How to improve listening?

Olá a todos! I’ve taken Portuguese classes (actually not taught in Portuguese) for about one year and a half. Maybe I can read easy articles but I’m completely frustrated by my poor listening…I can only understand a little if two natives speak… Can you share your good methods of improving listening? I’ve started listening shorties but I’m still confused…Thanks for your help!

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I completely understand your frustration! When I started, I couldn’t make out but a (very) small fraction of the early PP videos.

The Shorties are really good, they are spoken slowly and clearly about common every-day experiences. IIRC, there are transcripts available? - perhaps read along as well.

The Estudo em Casa (pela RTP) is good because (1) it’s at various grade levels (try a pre-K episode, for example), and (2) has different subject matter content (History, Science, etc). If there is one good thing to come out of the Pandemic; at least for a student of Portuguese, it’s Estudo em Casa. Other RTP shows, Visita Guiada. Or Caminhos da História (if you’re a history fan). People are talking, but standing in front of something that helps put some visuals to the words you’re hearing.

All I can really offer is: Listen Listen Listen. You’ll hear some words you recognize - try to ignore the urge to translate. Don’t worry about understanding details. At the outset, just try to understand the general topic. More listening and details will come over time. You also may consider limiting the time per session, a 15min per session can be plenty!

Sorry for rambling. The old saying is true: the only way out is through. But in a manner that doesn’t burn you out! Keep at it - the benefits are amazing, and IMO more than worth the work to get there.

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Stephen, can you provide a link to Estudo em Casa. I’m not finding it.

Try here:



Muito obrigada!

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Olá, @Jessica. I second the “Estudo em Casa” recommendation by @stephencanthony - it’s an unexpected gift for Portuguese learners at all levels. I’ll also add that you should try to really get comfortable with all the different vowel sounds, as I think that will help unlock new levels of listening comprehension more quickly.

To practice understanding different vowel sounds in isolation, the table halfway through this article is great: Pronunciation Guide for European Portuguese Vowels

There’s also a guide for consonants: Pronunciation Guide for European Portuguese Consonants

In actual speech, everything goes by fast and there’s mumbling and vowels that are dropped altogether, but all the key anchor sounds are usually there. For example, in the words ele and ela, even when the final vowel is barely audible, the first vowel is always clear - a medium E in ele and an open E in ela. That’s enough for natives to know which one is being said and will eventually have to be enough for you as well. For that, you have to make sure you can tune your ears to these different E sounds and pick up on them quickly and consistently - and the same for every other vowel.

So, at a beginner level, my suggestion is that even before you listen for the words (because you often won’t know them), listen for the sounds. Individual vowels and consonants, then syllables with and without diphthongs (two vowel sounds together). In parallel, if you can also work on matching these sounds with the letters that describe them (i.e. you hear an “ei” sound and you know it’s probably written E-I), even better!


Another thing I will do, perhaps a bit more advanced, is to read the news in English, and then listen to the news in Portuguese. That way, I have a thorough understanding of what I expect to hear talked about before I hear it. Helps me fill in the context for the words I don’t comprehend and to help make educated guesses about what those words mean.

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Very helpful links and suggestions! I’ll try my best to improve my listening. Beijinhos :heart:

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So nice of you for typing so much:) I’ll try my best. Muito obrigada!

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Hi I’ve moved to portugal last November and have been learning the language although it’s hard due to lockdown.

I’ve been trying to improve my listening and speaking but it’s difficult without actual people to do this with. Films, TV etc are too hard to follow. I’ve tried classes but the one I tried took up 2 hours 3 days week which was a bit much.

Any advice on how you’ve worked on this ? Any good classes ? Any good shorties you would recommend for beginners ?

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I have been going through “completed lessons” in the units, sometimes over and over. This helps me better construct phrases.

Another is to carefully listen to the “everyday people” in the review, unit lessons, etc and repeat the experience over and over.

Perhaps hiring someone or making a friend might be another method, doing that over the phone helps with social distancing.

Olá, @jscampbell.05! Maybe some of the suggestions higher up in this thread will help you :slight_smile: @allent2000 has also offered some good tips.

Here are some good Shorties for the A1 and A2 levels that can help when you’re trying to move from “learning” Portuguese to “using” Portuguese: A1/A2 Shorties

I know it’s harder without real people to practice with, but for now you could try challenging yourself with these Shorties. See what you can understand with and without the translation turned on. Listen multiple times until you can make out the distinctions between the words.

As for speaking, in addition to the speaking questions that come up in the Units, I like to use the Flash Cards (under Learn > Smart Review). Instead of just thinking of the translation, I actually say it out loud.

This is self-guided so you won’t have a way to know if you’re 100% accurate, but I think the first challenge with speaking is just finding opportunities to do it more. So that’s one way to work in more practice when you don’t have a conversation partner.