Learners of Portuguese often ask what the best books to learn Portuguese are. There are good books available. The best one for you will depend on your goals and learning style, and these may change along your language journey. Here are a few good books to consider.
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Ponto de Encontro is the most complete book in the market. It is used by most universities and language schools.
It is one of the only books with extensive explanations of verb conjugation, how the verb tenses work, and when they are used.
Ponto de Encontro teaches Portuguese from Brazil and from Portugal. In each grammar topic and exercise, the book explains the difference between the two versions of Portuguese. As I have the used the book to teach Brazilian Portuguese, my feeling is that is focuses primarily on Portuguese from Brazil.
It is a dense book. It was created with college students in mind, which means that most of the practice exercises, dialogues, and texts target that young population.
If you decide to get it, I strongly recommend that you also get their workbook Ponto de Encontro Brazilian Activities Manual for additional exercises. There are two versions of the workbook: a Brazilian and a continental Portuguese version. Make sure you are getting what you really want.
The new edition has access to their language lab, but only for college students enrolled in a Portuguese course that uses Ponto de Encontro as their textbook.
The Activities Manual of Ponto de Encontro has lots of audio exercises to help you practice listening and speaking. I cannot emphasize enough how important the audio exercises are for your learning.
The book has a good website with additional exercises and all the audio tracks. You do not have to buy the book to access the online program. If you have access to the language lab, the audio tracks will be available to you there.
Ponto de Encontro also has an excellent DVD! I highly recommend it. The DVD brings Brazilian and Portuguese content. From the main menu you can select which version of the DVD you would like to see. Each chapter brings a group of native speakers talking about different things: school, work, travel, health, food, and more. The DVD is an excellent tool to develop your listening comprehension skills. The workbook has exercises to help you get the most out of the DVD. I love working with this DVD in my classes. If you have access to the language lab, the videos will be available to you there.
This is a good book for exercises that use repetition. It does not give you grammatical explanations; it shows you how to do something and then it makes you practice with exercises.
This is for Brazilian Portuguese.
Each chapter starts with a dialogue or short text. The book has its accompanying set of CDs (sold separately) which contains all the dialogues and texts from the textbook (orange cover).
This is a great book for students who want to do lots of straight-forward, repetitive exercises. You need repetition to learn a language. The exercises will gradually build on vocabulary. For even more practice, there is the Caderno de Exercícios.
For students who are already conversational, I recommend Colloquial Portuguese of Brazil 2. This book has several dialogues that use everyday informal language. It also brings concise grammar points and you can buy the accompanying CDs to listen to the dialogues and practice your listening skills. This book was published in 2008, so it has up to date language.
I like Bem-Vindo. It has interesting texts and good exercises. It is a fast-paced book. I recommend it for Spanish speakers and intermediate learners.
The book has three versions of its excellent workbook: 1) for native speakers of English (green cover); 2) for Latin-American students (blue cover); 3) for Asian students (sorry about the generic term here, but that is how they have it in the book). I recommend the first two workbooks no matter where you come from. I have not worked with the one for Asian students.
Bem-Vindo also has its own CD set, which I highly recommend. It has dialogues and texts from the textbook. The CDs will be a wonderful tool to develop your listening comprehension skills.
Please note: When purchasing Bem-Vindo on Amazon, be very careful to make sure you are getting what you want. When they say “Livro do Aluno”, it is the textbook.
DISCLAIMER: The review below is for an older edition. I have not worked with the new edition, so I do not know if my review will apply to the new edition. You can find the new one here.
Each chapter begins with a dialogue followed by its translation, short and to the point grammar explanations, and a few exercises.
I like the dialogues for beginner learners. The grammar explanations are objective, which is good, but in my opinion they are not enough. The exercises are few and not very interesting.
The dialogues and accompanying CDs are the main strength of this book. Most of the chapters use Brazilian Portuguese; a few chapters bring Portuguese from Portugal.
Please note: You can find the paperback edition without the CDs and the complete set with the accompanying CDs. I suggest you get the one with the CDs.
Books for Intermediate and Advanced Learners
Below are great books to learn Portuguese if you are an intermediate or advanced learner. Especially if you enjoy a good read, it is worth using these books.
Via Brasil brings short texts by Brazilian writers accompanied by vocabulary exercises, as well as short grammar reviews and practice exercises.
The book has accompanying CDs that you need to purchase separately.
I always recommend getting the CDs when they are available. They can help you improve your listening skills and learn pronunciation. Unfortunately these CDs are outrageously expensive on Amazon.com.
Via Brasil teaches both formal and colloquial Portuguese. The texts presented in the book range from formal to informal language. Several of the texts bring a cultural element to the learning process which certainly adds value to the book.
This is not a book for you to start learning Portuguese. To benefit from Via Brasil you need to have at least intermediate-mid reading skills.
You can use the book to learn by yourself if you just want to focus on reading, building vocabulary, and practicing a little grammar. If that is your goal, I suggest you also get the Manual do Professor with the answers to all the exercises.
To fully benefit from this book, in my opinion, you would use Via Brasil with a professional language instructor who can add value to each lesson and help you develop your speaking skills.
If possible, get the book that says on the cover: “Com a nova ortografia”, which means it has been reviewed according to the new Portuguese spelling rules from 2009.
Crônicas Brasileiras brings 35 chronicles by Brazilian writers. After each text, you will find exercises: a few questions about the text and a few grammar and vocabulary exercises.
I like the texts very much. Some great Brazilian writers are represented here, such as Fernando Sabino (one of my favorites), Rubem Braga, Paulo Mendes Campo, Rachel de Queiroz e Paulo Rónai.
Just keep in mind that you need to enjoy reading to like this book. The language in the texts is not exactly direct and objective. It is literature, not a magazine article. And the texts are dated.
Viajando Através do Alfabeto is also a very nice book for intermediate and advanced learners who enjoy a good read. It brings 26 chronicles by Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar. Each chapter offers questions to discuss before and after the reading, a quick grammar review + exercises, and a short lesson + exercises about figures of speech. There is no audio component.
You can use the Look Inside feature on Amazon.com to see the table of contents and even ready the first chapter.
Additional Resources to Learn Portuguese
- Check out this fun book to Learn Portuguese: Cinema for Portuguese Conversation
- I talk about general literature to read in Portuguese in this post and this other post.
- For a list of good materials including movies, music, and more, visit my Resources page.
Street Smart Brazil learners benefit from all these books and more. In our classes we use our own workbook with original content. In addition, we have all the books above in our library and we know them very well. We are able to pair learners with the right books and we allow our clients to experiment with them. This way, you can decide what is best for your learning.
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