Understanding spoken Portuguese irl

Olá pessoal!
This may sound a bit stupid, but does anyone have any tips on actually understanding spoken Portuguese?
I’ve been learning for a while now (on and off for about 3 years) both here and with a weekly tutor.
I’d say I’m at a relatively decent level. Can easily read most things. Can have a pretty good conversation with my tutor.
However, I’m currently in Lisbon and I can’t for the life of me understand anything that anyone says to me (give or take)!!!
It’s incredibly frustrating as I know I’d be able to converse and I want to so badly!
Anyone else find this a problem? Any advice or learning strategies that could help?
Muito obrigado.


Olá, @mikejones182!
Listening comprehension is always one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. And there’s no way around it: you have to listen, listen and listen some more to the spoken language.

Listening to our Shorties regularly is obviously a big help - remember that you can listen to them at a slower speed if necessary, using the speedometer icon on the player.

You don’t always have to focus on understanding every word right away, but at least spotting all the different sounds. For example, after going through this vowel pronunciation guide, play one of the shorties and just work on identifying specific vowel sounds you usually have trouble with. Then you can broaden the scope and see what other letters are around them, the syllables where they lie, or if there any accents on them or elsewhere on the same word - this might clue you into certain patterns that affect the pronunciation of the vowels. The transcript will be there for you to confirm your guesses. Since most of our speech is carried through vowels, make sure to dedicate a good amount of time and attention to them. Some consonants also have varying pronunciations you need to be aware of.

I recommend taking a look at this FAQ article, which lists many of our main resources on pronunciation: How Do I Improve My Pronunciation Skills? - Practice Portuguese Knowledge Base
In addition to the ones already listed, let me also refer you to this Learning Note, covering other real-world pronunciation patterns:

Finally, in suitable contexts and if people aren’t pressed for time, don’t be afraid to ask them to speak slower or repeat whatever they said - without letting them switch to English!

I hope this helps at least a little bit :slight_smile:

1 Like

Olá Joseph,
Muito obrigado!
All very helpful and I do realise that it’s just going to take time and a lot of work.
Focusing on vowels is a good idea, though.
Guess it’s just gonna take time!

1 Like

Hi Mike,

I found this explanation very helpful