Portuguese is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world, and its pool of speakers is growing rapidly.
With plenty of fresh resources to learn Portuguese, it can be hard to decipher which books are actually worth buying.
It’s no secret in the language-learning community that certain resources do more harm than good.
“Oh, here’s a picture of a football. Now click ‘futebol’.”
It’s just pointless, and you’ll get little out of it.
A lot of Portuguese courses and apps seem useful because they can get you to learn a few words quickly.
But that’s not necessarily what you want.
When you’re abroad and you finally pluck up the courage to ask a waiter something, all you can blurt out is a few nouns.
This is where books shine.
With a higher focus on grammar and syntax, you can learn how to construct conversations like a native speaker, all while learning the vocab too.
So, how do I know which books are right for me?
Each person learns differently, and some books may suit you more than they suit others.
Despite this, most books compensate for varied learning methods by including lots of resources you can use to compliment your learning.
Best books for learning Portuguese 🇵🇹
Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of the top books to learn Portuguese.
- A Simple Guide to Learning Portuguese for Beginners, Including Grammar, Short Stories, and Popular Phrases
Author: Daily Language Learning
Affordable and thorough, this book covers everything you need to know about the fundamentals of Portuguese - and then some!
Its intricate content covers the most necessary components without skipping over anything, so you can truly feel your grasp of the language improving with every page.
It begins with simple fundamentals, such as the alphabet and pronunciation, giving you the background of the language so you can then build upon it rather than rush into complex vocab and grammar.
The next section covers simple grammatical constructions, like word order and tenses.
This will help you get to grips with the language and will allow you to start forming sentences and conversations.
Building on this, the book gradually and safely progresses through more advanced levels of Portuguese, all the while introducing more vocab and using short stories to help you understand proper grammar use, which becomes more sophisticated as the book continues.
This book is exceptional for learning Portuguese.
It even covers the differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese grammar.
Topics such as false cognates and slang terms are addressed, too.
- Portuguese as a World Language
Authors: Clemence M. C. Jouet-Pastre, Patricia Isabel Sobral, Maria Luci De Biaji Moreira and Amelia P. Hutchinson
Ponto de Encontro (literally, “Meeting Point”) has received glowing reviews from university professors, which just goes to show how highly regarded it is as a learning resource.
There is high praise for its mammoth content - over 600 pages of information and activities.
The variety of content, too, proves invaluable to students and teachers alike.
Contemporary subjects are introduced, such as politics and the environment, alongside more traditional topics, like food and health, which offer an extensive pool of knowledge.
Throughout the book, European and Brazilian Portuguese are taught side by side.
The differences and nuances of each dialect are explained, and learners are invited to choose whichever one they feel most at home with (I find Brazilian Portuguese easier to understand, both in terms of their accent and their grammar rules - or rather, lack of grammar rules!).
Ponto de Encontro also comes with a CD, which serves to enhance learners’ listening and speaking capabilities.
This gives the learner a lot more flexibility over how they choose to study.
- Pronunciation and Grammar Explained in Plain English
Author: Russell Walker
This book sets itself apart from others by offering an underestimated but vital service.
It explains everything in plain and simple English.
This is perfect for beginners, especially those who have no prior knowledge of the culture, or no previous experience of another romantic language (although many Portuguese learners do).
Without sounding patronizing, the book explains even the most basic elements of the Portuguese language, such as those “funny little squiggles” you find on certain letters.
Highly praised for its engaging and informative style despite, let’s face it, boring grammatical content, this book demonstrates a real desire to connect with learners through its progressive use of the language.
The small but useful quizzes at the end of each section are appealing and helpful, meaning you are sure to benefit from what you’ll find within this book.
- Routledge Essential Grammars
Authors: Amelia P. Hutchinson, Janet Lloyd and Cristina Sousa
The main selling point of this book is its sophistication.
If you already have some language-learning experience, you might have encountered Routledge before, as they are one of the most highly regarded language publishers out there.
The book is divided into two parts, the first of which details the fundamentals of Portuguese grammar.
This gives you a base knowledge of the language, so you can feel prepared for the more advanced tasks in the second section.
Part II contains all the applied language exercises and activities, so you can put the grammar into context.
The book uses a series of dialogues and conversations as a way of representing everyday scenarios and demonstrating basic grammar.
Students can utilize these in any way they want, be it via role-plays or reading comprehension exercises, meaning each aspect of language is addressed.
However, it focuses almost entirely on the European Portuguese variety, with the occasional touch on African variants.
Brazilian Portuguese doesn’t get a look in, so if this is your choice of dialect, it is perhaps best to consider another book.
- Your essential guide to understanding and speaking Portuguese
Author: Maria Fernanda S Allen
Practicality is the key theme of this book.
The publishers themselves state their desire to teach only what students will actually use in everyday life.
This is reflected in how popular the book is, as there’s a lot of high praise for this book’s ability to transform your Portuguese conversational skills so you can hold coherent dialogues in real situations.
And it gives you realistic goals within a realistic time period, too.
Three months may not seem like a long time to grasp a language (or it might seem like too much time for you commitment-phobes out there), but the weekly divisions of exercises within the book give you a realistic opportunity to progress your language skills effectively.
Maria Allen’s an experienced university professor, so you can bet she knows what’s worth teaching and what’s best to leave out.
This book is definitely the best for learning the fundamentals of real-life conversations.
- Português Para Estrangeiros
Authors: Carla Oliveira and Luisa Coelho
This book is perfect if you’re planning to move to Portugal, or at least stay there for a while.
Tailored to beginner and beginner-intermediate levels (A1, A2, and B1), Gramática Aplicada (“Applied Grammar”) teaches students subjects that arise in everyday conversations, including in-depth aspects of Portuguese culture.
It comes with audio too.
And what’s more, the dialogues are spoken by true native speakers.
- Beginner To Intermediate Course (Complete/Teach Yourself Language Courses)
Authors: Sue Tyson-Ward and Ethel Pereira De Almeida Rowbotham
As the title suggests, this book is exclusively for those who want to focus on Brazilian Portuguese.
The sole focus on one dialect allows this book to cover everything about it, from specific grammar rules to nuanced cultural understandings.
You’ll gain valuable insights into Brazilian culture and test your language skills with exercises based on real-life scenarios.
The book gives you easy access to the accompanying audio files by allowing you to stream them online.
This textbook is put together in such a way that it’s perfect for teaching yourself, for use with a one-on-one tutor, or in a classroom setting.
Expect to reach anywhere between A1 to B2 after using this one.
Authors: Helena Ventura and Parvaz Salimov
I’ve included this one as it’s possibly the best advanced-level Portuguese book out there.
There is one catch, however - it’s solely focused on European Portuguese.
Português Outra Vez (“Portuguese Again”) is a brilliant book aimed at seasoned learners who want to cement their C1 and C2 levels.
It will teach you how to use grammatical constructions like a native speaker, meaning you’ll be speaking naturally and fluently by the end of the book.
This book will solidify your oral and written skills, giving you complete confidence in your Portuguese abilities.
Now you can venture out into the Portuguese wilderness without worrying about asking for directions when you inevitably get lost (better to stay in the cities - Lisbon in particular is an absolute utopia).
How do I choose the best book for me?
In short, it depends.
Everyone learns differently.
Each person has their own individual preferences for the activities they most enjoy or the aspects of language they are best at.
Me? I’m terrible at the listening side of things, so I often seek books with a good amount of accompanying audio.
If it’s reading comprehension you’re bad at, books with short stories are best for you, as you can see the language in context.
Is the writing aspect giving you a hard time? Exercise books are what you need. The more written activities you get through, the more naturally the words start to flow.
Before you know it, you’ll be writing opinion articles on the political climate of Brazil.
Aside from this, here are a few things to consider when looking to buy a book to learn Portuguese:
- Experience: It’s no use buying an intermediate-level book if you can’t even say “My name is…”
- Dialect preference: If you’re planning on going to Brazil, or looking to impress a certain Brazilian, avoid books that teach European Portuguese.
- Objectives: If your goal is simply to learn a few key phrases and tenses to use on holiday, it’s probably not the best idea to buy an academic-oriented coursebook (grab a cheap phrasebook like this one instead).
All things considered, learning Portuguese is extremely fun.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to learn the language of Brazil - the country of football glory, carnival, and paradise beaches? 😊
Portuguese opens up a whole world of culture, and with around 250 million speakers, you’ll unlock another massive part of the world to interact with.
There are some excellent resources available (like this popular course) that will help you pick up the language.
The books listed in this article are some of the best for learning Portuguese, either from scratch or at more advanced levels.
This comprehensive list will hopefully have given you a great idea of how to get started on your Portuguese learning, or even point you in the right direction for improving your language.
I wish you the best for your Portuguese-flavoured future.
Boa sorte! 🇵🇹 🇧🇷