America,  Brazil,  TDM,  Tips

Learn Portuguese to travel to Brazil: review of the Michel Thomas & MosaLingua method (promo code inside)

For our two weeks around Rio, I thought it would be nice to have some bases in Portuguese just in case..

Even if the receptionists of hostels/hotels almost all speak English, this isn’t the case for waiters, street vendors, bus terminal employees… most of the premises in a way. Knowing a few basics in Portuguese is always better than nothing

I started learning Portuguese 10 days before the trip, but I was in Uruguay and Argentina, surrounded by Spanish speakers, so the learning did not progress much

The day before departure, I was finally motivated to listen to two CDs by Michel Thomas in a row and learn 100 words on the MosaLingua app. But here it is, so quickly learned, so quickly forgotten! The next day, out of the 3 short conversations (buying a SIM card/ordering at the restaurant /receiving the keys at the guesthouse), I could only understand one. But from the 2nd day in total immersion, I was able to have short but complete conversations with my Uber:D drivers

As for Spanish, I used the methods that worked for me: the Michel Thomas method and the MosaLingua application (which I will review below)

I just wanted to draw your attention to 2 points

  1. Conjugation: it is enough to know how to conjugate for “I”, “he” and “they“. The conjugation of “he” also applies to você (the Brazilian informal tu), you (formal sing.), il, elle, on(a gente, widely used in Brazil. A gente come = one (us) eats). The conjugation for “they” applies to you (plural), they, them.
  2. If you speak Spanish here, you will not be understood

1. Opinion on The Michel Thomas Method – Portuguese (Europe)

The Michel Thomas Method is a 100% audio method that allows you to acquire basic grammar notions in a very short time (7h30). We attend a virtual class with two other students

Unlike Spanish, this time I couldn’t get my hands on the French version. Simply because it doesn’t exist in Harrap’s edition. For Portuguese, there is only one version: in English (British accent), and the Portuguese taught is European Portuguese

The CDs can be purchased on Amazon, but if you haven’t thought about buying the CDs and burning them before you leave, you can always buy lessons directly from the App Store

You can learn Spanish from Spain and be perfectly understood in South America. But the pronunciation of European Portuguese is completely different from Brazilian Portuguese. For example: Bom dia is pronounced “bon di-a” in Europe and “bon di-a” in Brazil

Moreover, the way of presenting things is a bit strange: the teacher is accompanied by two students and a native. Each time the teacher asks the students to translate, the native passes behind to “loop” and give the correct pronunciation of the sentence. However, it often happens that the teacher does not speak the same way as the native

At the end of the basic course there is a detailed explanation of the differences in pronunciation between Portugal and Brazil, but this part is too light for my taste

So, I can only use the Michel Thomas method to have basic grammar, I would have liked there to be 2 natives: a Portuguese, a Brazilian so you choose to listen to the one you want. After having really liked the Spanish version of this method, I am a little disappointed by it. I think it will help me a lot more during my stay in Portugal than in Brazil

Note: the Pimsleur method (100% audio) is available for the Brazilian accent. It allows you to learn a lot of sentences (like in a conversation guide) but 0 explanations on grammar or to boost listening comprehension. It is adapted to those who wish to improve their accent I find

2. MosaLingua Application Notice – Portuguese (Brazil)

Mosalingua contacted us to propose you a promo code (it’s an exclusive offer for you, we don’t get any bonus). By clicking here and using the code MOSATOUR-20 you will get an annual subscription for the Web version: 47,93 € instead of 59,90 €. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of it!

Fortunately, the MosaLingua app offers an app to learn Brazilian Portuguese with the right Brazilian pronunciation

The plusses

This app is based on the spaced repetition method, so you can spend only 5 minutes learning/reviewing per day – but learn a lot. There are plenty of conversations to listen to/rehearse to improve your listening comprehension

The –

Compared to the Spanish version I have at the same publisher, I’m also a bit disappointed because there is much less bonus than the Spanish version. For example, the whole part about the alphabet, the basic conjugations… is missing


Since these two methods have not proven their effectiveness for Portuguese (unlike Spanish), I continue to use them but I have to rely on three other methods


Brazilian Portuguese – Survival Phrases (in English): 15 free lessons of 3mn to 12mn each, you learn how to count, say hello, compliment the dishes… with funny anecdotes to better remember the lesson

Brazilian Portuguese Podcast, by Semantica (in English): 25 free lessons of 4mn to 6mn each, we listen to a short conversation, it’s great to get used to the specific accent of Rio de Janeiro


Article comparing Portuguese to Spanish: Learning Brazilian Portuguese if you already speak Spanish: to help those who already speak Spanish switch quickly to Portuguese. I find that Portuguese sounds a lot like French grammatically speaking, but the words are more like Spanish (in writing anyway)

Articles explaining how to pronounce words with a Brazilian accent: First article in table form; Second article with exercises and detailed explanations These two articles are super useful! You only need to know a few basic rules to be able to convert a bunch of words you already know in Spanish/French/English into Brazilian Portuguese (with the right accent and pronunciation)


La bossa nova offers beautiful songs in Brazilian Portuguese. I particularly like Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema), the lyrics are very simple to learn


Do I mix Spanish and Portuguese?

Yes, I still sometimes say “Gracias” instead of “Obrigada”, the shame

Is learning Portuguese from English difficult?

I will say yes and no. It’s difficult if you don’t speak English very well. If I had to learn Portuguese with a teacher who speaks to me in Spanish, for example, I would have had a hard time. But since I speak English very well, for me, whether I learn Portuguese with an English or French teacher… it doesn’t change anything

Is it easy to understand written Portuguese?

Strangely enough, yes. I bought a magazine in Argentina (in Spanish) and a magazine in Brazil (in Portuguese). And I understand the articles of the magazine in Brazil better than the one in Spanish. I’ve been traveling in Hispanic countries for 3 months now. It’s funny isn’t it?

I put here some texts to see if you understand OK? (click on the pictures to zoom)



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