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Starting Portuguese from scratch

Ab initio Portuguese - Starting Portuguese from scratch


Seja muito bem vindo ao curso de Português para iniciantes!

Most of the students admitted to Cambridge each year to read Portuguese can be classed as 'beginners' - a broad term applied to those having no knowledge whatsoever of Portuguese, those who may have done a GCSE or short language course, and those who have only limited oral familiarity with the language. Since Portuguese classes are quite small in size, you need not worry that you will find yourself falling behind in large classes.


Preparation for your language classes

As the course is very intensive and we need to cover a lot of material in just 20 teaching weeks, we strongly encourage you to work through one of the following options before the academic year:

- "Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar”, by John Whitlam, Routledge: Chapters 1 to 9 and 15 from the Practical Guide and the Workbook


- “Portuguese, An Essential Grammar”, by Amélia Hutchinson and Janet Lloyd, Second Edition, Routledge: Chapters 1 to 4; 5.1, 5.2, 5.3; 6 and 7; as a complement, please complete the exercises on "Vamos lá começar" (pages 1-88), by Leonel Melo Rosa, Edições Técnicas Lidel.

Please use the key to correct your answers. You will be asked to submit this work, marked by you, at the start of the Michaelmas term.

Don't feel that you have to be limited by this only, go as far ahead as you can. Please see Recommended bibliography and Online Resources below.


Making a start on Portuguese

Apart from the preparation work, we very much encourage you to take advantage of some of the many options at your disposal to make a start on the language before you come to Cambridge. Here are some suggestions:

The World Wide Web is a very good source of language learning material: you can practise your grammar, read the news, watch authentic videos and listen to the radio in Portuguese, much of it completely free. BBC Languages and Centro Virtual Camões have a good range of resources for beginners Portuguese. Portuguese Communication Exercises’ website features a compilation of brief video clips - with native speakers from various locations - alongside their transcriptions and translations. For more suggestions do check out our selection of links far below.

Portuguese newspapers are available for borrowing and consultation from the Modern and Medieval Languages Library.

You may be able to attend evening classes in your area. Ask for details at your local public library.

To practise Portuguese language with a native speaker in Cambridge, you may found useful to register for the Conversation Exchange program at the Language Centre

Time and money permitting, a period of immersion in a Portuguese-speaking country can prove invaluable. There is a variety of good courses held in Portugal in the summer and at other times of year. Information on most of them may be found on the web. Once in Cambridge, you will be able to find out about college travel grants.

All set texts are also to be found in the Modern and Medieval Languages Faculty Library, the University Library and throughout College Libraries. Some College librarians may, upon request, grant undergraduates from other Colleges reading rights to books they may have in stock and you are encouraged to request your own College library to buy set texts for your courses.


Variants of Portuguese Language

Throughout Portuguese Language and Literature sessions at Cambridge you are exposed to both European and Brazilian variants of the language. Despite its variations in each country and community, standard Portuguese is understood by all native speakers and enable a non-native speaker to communicate effectively whether in Brazil, Portugal or any other lusophone country.

We will constantly clarify lexical, structural and phonetic differences between variants, as well as emphasizing their commonalities. Some of these differences in the works of Portuguese, Brazilian and African authors will be studied in our Part I scheduled Paper PG1 (Introduction to the Language, Literatures and Cultures of the Portuguese-speaking World).

We consider Portuguese a single language and would like to confirm that: 1) Texts from both variants could appear on examinations; 2) Both Brazilian and European Portuguese (it's your choice) will be accepted as long as consistency is maintained.


Recommended bibliography


Ponto de Encontro, Second Edition - Portuguese As a World Language, Clemence Jouet-Pastre, Pearson



Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar – A Practical Guide, John Whitlam, Routledge

Portuguese, An Essential Grammar, Amélia Hutchinson and Janet Lloyd, Second Edition, Routledge

Nova Gramática do Português Contemporâneo, Celso Cunha and Lindley Cintra, Edições João Sá da Costa - An excellent modern grammar, which will be useful for reference throughout the university course and beyond


Grammar and self-correcting exercises

Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar – Workbook, John Whitlam, Routledge

Vamos lá começar, Leonel Melo Rosa, Edições Técnicas Lidel (European Portuguese)

Vamos lá continuar, Leonel Melo Rosa, Edições Técnicas Lidel (European Portuguese)



Dicionário Houaiss da língua portuguesa, Antonio Houaiss, Objetiva. (Monolingual. Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese)

Dicionário da língua portuguesa 2013, Porto Editora. (Monolingual. European Portuguese)

Dicionário de Verbos Portugueses, Porto Editora

Dicionário Prático de Regência Verbal, Celso Pedro Luft, Ática

Dicionário Prático de Regência Nominal, Celso Pedro Luft, Ática

For bilingual dictionaries, see the following publishers: Michaelis; Porto Editora; Collins


Online resources


Dicionário Priberam da Língua Portuguesa -

Michaelis -

Centro Virtual Camões -

BBC Languages Portuguese -

BrazilPod - From here you will have access to six different projects for the study of Portuguese

Portuguese Communication Exercises -

Fonética & Fonologia – Vowels: Consonants: - Explore the sounds of Portuguese clicking on the symbols/words and watching the videos

Verb Conjugator -



Jornal Público -

Expresso -

BBC Brasil -

O Globo -

Folha de S. Paulo -

O Estado de S. Paulo -

Valor –


Radios e TVs

- RTP -

- Radio TSF -

- Radios EBC (Empresa Brasil de Comunicação) -

- Globo -

- CBN -

- MPB FM -


For a description of the language papers you will be taking, see Beginners' Language Courses.


We hope that you will find these suggestions helpful. If there is anything on which you would like further advice, please contact the Director of Studies of your Cambridge College or our Departmental Secretary.

Portuguese texts currently covered by ab initio students during their first year at Cambridge

Lygia Fagundes Telles: Selected Short Stories* [Brazil]

Miguel Torga: Selected Short Stories* [Portugal]

José Craveirinha: Selected Poetry* [Mozambique] [NEW from 2015-2016]

Ondjaki, Bom Dia Camarada [Angola] [NEW from 2015-2016]

(*Lecturers will confirm the titles of any poems or short stories to be studied this year.)