Portuguese Complete Course: Beginner-Intermediate, by Oliveira & Living Language

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“Six outta ten!”
step-by-step approach to speaking; coverage of grammar and sentence structure; wide range of topics; longer, detailed book; auido CDs that follow the book’s outline; builds up from words to phrases to longer reading and listening exercises

listen & repeat approach to learning phrases may tire students; exercises are routine and simplistic; juggling both Brazilian and European in one course can be trouble for some learners; long vocabulary and phrase lists to memorize; organization and pacing is only so-so; audio only reads parts of the book, and all in Brazilian (only a con for learners of European Portuguese)

Living Language’s Portuguese Complete Course offers a book and CD package for beginners. The repetition-heavy lessons stress conversational words and phrases, then ramp up to tougher reading, listening and understanding skills.

The pronunciation guide in lessons 1-4 reads through a series of words. The rest of the lessons focus on introducing more and more vocabulary and phrases in lists. By lesson 30 or so, you begin to read fuller sentences.

The book explains chunks of grammar along the way, and gives more information about how to pronounce Portuguese throughout the lessons. Explanations of grammar and short exercises break up the flow of progressively harder vocabulary in later lessons.

Small practice exercises test your skill allong the way, but are rather simple (often “fill in the blank”). For all the material covered, sections tend to repeat lists of words and phrases or embed them in basic dialogues. The organization of material is haphazard enough to make some sections a real challenge or a real bore. In the end, most students will have a gone through lots of material, but still struggle to understand the big picture, especially when it comes to grammar.

The CD reads straight through in Brazilian Portuguese (even though the book tackles both European and Continental dialects), and at a normal speed. It’s meant to be used alongside the book, allowing you to hear what’s written there. The audio portion doesn’t last long, which means that auditory learners won’t get much repetition or well-paced help.

A couple of extras round out this lesson course. The appendix has a summary of grammar, complete with verb tables and overviews of key points. There are also examples of written letters and e-mail in Portuguese. In addition, the set comes with a separate Portuguese & English vocab dictionary. I have already reviewed that dictionary on this site.

I enjoyed the free-flowing and complementary nature of the audio CD-book that build on each other. I like the progression from reading words to phrases to dialogues and letters in Portuguese. I’m curious to see if such a barrage of exposure to progressively tougher Portuguese could be turned into a more immersive, less cumbersome experience.

As it is, the Portuguese Complete Course is too scattered to give you a really organized understanding of beginning Portuguese, but it does cover a good chunk of material in the written guide, and manages to provide a full introduction to spoken and written Portuguese. Few basic courses cover this much territory. Still, auditory learners will get more from Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese. (They offer a separate European version, too.) If you want to stick with a Living Language product, I prefer the structure of Ultimate Portuguese.

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