Teach Yourself Brazilian Portuguese Complete Course (Book & CDs) by Sue Tyson-Ward

Score:
1 2 (3) 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
“Three outta ten!”
Pros:
multiple dialogues per chapter; price
Cons:
choice of vocabulary and phrases seems random and uninspired; the Portuguese introduced is of the textbook variety; incomplete coverage of grammar


Teach Yourself Brazilian Portuguese isn’t an awful entry in the TY series, but it isn’t stellar by any means. Its chapters feel cut-and-paste as far as vocabulary coverage and conversational phrases. Very little material links these topics and makes them stick in the Portuguese learner’s memory.

If you decide to pursue this course, purchase the package with audio CDs and complete all the exercises. But the exercises and activities are limited in effectiveness. Even late in the course, simple fill-in-the blank exercises abound.

Grammar coverage is graded, but often introduces points about tricky words and phrases rather than presenting systematic stepping-stones towards a general understanding of how Brazilian Portuguese works. This emphasis on specific traps to avoid when learning the language could be helpful, but not at the expense of basic information.

If you’re traveling to Brazil, I highly recommend other programs for conversation (such as the all-audio Pimsleur) and still others from grammar. The main Teach Yourself entry (Cook’s Teach Yourself Portuguese) deals with both European and Brazilian Portuguese, but it’s much more thorough (abut see my review for certain reservations I had).

PORTUGUESE in 10 Minutes a Day (book and CD-ROM) by Kristine Kershul

Score:
1 2 3 4 5 (6) 7 8 9 10
“Six outta ten!”
Pros:
lots of simple exercises to keep pace quick; useful words and phrases; lovely presentation; colorful, attractive drawings
Cons:
nearly entirely vocabulary-driven; price for such a basic knowledge; lots of repeat and rewrite; Brazilian only (a “con” if you’re learning European Portuguese)


Overall, I’m ambivalent about Portuguese in 10 Minutes a Day. To be sure, the course comes in a simple, artistic and colorful package that begs you to write and rewrite vocabulary terms and phrases. It also covers the basics of simple word and phrase lists for modular situations (looking at a house, you’ll learn the words for shower and pillow). Yet these lessons miss the fundamentals of exposure to realistic conversational situations as well as the backbones of Portuguese grammar.

A few extras make the entire package a bit more attractive. The accompanying CD reads a lot of the vocabulary lists aloud, which is a great help to beginning students. On top of that, the end of the book provides you with vocabulary stickers to place on everyday objects, providing a concrete visual cue for learners.

You will come out of this course with more Portuguese than you started with, and you may have a delightful time as you learn basic Portuguese words. If your goal is to acquire a speakable understanding, perhaps the effort you exert would reap better rewards elsewhere – which tends to be the case for me. But if you’re an absolute beginner, this is a nice enough way to ease yourself into written and spoken Portuguese.

The Everything Learning Brazilian Portuguese Book: Speak, Write, and Understand Portuguese in No Time by Fernanda Ferreira

Score:
1 2 3 4 (5) 6 7 8 9 10
“Five outta ten!”
Pros:
price; exposure to useful Brazilian Portuguese; conversations and phrases don’t sound “textbook-ish”; material is well organized
Cons:
dry presentation; lack of relevant conversation topics covered


Call me crazy, but I have trouble keeping “Everything”, “Dummies” and “Idiot’s” guides straight. And that applies to their Portuguese lessons, too. Lots of extra notes about Brazil? Check! Relevant, fluent-sounding phrases rather than dry, expected, textbook Portuguese? Check. The difference lies in the overall structure and presentation. The Everything Learning Brazilian Portuguese Book presents grammar in an organized fashion – one look at the table of contents makes that clear.

Chapters revolve around grammar topics like nouns and articles or dealing with adjectives. Each section presents some aspect of grammar, like noun gender, but does so in a rather dry tone for what I’ve come to expect from a generally lively course. Longer vocabulary lists and fill-in-the-blank exercises follow. A Portuguese to English glossary ends the book. The tables, lists and exercises encourage rote memorization and repetition, which many students I’ve worked with find to be a challenging way to learn Portuguese.

I like the organized presentation, but I think that sacrificing conversation topics for grammar will also turn learners away to something more like the Dummmies guide. I’m not a particular fan of vocabulary lists in this context, and I found the explanations given for grammar topics a little drier than this kind of lighthearted lesson series is known for. All in all, though, it’s not a bad step-by-step introduction to Portuguese grammar.

Now is a good time to recall that I am known to grade somewhat harshly. My score doesn’t mean that this guide is useless, only that it has some faults learners shouldn’t overlook before purchasing the course. I do, however, highly recommend that you supplement this book with other learning materials if you do decide to buy it.

Collins Pocket Portuguese Dictionary, 4th Edition

Score:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (9) 10
“Nine outta ten!”
Pros:
great overall package for beginning students; nice formatting with terms colored blue; “Portuguese in Action” section a great inclusion for beginners; very complete for a very small dictionary; ambiguous translations are marked with meaning guides; IPA pronunciation given for terms
Cons:
intermediate students may begin to notice what’s missing and need a more thorough dictionary; “In Action” section a lot less useful to advanced students; can get better coverage by spending just a bit more


The Pocket Portuguese Dictionary offers great coverage of loads of useful terms, words and phrases and learner-friendly language help sections in a highly compact, downsized package.

The body of the dictionary has all that I’ve come to expect from similar works: parts of speech, meaning hints for ambiguous entries, usage examples and the like. Terms are colored blue for handy reference. The layout is clean and useful.

The biggest extra is a middle blue-page insert that introduces “Portuguese in Action”. This section overviews how to use dates, times, numbers in Portuguese, gives false friends to avoid, lists Portuguese and English irregular verbs, and even has sample phone conversations and e-mails and letter writing suggestions.

At my level of studies, the “Action” section didn’t appeal to me much, since I’d just as soon have extra phrases and usage in that space, leaving the details to a grammar or conversation course. But, considering this dictionary targets a beginning crowd looking for a few bells and whistles, I applaud the inclusion.

Keep in mind that this is a small, pocket-sized dictionary. Its size limitations means it covers less of the language. You can buy a dictionary with better coverage by paying just a bit more, but the overall package presented in this handy little volume is very attractive to beginning Portuguese students.

Collins Portuguese Concise Dictionary 2nd Edition (HarperCollins Concise Dictionaries)

Score:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (8) 9 10
“Eight outta ten!”
Pros:
great coverage of useful words and phrases for a dictionary this price and size; keyword usage guides your choice when translations are ambiguous; more detailed than a small pocket dictionary, less than a weighty full-coverage one; IPA pronunciation given for all terms; best “bang for your buck” (ratio of number of words and phrases to dollars) among similar dictionaries
Cons:
irregular words not marked in entries; you’ll need a more detailed dictionary for thorough coverage of usage and translation (later intermediate students and beyond); very little grammar help or extras of any kind


The latest in a string of similar Portuguese-to-English and English-to-Portuguese dictionaries I’ve reviewed, the Harper Collins Concise Portuguese Dictionary broadly offers what the best of the others did (compare Oxford and Larousse): IPA phonetic readings for all entries, parts of speech marked, a list of irregular verbs, meaning cues for ambiguous words, useful phrases and usage examples.

Some slight differences exist. The quick listing of irregulars is found at the beginning of the dictionary, and only gives the irregular forms of irregular words. You’ll need your language skills and grammatical wit to fill in the rest. The dictionary explicitly marks “keywords” (like the preposition “in”) that have frequent and multiple uses. The dictionary is bigger than and has more entries than Oxford’s, and is competitive in coverage with Larousse.

Some Amazon reviewers complained that the binding fell apart after a short while, a worthy complaint if you beat up your dictionaries or carry them around on the go. Picking up a copy at the bookstore, I don’t personally notice any problems with the binding that aren’t found on similar dictionaries. Additionally, the dictionary I find on Amazon is different than the edition at one bookstore, which had blue color entries.

All in all, I’m reluctant to rate this above or below its peers. From my calculations and time spent with the reference, Harper Collin’s translation aid offers the highest number of words and phrases per dollar, making it the best bang for your buck.

Larousse Concise Dictionary: Portuguese-English/English-Portuguese

Score:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (8) 9 10
“Eight outta ten!”
Pros:
large number of useful words and phrases for a dictionary this size; language and meaning usage hints guide your choice of ambiguous translations; more detailed than smaller pocket dictionaries, less than hefty full-coverage tomes; irregular and orthography-changing verb chart; Brazilian IPA pronunciation given
Cons:
no indication of irregular verbs in text; you’ll need a more detailed dictionary for thorough coverage of usage and translation (later intermediate students and beyond); a bit pricier than similar choices with nicer layout, color, or other features you might prefer


Larousse’s red and green cover Concise Portuguese Dictionary is larger and thicker than the Oxford New and Oxford Color I last reviewed on this site. As you might expect from its size, it offers more coverage of terms, phrases idiomatic expressions than those dictionaries at a reasonable price.

The start of the book has a quick introduction to IPA used for phonetically representing the pronunciation of Brazilian and English words, but these one and a half pages hardly count as a pronunciation guide. There is a goodly number of usage examples and clarification on basic terms. Meaning cues in brackets guide learners to the right meaning choice if there are multiple, ambiguous translations for a single term (a crucial feature missing from the NTC and Langenscheidt Portuguese language dictionaries). In the middle of the book you’ll find samples of written letters, following a trend that’s popped up in learner dictionaries.

Irregular verb tables at the end of the volume don’t only cover irregular verbs, but also spelling-changing (“orthography-changing”) and stem-changing (or “radical-changing”) verbs that plague those who learn Portuguese during their early years. Still, the chart typically only gives the “eu” (first person singular) form of a verb, leaving your grammatical intuitions to fill out the other five forms. Knowledge of Portuguese verb conjugation and grammar is best left to a more specialized reference work, anyhow, like Barron’s 501 Verbs, also reviewed on this site.

This dictionary will be a great sidekick for beginners and intermediate students in the market for a reference dictionary. It offers more coverage than basic dictionaries, but isn’t too large, detailed, or unabridged, so it’s great for on-the-go use.

Oxford New Portuguese Dictionary & Oxford Color Portuguese Dictionary (Paperback)

Score:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (8) 9 10
“Eight outta ten!”
Pros:
a compact dictionary that’s actually compact in size; large number of useful entries; helpful meaning guides for ambiguous entries; usage examples; irregular verb list at end; color edition nice touch and easier to search; great for students and travelers
Cons:
no indication of irregular verbs; you’ll need a more detailed dictionary for thorough coverage of usage and translation (later intermediate students and beyond); European Portuguese is clearly secondary, but is given and marked (only a problem if that’s your target dialect)


The Oxford New Portuguese Dictionary is a small, convenient dictionary with plenty of useful terms and phrases, especially considering its size. Its two halves cover English to Portuguese translation and Portuguese to English.

Both English and Portuguese entries include phonetic transcription in IPA, as well as expected grammatical cues like masculine/feminine noun gender and transitive and intransitive verbs. There is, however, no indication of which forms are irregular. A list of irregular verbs, conjugated in all forms, is found at the end of the book.

Semantic hints clue you into the meaning of multiple equivalents for the same term. Looking up “be”, we find “(permanent quality/place) ser; (temporary place/state) estar; (become) ficar.” Usage instances, phrases and expressions are given for clarity and completeness: “take” includes “take away from”, for example.

The introduction contains a short guide to Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation, a note about pronouncing European Portuguese, even an English pronunciation guide for Portuguese speakers.

The Oxford Color version offers an updated, sleeker version of this same dictionary, with standout blue entries (terms, irregular verbs, etc.), but its higher price earns it the same rating.

If you’re a beginner or an intermediate student looking for a good dictionary to have at hand while you learn Portuguese, this actually compact dictionary will more than meet your needs. I especially recommend spending extra for the more appealing color version.

Portuguese For Dummies, by Karen Keller

Score:
1 2 3 4 5 (6) 7 8 9 10
“Six outta ten!”
Pros:
straightforward, relaxed presentation; good fluent real-life phrases; audio CD with dialogs; price
Cons:
lots of notes and silly explanations may distract some learners; Brazilian only (a con for European learners); some mistakes in text; odd phonetic approximations/pronunciation key may distract others (including me)


The For Dummies series faithfully showcases its wit and informality in this entry, and it does so while presenting us learners with relevant examples and believable snippets of realistic Brazilian Portuguese.

Each lesson revolves around a topic (like going to the beach), and grammar and vocabulary are presented somewhat haphazardly throughout the course. The book maintains a conversational focus.

The author takes up a lot more of the text than expected with facts and notes about culture, travel, geography and other concerns about Brazil. Suggestions for further study, 10 favorite phrases to impress your Brazilian friends (kind of salt and pepper for your speech), exercise answers and a good index end the book.

The CD reads off dialogs, conversations and phrases, and is best used when the book indicates. In other words, the audio is secondary in this course, which may hamper students looking to really polish their conversational skills.

While I applaud the attempt at more realistic Brazilian conversation, the book has its fair share of errors in spelling, grammar and some expressions. Certain teachers believe that mistakes can cost learners dearly in the beginning, so go in prepared.

All in all, it’s a good introduction if you’re looking to learn Brazilian Portuguese. You’ll need further exposure or at least other study material to get deeper into pronunciation, grammar, or more advanced speaking situations.

Portuguese: Start Speaking Today! (Language 30series), Charles Berlitz

Score:
1 (2) 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
“Two outta ten!”
Pros:
a good many of the basic phrases you’d need to just survive (but not all!); a small dose of exposure to the spoken language
Cons:
short sections on grammar more of a distraction; very limited in scope; disorganized; learning means repeating along with random phrases; Brazilian-only (only a con for European learners)


This entry in the Language 30 Series will be familiar to anyone who has bought another of their courses. Its hard plastic, book-sized shell houses cassette tapes (do you remember how to use those?) and a thin paper booklet. The audio reads aloud a phrase list found in the accompanying booklet, which covers a couple dozen conversation topics with five or six phrases to each topic.

A pronunciation guide proposes a type of phonetic alphabet listed alongside every phrase throughout the course. This “Berlitz method” means that every entry comes out something like “January zhuh-ney-roo janeiro”. This pronunciation guide sometimes looked chaotic to my eyes, and I’d rather deal with IPA than õõm ?e-free-zhe-r?hn-chee.

The grammar and conversation tips pages are extremely rudimentary, and offer more of a distraction than a learning experience. However, the four pages of English vocabulary that follow serve as a good index to the phrasebook.

I’m open to the idea of learning the absolute basic phrases of a language like Portuguese with a book and CD course like this one. Still, I’d want far more clarity and organization. Students that expect such a course to teach more than the absolute tourist survival basics will be disappointed with this course. Learners looking for an organized approach to Portuguese will also feel that this course is below their expectation. And, at this price, beginner level conversation courses are a better purchase.

My low score doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a terrible course with no redeeming qualities. It means that it has some serious flaws and doesn’t, in my mind, justify the price.

Rosetta Stone: Brazilian Portuguese, Level 1-3

Score:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (8) 9 10
“Eight outta ten!”
Pros:
connects ideas with words well; good coverage of basic phrases and conversation; great image and multimedia-rich presentation; useful activities
Cons:
markets itself as the be-all-end-all of language learning, but isn’t; basic phrases are very standard and not as “fluent” or realistic as some courses; vocabulary-heavy; Portuguese structure still left unclear; for beginners only


It’s hard to review this product without reviewing the Rosetta Stone method as a whole, since Rosetta Stone: Brazilian Portuguese is in most ways a flavor of the same product for other languages.

Unlike audio-only methods, this course introduces writing (or reading) and speaking (or listening) simultaneously. It does so by associating written vocabulary items both with their sound and with a variety of pictures of the word in question. Exercises push Portuguese learners to complete those associations by choosing the picture that best answers a question in Portuguese, for instance. The program then attempts to seamlessly transition learners to grammar and sentence structure by incorporating vocabulary items into a larger framework without too much extra explanation that bogs down traditional grammar books.

The heavy reliance on vocabulary learning and secondary treatment of grammar leaves some tricky concepts unexplained. Image and phrase association/repetition works great for some types of visual learners, but auditory learners might prefer audio heavy courses with less distractions. On the other hand, the speech recognition allows for better mimicking of repeated words and phrases, although it fails to simulate native speaker interaction.

Rosetta Stone has its share of followers and detractors, but I would rather give you an overview as to why than walk on eggshells in my own opinion. The method is heavily marketed and touted as highly acclaimed, which draws plenty of feedback and criticism. Many users and reviewers, myself included, don’t feel that the course is as perfect as it purports to be. I have spent most of my life using language learning courses of all stripes, and this one isn’t the magic bullet.

Does this mean that the course isn’t worth the money? It certainly has a high price tag, but no higher than other immersion courses like Pimsleur’s Brazilian Portuguese I reviewed on this site. Users looking for a colorful, multimedia-rich software package that teaches vocabulary and basic conversational skills, especially learners with great visual memory, will find that the course offers a great learning experience, provided they can overlook the drawbacks mentioned above.

This course ultimately can’t do justice to the kind of realistic interaction and linguistic problem solving that best activate those language centers in your brain. But, in the end, it can do better than most at advancing beginning learners dedicated to progressing through the course to a solid basic knowledge of Portuguese.