Charting a couple's move from London to Portugal, tales, adventures and moving advice

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Getting over the fear of speaking Portuguese

Posted on May 08, 2017 by Ben Algarve

One of the things that all expats have to deal with when they begin to learn Portuguese in Portugal is getting over the fear of speaking.

Portuguese is particularly alien to the native English, because of the accent and the speed at which Portuguese people talk. Here are a few tips to help you get over your fear and dive head first into communicating with locals.

Get Portuguese lessons in Lisbon

Getting Portuguese lessons is an excellent way of learning the language in a systematic way. Courses at Lusa Language School focus primarily on speaking during the course of lessons, which means students have the opportunity to practice without the pressure of the real-life Portuguese environment, where speed and slang are significant!

Prices are competitive and the school is located right in the centre of the city at Cais do Sodre. Check out their website for intensive and part-time courses, as well as tailored private lessons.

Lisbon language

Learn the menu

A true cliché when you move to another country is that the first thing you will learn is the menu. This is particularly important in Portuguese because of the sheer amount of ‘false friends’ – words that look similar to words in English but have a completely different meaning.

To give a couple of examples, ‘jarro’ in Portuguese means jug, not jar. If you are told to order at the ‘balcão’, the waiter is referring to the counter, not a balcony.

Ask for directions

A great way to practice listening to Portuguese and say some basic phrases is to ask for directions. Even if you know where you are going, it’s a brilliant excuse to engage with a local and try to watch out for new vocabulary in a way which is as natural as possible.

Join language exchanges

Language exchanges can be a great tool for speaking practice, especially if they are combined with formal Portuguese classes. In Lisbon, there are many options for speakers to find language partners, including through services such as Meetup and Lisbon Language Exchange. It’s also a great way to promote cross-cultural learning and allow Portuguese people to learn your native tongue.

Make friends with locals

Probably the most fun way to practice your Portuguese is to make friends with some locals! Pick up a new hobby at a local club or get talking to people while you are out. Portuguese people are very friendly, but your biggest problem will be to get them to stop speaking English.

English proficiency in Portugal is high, which means waiters, shop-owners and the rest are always quick to switch to English to help you. Tell them in advance that you want to practice your Portuguese and you’re good to go!

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