How I Learned Portuguese in 3 Months (Mission Complete!)
I made it! I reached the end of my three-month mission to learn Portuguese.
Be sure to catch up on earlier updates if you haven’t already:
The question is: Did I reach the B1 (lower-intermediate) level of Portuguese that I wanted to?
Here's my end of mission video:
In this article, I’ll go over my study activities from month three, discuss my final video, and take a look back at my mission and see whether I accomplished my goal.
The Final Month of My Portuguese Mission – a Day-by-Day Countdown
I thought I’d do things a little differently in this article and outline everything I did during the final month of my Portuguese mission.
I kept a journal of my exercises every day as I did them, so I thought I’d share it with you so you can see how a month of Portuguese study breaks down day-by-day.
I discovered the podcast BrazilianPodClass. All of the podcast episodes are FREE on iTunes, and I listened to episode 106.
I listened to another BrazilianPodClass episode, but it didn’t hold my attention very well. It’s really structured, with vocabulary lists and grammar drills. I prefer to listen to more natural Portuguese.
I then listened to three NHK World News Portuguese episodes.
I went for coffee with my new Brazilian friend (who I met at a Portuguese Meetup event in month two) and we spoke for 1.5 hours in half Portuguese, half English. She explained some grammar to me.
Later, I listened to the album Um Novo Tempo by the Brazilian band KLB while driving, and tried to pick out as many Portuguese words as I could.
My Brazilian friend told me about some free Portuguese channels for the Roku! I downloaded CB TV Canal Brazil and Rede Nova TV (both available as Roku channels or streamed live online) and watched the latter for about 15 minutes.
Nothing (driving all day for week-long event out of town). Hopefully I can fit some studying in this week even though I’ll be busy every day and most evenings.
Nothing (all-day/evening commitment).
I listened to three episodes of Practice Portuguese podcast: “A História de Amor de Pedro e Inês” (“The Love Story of Pedro and Inês”), and Diálogos 14 and 16 and PortuguesePod101: Intermediate season 1 lesson 10.
I then listened to some songs from the KLB album Um Novo Tempo – about 30 minutes.
On Duolingo, I earned 20 XP. In this and all other Duolingo sessions, I always dictated my Portuguese answers into my phone instead of typing them out.
Nothing (all-day/evening commitment).
Duolingo: 80 XP.
Duolingo: 10 XP. Listened to more of the KLB album, got a few more lyrics from each song!
Nothing (driving home all day from my week-long trip).
I listened to six Practice Portuguese podcast episodes.
I watched 15 minutes of Brazilian TV on the two new Roku channels. The shows weren’t very interesting, so I’ll try again later.
I listened to the KLB album again during a walk, and understood even more lyrics! I need to commit to memorising a few of their songs by the end of my mission. They seem like they’d be easy to learn.
I then watched 20 minutes of the cooking show “Cozinha sob pressão” (“Kitchen under pressure” – the Brazilian version of “Hell’s Kitchen”). I love cooking so I thought I’d like this show. But I’m not a big fan, because I didn’t realize it would be like Hell’s Kitchen, which I’m also not a fan of.
Some podcast listening today:
- NHK world news podcast, one episode.
- Practice Portuguese podcast, four episodes: Atualidade 1 and 2, Artigo 18, and “A Lenda de Rainha Santa Isabel” (“The legend of Queen Saint Isabel”).
I listened to the practice Portuguese podcast: Diálogo 20, Atualidade 3, and Artigo 19, then I watched the Rede Nova TV channel for 30 minutes.
Day 72 – 73
Nothing (no good excuse, just took a little break).
I listened to a 37 minute Practice Portuguese podcast (Artigo 20) and 11 minutes of Artigo 21.
I listened NHK World News Portuguese: 4 episodes.
I was horrified at this point to look back and realize I had totally slacked off and only spoken Portuguese with a real person once in the previous 18 days!! It was time to buckle down and speak the language, damnit! I committed on Day 75 to speak Portuguese with a native speaker every day for the rest of my mission.
I booked an instant 30-minute tutoring session on italki in Portuguese with a Brazilian community tutor.
I also listened to a new Quinta do Bill album, “Filhos da nação” (“Sons of the nation”) while driving. I LOVE the title track. I plan to learn it by heart.
On Duolingo, I earned 40 XP. I want to finish the tree before the end of my mission!
I had 30-minute instant tutoring in Portuguese with a different Brazilian community tutor. Then I listened to NHK World News for the previous day (13 mins). Finally, I listened to two hours of Portuguese music on Google Play Music (though I was working during it, so not listening much). The group Vozes Trinadas (“Trilled Voices”) has some beautiful songs, but they aren’t ideal for trying to memorize.
I completed a one-hour lesson on italki with a Brazilian community tutor. Then on PortuguesePod101 I listened to upper intermediate season 1 lesson 16, and lower intermediate season 1 lesson 23.
I had a great day on Duolingo, earning 150 XP! I’m still trying to finish the tree before the end of my mission.
I completed a 1.5-hour lesson with a European Portuguese community tutor on italki. This was intense! I also listened to two episodes of a new podcast, Portuguêses no Mundo (Portuguese people in the world). It’s about Portuguese emigrants around the world. The stories are fascinating. It took about one hour for two episodes.
With Duolingo, I earned 10 XP.
I attended a one-hour lesson with a different European Portuguese community tutor from italki. Meanwhile, on Duolingo I earned 250 XP. I tested out of some sections, so I got the XP quicker than usual. I also listened to two more episodes of the “Portuguêses no Mundo” podcast.
I completed a thirty minute lesson with a professional Portuguese teacher from italki. We didn’t get to chat much in the language because he spent most of the time telling me about his language learning philosophy. I also earned 30XP on Duolingo.
I listened to the previous four episodes of the NHK World News podcast. No speaking practice!
I had an intense day with PortuguesePod101, listening to intermediate season 1 lessons 5, 7, 13 and 14, and upper beginner season 2 lesson 22.
I also had an instant tutoring session with a Brazilian Portuguese community tutor on italki for 30 minutes (I love these instant tutoring sessions!).
No conversation practice today !
The day went well in other ways.
I completed one PortuguesePod101 lesson: lower beginner lesson 10. I also listened to Portuguêses no Mundo – one episode (the guest lives in China), and to two albums by the popular Brazilian band Legião Urbana: A Tempestade and O Descobrimento do Brasil. I liked two songs by them enough to file away for memorization later. This is what usually happens with music: I listen to hours and only find one or two songs I enjoy.
With Duolingo I earned 240 XP!
Finally, I memorized the KLB song Vão Passando os Minutos (“The Minutes Go By”). It’s a nice song with clear, easy lyrics, but it still took over an hour to memorize completely. I find song memorization useful, but dull and repetitive, so I don’t do it as often as I should.
I completed a one-hour italki lesson with one of my previous European Portuguese community tutors: we found out we’re both interested in French cinema, so we had a lot to talk about!
I also listened to NHK World News, two episodes, and earned 90 XP on Duolingo.
I had scheduled a one-hour lesson with Tatiana, my regular Portuguese teacher, but she had to cancel it. On PortuguesePod101 I completed Intermediate season 1, lessons 11, 12, 15 and 16.
I listened to two Portuguêses no Mundo episodes: Singapore, and Berlin.
No conversation practice again!
I attended a Portuguese language meetup at a wonderful Portuguese cafe and bakery! I spoke for two hours in Portuguese! Afterwards, I recorded a video of myself speaking with Fátima, one of the members (which you can see later in this article).
Duolingo: 300 XP
I listened to two more episodes of Portuguêses no Mundo. It’s such an addictive podcast.
I did an online Portuguese placement test and scored 126/150, or 84%! The test placed me as an advanced learner! Maybe I am a B2 after all! Though I really only feel like a B1.
I had supper at Fátima’s house (the same Fátima who helped me with my video on Day 88), with a large group of Brazilian friends from our meetup group. Such a fun way to end my mission!
As you can see, my study routine was not perfect. Some days I only studied Duolingo for a few minutes, and some days I did nothing at all. But I wasn’t aiming for perfection. I just wanted to do the best that I could every day.
That said, about halfway through my final month, I decided that I should be able to do better, so I kicked myself in the butt and spoke Portuguese with native speakers a whole lot more in the last half of the month.
Portuguese in 3 Months: How Did I Do?
I’ve studied seven foreign languages in my life, and I made more progress in my listening comprehension during these three months than I ever did after a much longer period in my past language studies. Whatever shortcomings my no-reading-or-writing method may have had, this totally makes up for it. I can have actual conversations in Portuguese instead of just reading Harry Potter books!
Even though I probably would’ve memorized more vocabulary by writing it down and doing lots of reading, I would’ve just been learning to recognise the words by sight, not by sound. I wouldn’t understand them when someone said them to me.
For me, listening comprehension is a lot more important than reading comprehension. I didn’t learn Portuguese so I could read the newspaper or Harry Potter, I learned it to go out and use it in the world.
My Portuguese Level After 3 Months of Study
Reaching a B1 level was my goal, and I think I reached it solidly. I took an online test on Day 90 and it ranked me as an “advanced” student. But the test was all reading and writing, so it was pretty easy to guess the right answers when I recognised a word root or verb ending, even if I wouldn’t understand the phrase if someone spoke it aloud.
I would have liked to have a listening comprehension test, but I couldn’t find a good one online. That said, I don’t need a test to tell me that I have pretty impressive listening comprehension (in my humble opinion!).
On the other hand, I’m still not satisfied with my speaking skills. Despite my last-ditch effort during the final two weeks of my mission, I know I didn’t speak enough over the three months. It’s super frustrating to look back and know I could have done more. Obviously it’s not too late to keep practising speaking, but I still have that nagging regret about not doing it during my actual mission. Lesson learned for next time! (And there will be a next time, oh yes.)
Portuguese in 3 Months: My Final Mission Video
Here is the final video of my Portuguese mission. Remember to click “CC” to view the English subtitles.
I felt pretty good about this video.
Partly because I made it immediately after a two-hour meetup where I spoke lots of Portuguese, so I was in the groove, and partly because I feel more at ease chatting with someone in person than I do on Skype.
In person, people make more gestures when they speak, so you get a bigger range of body language to help you follow the conversation a bit better.
What Did I Learn from my Portuguese in 3 Months Mission?
I took away three key learning points from this mission:
- Benny has it right with his speak from day 1 approach. Do NOT underestimate the value of speaking your target language. It improves your listening comprehension at the same time. And it works your muscle memory. Those last two weeks where I spoke Portuguese nearly every day made a really big difference. My listening comprehension was impressive because I had listened to spoken Portuguese nearly every day for three months. Now if I had only spoken Portuguese every day too, my speaking skills would be equally good – and my listening comprehension even better.
- With italki, I prefer community tutors to certified professional teachers. Certified teachers seem to want to follow a rigid structure where you start with beginner material, and don’t move on until you’ve mastered it. This makes sense to them because this is the way they learned to teach the language. I only did three lessons with professional teachers, and I didn’t return to them, preferring to stick with community tutors who were more flexible and more willing to follow my lead.
- I thrive more in an unstructured learning environment. I learned more Portuguese in three months of studying what I want, when I want, than I did in any other language I had ever studied in all those classrooms before. And I definitely had a lot more fun doing it. I may not take an exclusively listening/speaking approach in every future language mission, but I will keep trusting my own instincts when it comes to what, when and how to study. No more following someone else’s lesson plan!
As soon as my mission ended, I bought a five-lesson package from my regular teacher, Tatiana, on italki. Lesson packages expire after six months, so this ensured I wouldn’t slack off and give up my Portuguese studies.
I would love to continue with Portuguese to the same extent that I did during my mission, but I have other language obligations. I’m going on a trip to Mexico soon (my first ever trip to a Latin American country) with my French-speaking in-laws, so I want to brush up on my French and learn some Spanish before I go. (I’ve previously studied Spanish for one semester at university – 16 years ago! And I got a C.) I’m pretty fluent in French so I’m not worried about studying it at the same time as Spanish, but adding Portuguese into the mix will definitely confuse me!
Then, less than two months after that, I’m heading on a trip to Thailand, and I want to improve my Thai before I go. So continuing my Portuguese will have to wait a couple of months. But I’m planning on visiting Brazil in the next year, so I definitely won’t let Portuguese slip too far down my list of priorities.
Resources I Used in My Portuguese Mission
Before I wrap up, I’d like to share all the resources I used for my Portuguese mission.
Courses and Tutors
- Meetup.com to meet Portuguese speakers for real-life conversation practice
TV Shows, Podcasts and Music
- Got Talent Portugal, Got Talent Brazil
- Practice Portuguese podcast
- NKH World Radio Japão Portuguese News
- Arena de Filmes movie podcast
- SBS News, an Australian multilingual news broadcaster
- Conta-me Tudo storytelling podcast
- Portuguêses no Mundo
- TEDx talks in Portuguese, but it’s very difficult to search for TEDx talks by spoken language; you’ll get hits even if it’s just subtitles in your target language
- Cozinha sob pressão TV show
- Bem-vindos a Beirais Portuguese TV show
- Caillou in Portuguese
- Dora, a Exploradora (Dora the Explorer), 17 episodes, but they have since been removed from the site I used
- Bands: KLB, Quinta do Bill, D.A.M.A., Pato Fu
- Flashcards Deluxe/Anki (for iOS and Android for audio flashcards
- CB TV Canal Brazil app for iOS and Android, and the Rede Nova TV Roku app for watching Brazilian TV
- (Not exactly an app) Changed my phone’s OS to Portuguese for my entire mission
Thanks for Following My First-Ever 3-Month Language Mission
I won’t lie, it was a little (OK, a lot) scary to put my mission out there on Fluent in 3 Months (Fi3M) for the world to see. But I received so much positive feedback from readers that I’m glad I did.
I’m thrilled to have been a part of the Fi3M language mission tradition, and once I improve my Portuguese a little more (to the point where I won’t forget it if I let it go for a few months), I plan to choose a different language and do another 3-month mission. I hope my experience encourages you to do your own language mission too!