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The Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Portuguese Reading Skills (Part 1)

Most language learners do not immediately turn to reading as a way to improve their language skills. After all, reading in a language that is not your mother tongue is difficult. Moreover, with the rise of technology, good old-fashioned reading is becoming less popular.

During the pandemic, reading statistics improved considerably. However, Statista released a study in February 2024 that analyzed 56 countries worldwide. Even in countries with the best results, book readers amounted to less than half the population. Thus, you are not alone if you do not even consider yourself a reader.

So, if you already speak Portuguese, is mastering reading that important? If so, how can you do it?

In part 1 of this 2-article series, explore why you should improve your Portuguese reading and how to start with the basics. Additionally, get exclusive tips for using reading to enhance your other language skills and boost your progress. Welcome to one of the best-kept language-learning secrets!

Why Learn Portuguese Through Reading

Reading in a foreign language might be challenging. Yet, it is one of the best ways to learn. Consider five reasons why learning through reading puts you one step ahead in your language journey.

Grow Your Vocabulary

Diverse reading materials put you in contact with many new words. You can research these unknown words and add them to our vocabulary notebook. Then, try and use them as much as possible in the next few days. Doing so will foster long-term memory and help you retain more vocabulary.

Improve Your Writing

Practicing reading in your target language boosts all of your language skills
Improving your Portuguese reading ability also enhances your speaking and writing

There is nothing like seeing words written down to interiorize their spelling. Instead of having to write a single word many times to learn it, you can allow your brain to retain it by seeing it on paper. Grammar will also become easier as you go through sentences with different structures and elements.

Enhance Your Pronunciation

Audiobooks make up one of the most powerful resources in this case. When you read and hear at the same time, your brain starts associating specific sounds with the words you are looking at. Better yet, you can repeat what you hear and read simultaneously or immediately after the narrator.

This is a technique called shadowing. Through it, you will not only enhance your listening comprehension but improve your pronunciation as well. Since finding audiobooks in European Portuguese is challenging, here are two options to get you started:

Understand The Culture Better

Books, articles, newspapers, and magazines reflect the people who wrote them. They often feature true stories or narrate historical events. Thus, reading allows you a sneak peek at the culture linked to your target language. You will get a clearer idea of the national background and explore customs and expressions from different regions. Instead of reading a translation of a book you already love, discover a new one by a Portuguese author.

Boost Your Confidence

You will feel more confident knowing you can discuss many different subjects. It will become easier to meet new people because you will probably be able to debate their interests and yours. Besides, all the aspects mentioned above, from bettering pronunciation to understanding inside jokes, will make you more at ease when interacting with native speakers.

Improving your Portuguese reading level will boost your confidence
Learning to read in Portuguese will boost your confidence and self-esteem

The Basics of Reading in a Foreign Language

Get all the support and guidance you need to learn European Portuguese in The Journey! Explore a unique path to fluency that will guide you through the Portuguese culture and people. In this program, you can learn the natural way, with science-proven and enjoyable methods. Are you ready to start?

Regardless of how well you speak any foreign language, you will feel limited if you can not read. You might not want to dive into it right after you start learning, but soon you will understand its importance. Start by exploring the basics of learning to read in Portuguese.

The Alphabet

The first thing you must learn is the alphabet. After all, you must know the sounds of a language, whether you want to understand it, speak it, or read it. The Portuguese alphabet has 26 letters. It used to have 23, but the K, Y, and W were the most recent additions.

Alphabet & Sounds of European Portuguese

Learning the alphabet and most common sounds is the first step in translating what you hear into written words. Portuguese uses diacritics to indicate specific phonemes. Thus, knowing them will make it easier to know which words should include these symbols.

Common Pronunciation Rules

Pronunciation rules dictate how to enunciate words, syllables, and even letters. Understanding this aspect of language is essential for reading correctly. European Portuguese has several pronunciation rules that might prove challenging to identify and reproduce. Here are five examples:

  • The letters C and H together produce the sound SH
    • Chá (Tea)
  • The letters L and H together produce a sound similar to the Italian GL or the Spanish LL
    • Olho (Eye)
  • The letters N and H together produce a sound identical to the French GN
    • Amanhecer (Dawn)
  • The tilde translates into a nasal vowel
    • Não (No)
  • The letter S can adopt the sound of Z, S, SH, or J according to its position in the word and the letters surrounding it.
Letter S – The Ultimate Pronunciation Guide!

But memorizing these rules and trying to remember every time you want to read a word is frustrating and ineffective. Instead, you can learn them by exposure. To do so, try hearing content in Portuguese and following along with its transcription. Then, read articles out loud to practice and ask a native to evaluate and correct your pronunciation.

Building Vocabulary for Better Comprehension

Resources like Google Translate turn text into speech at the click of a button. They support talking, reading, and writing for beginners. But relying on them is simply unsustainable. Besides, you will quickly become discouraged by feeling you have seen the same word many times but do not remember its meaning.

As you learned, reading is an incredible technique to boost your vocabulary. However, if you know very few terms, you might feel frustrated for having to resort to a dictionary every two or three words. Here is how to make it easier.

How to Expand Your Portuguese Vocabulary

Flashcards are one of the best and most popular ways to boost vocabulary. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced student, chances are you have one or more flashcard apps downloaded on your cellphone. You can even create your own cards, so you have to write the words yourself.

You can also learn basic rules that help you deduce the equivalents of English terms in Portuguese. You can find some of these rules in 500 Common Words in 3 minutes! (European Portuguese Vocabulary).

500 Common Words in 3 minutes! (European Portuguese Vocabulary)

Additionally, you can go straight to the point by starting with easy reading materials and progressing from there. Children’s books are a great place to start practice. Then, you move on to world news, magazines, general articles, and novels.

Finally, you can read books and in-depth articles about topics you are interested in. This way, you will learn less spoken terms and move to a more advanced proficiency level.

Develop Your Comprehension Skills

Your next step is enhancing comprehension, which encloses aspects like fluent reading, thinking, and understanding. This stage in your development requires practice, and there is no going around it. After all, it is not very useful to read and pronounce something correctly if you are unaware of its meaning.

You can experiment with different study materials and activities. For example, in The Journey, you will find several comprehension exercises. They help you learn to deduce from the context and assess your reading and listening comprehension.

Another activity worth trying is creating written or spoken summaries. You can pick blog articles and short texts in Portuguese, read them, and form an overview of what you understood.

Read articles about your favorite topics in your target language
Read and summarize articles about your favorite topics to improve your comprehension

Enhancing Speed and Accuracy

Finally, you will want to improve your speed and accuracy in all the abilities mentioned above. Doing so is the ultimate effort that will take you to a native proficiency level. You can practice with newspaper articles, blogs, and books originally written in Portuguese.

Instead of purposefully reading as fast as possible, focus on reading well and understanding the message in one go. Try it first for short paragraphs and simple subjects. You will notice your speed picking up as you practice.

If you focus on reading well in Portuguese, you will soon become faster

Do not wait until a specific text feels too easy. Instead, keep pushing your boundaries and move on to a new text as soon you grasp your current one. This more intensive approach fits well with short and consistent study sessions.

You might also want to try skimming, a strategy for speed reading. In it, you read only some parts of the text to deduce its message and purpose without going through the whole piece. With time, you will move from carefully analyzing each segment of written information to quickly glimpsing what it is about.

How do you feel about learning a new romance language? The Journey is a premium European Portuguese program designed to teach you while you have fun! You will cover various topics over short and entertaining lessons based on real-life conversations. Get your 7-day free trial now!

Learn European Portuguese the Instinctive Way!

For the last decade, we’ve been working on putting together the best possible European Portuguese course. After much research, feedback from our students, and several iterations, we think we’ve got it! 😉

At the base of it all is a sound conviction that languages are better learned instinctively, so the process needs to engaging, varied, and enjoyable. Throughout, we used scientifically proven techniques to help you master pronunciation, phrase construction, oral understanding, grammar, and all the necessary bits to get you to fluency. And still, the whole thing is presented as an adventure. It’s a course like no other, trust us!

Resuming on How to Improve Your Portuguese Reading Skills

Improving your Portuguese reading ability is one of the best ways to become more fluent. Books, articles, and other types of content will teach you about various topics. You will also gain the confidence to interact in your target language regardless of the way you choose to do so.

Language is worth learning through a holistic approach, considering its different aspects and possibilities. Hence, do not dismiss reading. Instead, consider an essential part of your path to learn the Portuguese language and do your best to improve at it.

Remember to focus on content written in the variant you want to learn – European or Brazilian Portuguese. Choose your content wisely, and do not give up. You will be astonished with your results.

So, how much do you enjoy reading in Portuguese? Comment your favorite Portuguese reading materials below! Plus, discover How To Pronounce and Read European Portuguese Like a Native. Do not miss part 2 of this series, coming out next week! In it, you will discover native Portuguese authors and their incredible work.

How To Pronounce and Read European Portuguese Like a Native

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