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Reasons Why to Learn Portuguese, When Most Portuguese Speak English

Have you ever visited Portugal without understanding Portuguese? If you have, you might be one of many tourists surprised by the amount of Portuguese who speak fluent English. Wherever you go in big cities and coastal areas, you will find English speakers eager to help. 

Most native Portuguese speakers know at least two languages. They learn English as a Foreign Language (EAFL) at school from an early age. Later, they study another romance language, like French or Spanish. 

In fact, Portugal ranked 8th in the 2023 world’s largest ranking of countries and regions by English skills. Education First’s tests placed it ahead of other countries in the European Union, such as Germany and Spain. 

Thus, the majority of tourists do not aim to improve their Portuguese language skills. Instead, they focus on learning a few everyday words common to most Portuguese-speaking countries. These words earn them some sympathy from the locals, but their impact is minimal.

Moreover, some language learners complain about the locals insisting on speaking English. Hence, it becomes challenging to practice Portuguese with native speakers. If this is the case, should you really study Portuguese? Is it worth all the time, money, and effort you will put into it?

Discover five compelling reasons to learn Portuguese, even in a country where English is widely spoken. Uncover the unique benefits and opportunities of learning this widely spoken language. Additionally, get all the answers you need about how you can start mastering European Portuguese. 

5 Reasons Why to Learn The Portuguese Language

Do you want to learn European Portuguese? Come and explore The Journey. It is a unique resource that opens the door for you to learn Portuguese instinctively. You will learn to interact with Portuguese speakers through science-proven methods and while playing a fun game. Try it now! 

Understand the reasons why to learn European Portuguese
Understand the reasons why to learn European Portuguese

Far from being a barrier, the high English proficiency in Portugal brings you many opportunities. Through it, you can dive into the local language and culture. You can find valid reasons for learning European Portuguese, ​regardless of your mother tongue. Consider these five compelling reasons to start your Portuguese language journey:

Enhance Your Cognitive Abilities

Studies have shown that learning a new language, like Portuguese, has a positive impact on cognitive function. Bilingual individuals often exhibit improved memory, problem-solving skills, and mental flexibility. 

Learning Portuguese can have a profound impact on your mental and emotional well-being. You can enhance your overall cognitive abilities by challenging your brain to learn a new language. This way, you improve your personal and professional life.

Language Learning and Mental Health 

As you engage with the language, you will experience a boost in concentration, memory, and cognitive flexibility. This happens because acquiring a new language requires the brain to work in new ways. It creates new synaptic connections, strengthens neural pathways, and enhances cognitive function.

Language Learning and Emotional Health 

Additionally, the process of learning Portuguese affects your emotional health. It can instil a greater sense of confidence and self-esteem. You will feel a sense of accomplishment and empowerment as you progress and become more proficient. In turn, these positive feelings also reflect in all other areas of your life. 

Learning a new language improves you mental and emotional health
Learning a new language improves your mental and emotional health

Improve Your Cultural Understanding

Studying Portuguese also gives you a deeper understanding and appreciation of Portuguese culture. The language is intrinsically tied to the country’s rich history, traditions, and way of life. Beyond the linguistic aspects, Portuguese reflects the nation’s long history, traditions, and values.

By immersing yourself in the Portuguese language, you will gain precious insights. You will step into the minds of native speakers to understand their humor and values. This cultural immersion will enrich your experience and help you connect with locals in a more meaningful way.

Additionally, Portuguese acts as a gateway to other romance languages. By acquiring it as a second language, you will more easily start speaking Spanish, Italian, or French. These are advantages that simply can not be accessed through English alone.

Create Deeper Relationships

While many Portuguese people speak English, their original language is the one that touches the heart. Foreigners often notice how natives appreciate their effort to learn even basic Portuguese. Doing so shows a genuine interest in their culture and can help you build stronger, more genuine connections with the locals. 

Learning Portuguese demonstrates your respect and appreciation for the local culture. It shows a willingness to adapt and immerse yourself rather than expecting everyone to accommodate to you. The Portuguese are known for their hospitality, and being able to speak their language will make you feel more welcomed and included.

Learn Portuguese and build genuine connections with the native speakers

You will find yourself invited to family gatherings. You will feel welcomed into social circles and communities inaccessible to those who only speak English. Besides, improving your Portuguese skills will ensure you avoid tourist traps. On the contrary, you will enjoy more authentic experiences and receive insider tips on the best places to visit. 

Get Access to Many Cultures

Portuguese is not the spoken native language only in Portugal. Instead, it is the official language in 9 countries and regions. The CPLP includes Brazil, Macau, Mozambique, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and East Timor. Additionally, you will find Portuguese-speaking communities everywhere. The main ones are in countries like the United States, Canada, France, and South Africa.

By learning Portuguese, you gain access to this vast network of cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Your possibilities will stretch far beyond Portugal, reaching all continents. Hence, you will have endless opportunities to use your language skills and connect to different cultures. 

Portuguese speakers are part of a worldwide community
Portuguese speakers are part of a worldwide community

You can explore the vibrant Brazilian culture or discover scenic landscapes of African countries like Mozambique. You can enjoy the beaches of Cape Verde or go diving in East Timor. All Portuguese language countries have unique traditions, cuisines, and ways of life. They remain connected by the language but have a deep sense of independence and national identity. 

Learning Portuguese is the only way you can connect with these diverse cultures. It broadens your horizons and enables you to become part of this worldwide community. 

Discover the authentic Portuguese culture, by learning this Romance language

Step Outside Touristic Conventions

In areas with high English proficiency, it is easy to stay within the tourist bubble and miss out on the essence of the local culture. But nothing beats exploring off-path destinations and engaging with locals on a deeper level. Besides, you will uncover all the hidden gems that often elude visitors who rely solely on English.

By learning Portuguese, you can venture beyond the typical tourist hotspots. Instead, you will immerse yourself in the everyday life of the Portuguese people. Think of shopping at neighborhood markets, chatting in local cafes, and attending neighborhood events.

You can engage in casual conversations with your favorite barista. You can discuss the history and architecture of a quaint town or navigate the local shops without relying solely on English. This level of cultural integration can lead to a far richer and more authentic understanding of Portugal.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do you love Portuguese and want to make it your next Romance language? Start The Journey! This unique program will enhance your skills and turn you into a genuine Portuguese speaker. You will dive into the Portuguese culture and learn this beautiful language through insightful videos and fun activities. 

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!

Look into three frequently asked questions about why and how to study Portuguese. 

Why do so Many Portuguese Natives Speak English?

Most foreigners remain impressed by the amount of English speakers they find in Portugal. It is unlike other European countries. For example, in 2021, only about 11.7% of native Spanish speakers spoke English as a first or second language. 

There are a few key reasons why English proficiency is high in Portugal:

The Education System

English is a mandatory subject in Portuguese schools from a young age. Besides, many students continue to study the language through high school and university.


Portugal is a popular tourist destination. Thus, the country tries to ensure its citizens can communicate effectively with visitors from around the world. Many, if not most, of these visitors speak English.

Most Portuguese natives speak English as a second language
Most Portuguese natives speak English as a second language

Business and Trade

With Portugal’s engagement in the global economy, there is a high demand for English proficiency. Many natives learn it to improve their job prospects or communicate in business and professional settings.

Media and Entertainment

Portuguese TV is not dubbed. Thus, natives get lots of exposure to English-language media. From TV shows to social media, this helps improve the general population’s English skills.

Historical Ties

Portugal has long had strong ties to the United Kingdom, dating back to the 14th century. This relationship has led to a significant influence of English on the Portuguese language and culture.

Do I Really Need To Learn Portuguese? 

Short answer: no, but…

It is true that you can get by in Portugal using only English, especially in major cities and tourist areas. However, learning Portuguese will change your experience and open up new possibilities. Even a basic understanding of the language can make a difference. 

You will be able to connect with locals, access more authentic experiences, and gain a deeper appreciation for the culture. Moreover, the cognitive advantages of learning a new language are well worth the effort.

Start learning European Portuguese
Start learning European Portuguese

Additionally, in some parts of the country, it is challenging to find people who speak fluent English. Specific services outside the tourism industry and inland regions have fewer English speakers. For example, learning the language can come in handy when negotiating the rent or handling bureaucracy in public services. If you have a medical emergency, you might need to explain your symptoms at the local health center.

For families, learning Portuguese helps children adjust to their new lifestyle. It also reduces homesickness and promotes a smoother integration. It allows them to make friends in the neighborhood and participate more fully in the local culture. 

How to Start Learning Portuguese?

There are many options for learning Portuguese, from private tutors to language apps and online courses. You can start by exploring free resources like language learning websites, YouTube channels, and podcasts. These help you build a foundation in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar before investing in more comprehensive programs.

4 Strategies to Learn European Portuguese
Use the right techniques to start learning European Portuguese

The resources to help you start learning European Portuguese are easily available. With dedication and a positive mindset, you can quickly become proficient and unlock a world of new opportunities. Some options include:

  • Enrolling in a language course, either in-person or through an online platform like The Journey
  • Finding a private tutor, either locally or through platforms like Italki
  • Immersing yourself in Portuguese media, such as listening to podcasts, watching shows, or reading books
  • Practicing conversation with a language partner, either in person or through apps like Tandem
  • Downloading language learning apps like Duolingo to build your vocabulary and grammar skills

The key is to find a learning approach that works best for your learning style and to practice regularly to build your proficiency. You can also include Fun Ways to Learn a Language in your routine. Consider trying an online course, such as The Journey. It focuses on European Portuguese and uses engaging and science-backed techniques. 

When choosing a course, consider your learning style and goals. Do you prefer structured lessons or more flexible, immersive approaches? Are you aiming for conversational fluency or reading/writing proficiency? 

You can start learning Portuguese
Explore different language-learning methods, like finding a tutor or using a language app
Free Resources to Start Learning European Portuguese

Are you passionate about exploring new cultures, gaining deeper connections, and unlocking personal growth? Then, learning Portuguese will be a rewarding investment of your time and effort. Here are some free resources you can use. 

Read these insightful articles and get: 

Watch these YouTube videos to explore: 

Listen to the Portuguese With Carla podcast
Listen to the Portuguese With Carla podcast

Listen to the Portuguese With Carla Podcast for insightful and guided Portuguese lessons. 

Wrapping Up on The Reasons Why to Learn Portuguese

English is widely spoken in Portugal, especially in tourist-heavy areas. Because of that, many foreigners wonder if learning Portuguese still makes a difference. But, no doubt, the investment in learning this beautiful language is well worth it. 

As you have explored, learning Portuguese can be a truly rewarding experience. The benefits extend far beyond just language proficiency. It opens the door to a rich cultural heritage, deepened relationships, and expanded horizons. Better mental and emotional health adds to a deeper cultural understanding and enhanced memory and reasoning. 

So, do not let the widespread use of English discourage you! Instead, embrace the opportunity to dive into the Portuguese language. Immerse yourself in the rich history and vibrant culture of all Portuguese-speaking countries. 

Learning to speak Portuguese is a valuable investment. It can enrich your personal and professional life in countless ways. So why not take the first step and start your Portuguese learning adventure today?

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  1. Tenho de dizer que é muito importante tentar falar o idioma do país que quer visitar, especialmente se quiser ficar là durante alguns meses, ou mesmo viver là. Aprenda umas palavras, aprenda a ter conversas intensas e detalhadas. Inglês é uma língua muito falada no mundo, mas na minha opinião, e necessário que o mundo saiba que nós, os que falam inglês, respeitamos as linguas do mundo. Fiz este curso com a Carla e o Márlon, e é um curso muito interessante e detalhado.

    1. Muito obrigada pelo teu comentário Laura! Concordamos plenamente contigo e ficamos muito felizes que tenhas gostado do curso. Desejamos-te tudo de bom na tua jornada linguística! 🙂

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