to you.
Think about the last time you met someone new. At the end of the conversation, you probably remembered a funny story they told you and that they complimented your shoes. But, be honest – did you remember their name?
We can’t remember everything, so our brains naturally hold onto whatever is most closely linked to our emotions, goals, and interests. Without that essential link, it’s easy to forget what we learn and to lose motivation. This is why it’s so important for language learners to connect the way they study to the way they live.
One way to do this could be to keep a personal diary in Portuguese. It can be a few sentences or brief notes, written or spoken, about what you did each day and what you plan to do tomorrow. Don’t get too caught up on perfection here. The purpose is to shine a spotlight on the most relevant words and topics that you need to learn and remember. It naturally reveals what is missing from your Portuguese skillset, and what is most meaningful in your daily life.
Here’s another mental exercise: What you would do differently if you felt more comfortable with your Portuguese skills? Would you feel closer to your family if you could have deeper conversations with your in-laws? Would you feel more integrated in your community if you could invite your neighbour over for dinner? Would you be more effective at work if you could communicate with clients and coworkers in Portuguese? Or do you just want to order the right coffee when you go out to a restaurant?
With this in mind, explore what you need to improve to match both the life you have and the life you want to have. Being as specific as possible will give you more tangible goals. For example, “I want to understand what people say to me” is a great goal, but how would you know whether or not you’re making progress? Understanding every word in every context is setting the bar too high and would make you feel like you’re always failing. Instead, something like “I want to understand the clerk’s questions at the supermarket” offers a more specific, actionable way to start making progress. Whenever possible, transform these broader goals into smaller milestones to help you stay motivated.
All that’s left is to search for the learning style and resources that fit your routine best and get you taking small steps along your path to increased fluency. Of course, it’s not always possible to connect your study sessions to your life. Sometimes those verb conjugations just have to be memorised! But the more you can refine your mindset, the more you can give challenges a purpose and seek out answers when you hit a roadblock. The goal is to feel like you’re not just studying, but that what you’re learning is actually improving your quality of life while in Portugal.
Explore the “Shorties” section at PracticePortuguese.com to find hundreds of 1-3 minute European Portuguese dialogues, searchable by your specific interests and learning level. (The audio for all episodes is free).