Boost your Portuguese vocabulary in 3 steps

portuguese-vocabulary

Vocab, vocab, vocab.
Whatever technique is working for you in your quest to master the language, there is no getting around the fact that when it comes to Portuguese vocabulary, the more the better. Kindly ignore any learning program that says to just start talking with the bare minimum of vocabulary. Whether you prefer a conversational approach to language learning or a more traditional grammar-rules based approach, you need vocab and you need it fast.

The trick is to acquire more words in less time.
Here are my all-time 3, top tips for getting there:
(1) Label your world.

This works subliminally. Label everything you want to know the name of in your house with a post-it note. Every time you open the kitchen cupboard you will see the word "armário". Remove them when you find yourself seeing these words in your head before you are in eyesight of the item.

(2) Power Flashcard sessions

Wait. Don't skip down to the next tip. You already know about flashcards but I doubt you know how to supercharge them. It took me a while to perfect this process but once I did, I easily gained thousands of new words - many of which are low-frequency (not used every day). The low-frequency vocab normally takes years and years to get. But without these, you'll be stuck in beginners camp always using the most common words.

  1. Keep your cards + a pen near you, with 5-10 blank ones on top.
  2. Never let the deck exceed ~10 cards.
  3. Spend no more than 5 minutes per day doing this routine. Never miss a single day. Never.
  4. Start with the English side first.
  5. Say the answer out loud (or whispered).
  6. Rotate through the deck.
  7. Place a card on the table only when you've gotten it correct 3 times in a row - without much stress.
  8. Keep going until all the cards are on the table or the 5 minutes is up.
  9. If all cards are retired and you still have time, shuffle the deck and flip them over to do the Portuguese side.
  10. Only when a card has been correctly memorized 3 times in a row - both sides, can it be removed.
  11. Replace the retired cards with new ones as they come up in your studies or thoughts.
UPDATE 2019

After moving to a new home here I discovered my long-lost shoebox full of flascards. OMG. Check it out.

portuguese vocabulary flashcards

portuguese vocabulary flashcards

I had a second box but it's lost. Something close to 2,000 cards here. This is what you should be aiming for. GRADUALLY. I eventually had 4-5k memorized words/phrases/conjugations. Imagine how much smoother your conversations would go if you had a base like that? This was KEY in finally breaking through the PARALYSIS I was finding myself in while trying to understand someone in-conversation. When I was doing the talking I only got stuck when I discovered that I now had several different words to say the equivalent thing!

Make this your goal.

The big change that has occurred now - 2019, is that we have discovered some new and radically effective memorization strategies. Wired magazine posted a good overview, and we've adopted the Leitner Method as the new system being applied to our Semantica online course. You can do it with old-fashioned paper cards as well -- just read the Wikipedia article here and make your own system. It's wickedly effective.

(3) Meet the Cognates

Cognates are words that share a common origin. Many Portuguese words are very similar to English and thus EASY to learn. While these are not always the most commonly used words, I'm going to show you 100 Portuguese verbs that are so similar to English AND in common usage here. You can and should learn these right now. I would strongly recommend using these BEFORE trying to memorize the "core" Portuguese verbs. These are just as good, everyone will understand you without hesitation, and you will get into the conversation right away.

If you can conjugate the verb IR, and you've done some of steps 1 & 2 above, you will have THOUSANDS of sentences at your disposal really, really quickly.

100 top Portuguese Cognates (just verbs):

> 100 COGNATES (video download)

If you're serious...

about learning Portuguese of Brazil, there's a world of opportunity and adventure waiting for you. But only if you can speak their language. For the motivated, check out our other posts under the category of Learning Tips.