Overcoming Conversation Hurdles in European Portuguese
Perhaps you’ve lived in Portugal for some time or spend prolonged periods here for holidays. You’ve acquired some basic vocabulary and want to try to communicate in the language. All well and good, but how do you take the next steps to becoming conversational in Portuguese?
How do you sustain a conversation beyond the cheery
What tends to follow are a few more smiles, possibly a torrent of words you don’t understand, and after an awkward silence, the conversation ends. Many of us have been there and know the frustration.
Starting a Conversation in European Portuguese
- 👵 Bom dia! Tudo bem? Play slow audio Play normal audio Good morning! Is everything going well?
This a great way to greet someone or to begin a basic conversation. (But keep in mind that Portuguese greetings vary depending on the time of day!) Now we just need to expand on this little by little to communicate in a variety of settings.
A useful approach is to prepare yourself and have some vocabulary and phrases ready. If you go to a café or restaurant and know what you are going to order, write it down and practice beforehand:Dois cafés com leite e dois pasteis de nata, por favor Play slow audio Play normal audio Two coffees and two custard tarts, please
The same goes when you visit the post office or the bank. Look up the vocabulary you need. After you’ve done this a few times you may start to remember what to say, but it’s useful to have your checklist handy.
Have Some Go-to Phrases Ready
After greeting your neighbour, you could comment about the weather, make a positive remark about their house, how nice their garden looks, or perhaps an enquiry about their family if it’s appropriate. And pronto… you will have engaged in conversations!
Here are a few simple comments to get you started:Isso são excelentes notícias! Play slow audio Play normal audio That's great news! Espero que esteja tudo bem Play slow audio Play normal audio I hope everything is fine Há muito tempo que não o via! Play slow audio Play normal audio Long time no see! Hoje está calor, não está? Play slow audio Play normal audio It's hot today, isn't it? Parece que vem lá chuva Play slow audio Play normal audio Seems like it's going to rain O seu fim de semana foi bom? Play slow audio Play normal audio Was your weekend good? Gosto muito do que fez com o seu jardim Play slow audio Play normal audio I really like what you did with your garden Já sabe para onde vai de férias? Play slow audio Play normal audio Do you know where you're going on holiday yet?
Use Portuguese Filler Words
Filler words like pronto Play slow audio Play normal audio there you go, that's it, so are useful for giving yourself thinking time when you are speaking. It can also be used in the sense of: “all right” or “ready?” If you listen carefully, native Portuguese speakers use fillers like these regularly when they pause or search for words. They add colour and flavour and make speakers sound more authentic.
Pois Play slow audio Play normal audio Yeah, indeed, so, well is probably the most useful little filler. In order to acknowledge what someone else is saying, you can interject a pois, or pois é Play slow audio Play normal audio so it is, that's right, to show you are listening and agreeing.
Pois, eu vi logo que isso ia acontecer Play slow audio Play normal audio Yeah, I knew right away that was going to happen
Pois, de facto é uma situação complicada Play slow audio Play normal audio Yeah, it's a complicated situation
When you are trying to explain something in different ways, you could say:
- Ora bem Play slow audio Play normal audio Let’s see, Right or just Bem Play slow audio Play normal audio Well
- Ou seja Play slow audio Play normal audio In other words
- Não é? Play slow audio Play normal audio Isn't it?, Right?, Yeah? (often used at the end of a sentence)
These fillers don’t carry much meaning, but can be useful for maintaining the flow of the conversation and adding pauses when searching for the right word.
Asking for Clarification
Try to pick out the keywords in the conversation you are hearing and don’t hesitate to ask people to repeat or speak more slowly.Pode falar mais devagar, por favor? Play slow audio Play normal audio Can you speak more slowly, please? Não percebi, desculpe Play slow audio Play normal audio I didn't understand, sorry Podia repetir? Play slow audio Play normal audio Could you repeat that?
In case you completely missed what someone said to you, you can simply say:Diga? Play slow audio Play normal audio Come again?, Literally - Say?
Don’t worry about making mistakes. The main thing is to try to make oneself understood and gain confidence in the process as you work toward becoming conversational in Portuguese.
Imitate What You Hear
A very good way to improve your speaking is to listen to native speakers, imitate their accent, the rhythm of speech, and tone of voice. Our Shorties are one way to get frequent practice, including transcriptions of the dialogues for extra support. It may be useful to record your own speech as a comparison and keep working on your pronunciation.Pois… falar a língua local é bom, não é? Play slow audio Play normal audio Well... speaking the local language is nice, isn't it?