Moving to a country where you don’t speak the language is sometimes part of the whole expat experience. Even though Lisbon is an international city and you can easily communicate in English almost everywhere, being able to speak Portuguese is priceless. Learning Portuguese can increase your job and social opportunities, open a new cultural viewpoint and – most importantly – give you a lot of freedom.
Once you are immersed in a Portuguese speaking environment you will start learning some words, expressions and useful phrases. But let’s face it: If you really want to have a good command of the language, you will need some classes.
After some research, I am ready to show you some of the options you have if you want to learn Portuguese in Lisbon.
Qualifica is a vocational program created by the Portuguese Government in order to increase the qualification levels of people and make them more employable. They offer really affordable Portuguese courses called PFOL (Português para Falantes de Outras Línguas).
However, they just teach from A1 to B2 level, so if you already have an
advanced level, this is not your place. The best thing about these courses is that you can take them in public schools, so it’s very likely that you will find one center near the place you live or work.
You can check where Qualifica Centers are and either call or write them if you need more information. The second best thing are the prices. They vary from one center to another but they don’t exceed the 10 euros per month!
Besides, they have morning, afternoon and evening schedules. The starting dates are different in each school and here it comes … the bad news because nothing is perfect: some centers have a very high demand of the Portuguese courses and not enough teachers, so they offer you to put you on a waiting
list and call you when they have free spots for new students.
This is a great and affordable option but you may need to check different centers in order to find one with a short waiting list in case you are in a hurry to learn. If you are not, you can just go to your closest Qualifica center, sign up and wait until they call you.
The Faculty of Human and Social Sciences offers regular, intensive and summer Portuguese courses for foreigners. They are quite inexpensive if you are a student; if you are not, they are more expensive but affordable and definitely worth it.
For example, the regular course which lasts a semester (64 hours) is 60 euros if you are an Erasmus student, but 452 euros if you are not a student and don’t have any link to the university.
All the courses take place in the Faculty which is close to Campo Pequeno station, so the location is great. They have morning, evening and afternoon schedules and they teach from A1 to C2 level. They can even start an intensive course anytime (30 hours) if you gather a group with a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 10 people.
Furthermore, they also offer private lessons in which you can choose between Portuguese for general or specific purposes. This means you can learn the language in a general context, or focus on business, IT, law, health or any area you need. These lessons have to be scheduled with the teacher and you can buy packages of 10 hours for 350 euros or 20 hours for 680 euros.
In 2020, the next regular course will start in February and end in June.
The placement test that all students must do before signing up will take place in December, so keep an eye on their website if you are interested in these courses. You can find all the information you need on the NOVA FCSH website.
A lot of Expats choose to have private lessons with a tutor instead of attending group classes. It is not the least expensive option but it is one of the more suitable if your schedules are not flexible enough to attend a regular course, if you want the teacher to focus on your needs or if you just prefer the one-to-one approach.
One of the best things about having a private tutor is that you will learn at your own pace. The tutor is paying their full attention to you and preparing lessons and exercises to develop the skills you need to communicate effectively in Portuguese. Another advantage is that you set the time and place. You can have classes whenever you want because you don’t depend on the schedule of a whole group and if you feel more like staying at home the tutor can come and teach you there, or even online.
However, there is something you should keep in mind if you are thinking about getting a private tutor: the prices can get really high or oddly cheap and here is why … it is common for some people try to teach a language just because they know how to speak it.
Portuguese speakers will try to earn some extra money teaching without any idea of what a “mesóclise” is, for example. These people will ask for 3 to 10 euros per hour.
On the other hand, people who do know how to teach will ask for more money (up to 35 euros per hour) due to their qualifications and experience.
Yes, it is expensive but a fair amount for their job. There are some online sources where you can find tutors in Lisbon, such as Fixando, StarOfService and my favorite one, Superprof.
You can sign up anytime and find teachers with different rates near the area where you live for online or face-to-face classes. Just make sure that they actually have some teaching experience!
I hope this was a useful post and if you have any question or doubt, feel free to ask me. Learning a new language is always an adventure and even more when everyone around is speaking it but you. So, I wish you good luck learning the language of Camões.
About the author:
Mónica Da Silva was born in Venezuela but her parents and grandparents are Portuguese. She’s a teacher and translator. Mónica lived in Bonn, Germany for 6 months and has been in Lisbon for a year and a half.
She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and a bit of German.
Read more about Lisbon and Portugal in our Dispatches archives.