Often times we understand the general meaning of what we are reading even when we don’t know the exact meaning of a certain word. So, we skip that word.
Getting the general meaning of the text is great. However, it does not allow us to incorporate the new word in our personal vocabulary.
Think about it: Do you use words in Portuguese when you don’t know exactly what they mean? And would you be able to use them correctly?
It isn’t practical or fun to look up every word we don’t understand in our target language. With that said, looking up new words is an important way to really learn those words and be able to use them on our own later.
Thankfully, today we have great online dictionaries that support multiple languages, are free, and make it easier for us to look up new words.
Today I will share with you my favorite online dictionaries to learn Portuguese.
3 Tips to learn new words in Portuguese
As a language learner, I know that expanding our vocabulary is necessary and rewarding, but it is also challenging. Here are four simple tips to help you learn new words well.
1. Put the words in context
It is much easier to remember new words if we learn them and think about them in context.
What do I mean with that?
Let’s say you come across the word bobo in the lyrics of a song and you don’t know what it means. You look it up in one of the online dictionaries that I share with you below and write it down in your notebook. You may even create a flashcard with this word.
My suggestion is that you don’t just write: bobo = silly. Instead, write a few sentences that make sense to you. For example, if your loved one is a playful person, imagine you are responding to one of his/her jokes and you say: Amor, você é muito bobo/a. Of course I am using bobo here in a playful way, and not in an insulting manner.
When you write full sentences that make sense in your life, you put that new word in context, which makes it easier to remember it later.
2. Create fun ways to remember your new vocabulary
Does the word bobo sound similar to another word in your language? Does it remind you of anyone or anything? What image can you create in your mind with the word you are learning? Can you write down a couple of short sentences that rhyme or sound funny using that new word?
The goal is to use mnemonics to incorporate new words into your Portuguese vocabulary. Mnemonics is the study and development of systems for improving and assisting our memory.
Notice that I mentioned creating fun ways to remember the new word. Our brain is better at remembering things that are funny, shocking or surprising.
Think about it: What did you eat for lunch two days ago? Unless you had a meal that was outside of your lunch routine, you will probably not remember it.
So, make things interesting to give your brain a hand memorizing and remembering new words.
3. Say it out loud
Say the new words and the phrases you wrote down using those words out loud. This is key to learning a foreign language. Always practice out loud. Talk to your plants and pets. Talk to yourself. It helps with memorization and also pronunciation.
My favorite online dictionaries to learn Portuguese
Here are my favorite online dictionaries.
Portuguese – English/English-Portuguese
1. Word Reference (my go-to). You can easily switch between English-Portuguese and Portuguese-English. The results are great. You will see examples with the word in a sentence in both English and Portuguese.
Portuguese – Portuguese
I encourage you to look up words in a Portuguese-Portuguese dictionary. It is a great way to learn synonyms and see examples using the words.
1. Dicio (my go-to)
4. Lexico (from Portugal)
5. Priberam (from Portugal)
To use your new vocabulary correctly you need lots of practice. There’s only so much that apps, books, and videos can do for your Portuguese. You need to have real conversations with real people in order to take your fluency to the next level.
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