Best Brazilian Portuguese Textbooks for the Independent Learner
So, you decided to learn Portuguese, on your own, and want to find the best Brazilian Portuguese textbooks to study from.
Or you’re having conversation lessons with your teacher, and want to add some structure to the conversations.
You could even be at a very advanced level and wish to improve your Portuguese in a way that takes it farther faster, but don’t know where to find the best textbooks to learn Brazilian Portuguese.
I am going to give you a list of some of the best textbooks I have used in my lessons with students.
I’ll recommend some of them even though I don’t believe they’re the best ones overall. But all of them have something good, and I’ll tell you why it might be good and why it might not.
And if you’re a true beginner and want a self-contained course rather than a textbook, you might want to take a look at these resources first.
So the first book on our list is…
Falar, Ler, Escrever Português Brasileiro
Falar, Ler, Escrever Português Brasileiro is a book for all levels, though beginners might find it a bit hard. It focuses on “professional” language from the start.
It’s quite old-fashioned. The pictures are ancient. The situations it talks about sometimes are not quite common nowadays.
Structure-wise the book relies heavily on grammar and drills.
It’s pretty good if you want to focus on that — grammar & drills.
That’s the best this textbook offers.
If you’re considering purchasing it thinking that you’re going to have interesting dialogues and intriguing texts that’ll spark conversations…
Don’t buy this book.
It’s quite boring. And in my lessons, I use it mostly as a helper, when it comes to having grammar drills outside the lessons.
Ponto de Encontro
Ponto de Encontro is a huge book.
With more than 600 pages.
It was written and edited with the college student in mind. And in fact, many colleges and universities in the United States use it.
(It was first introduced to me by a student who was taking an elective course in Portuguese in NYC.)
Each chapter has information about both Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese, but it seems the authors have focused on Brazilian Portuguese.
You have grammar exercises and explanations, vocabulary, and more. There’s even a companion website with recordings that you can access even if you don’t have the book right now.
But without the books the recordings are useless.
If you think this book is a bit expensive you can go for it at secondhand book stores.
I bought mine for $30, which was a bargain.
Gramática Ativa, Edição Brasileira
The third recommendation isn’t a textbook but rather grammar workbooks — Gramática Ativa 1 (beginners) and Gramática Ativa 2 (intermediate, advanced students).
I love both, and I have both.
There are two editions, one for Brazilian Portuguese and one for European Portuguese. It was published by a European publishing house.
And the Brazilian edition is rather an adaptation. But other than a few European-sounding names (if you’re familiar at all with textbooks from Portugal), you’ll not find anything wrong with it.
In fact, it’s nice that they included the conjugation for tu – even if it’s greyed out, you can still see it. It’s helpful when you need to practice more formal grammar to read advanced stuff.
The books are divided into several units, and each unit is comprised of two or three pages devoted to a single grammar topic (present tense, regular verbs, -er verbs etc.).
There’s always one page with quite concise grammar explanations and spot-on examples. Sometimes it’s even hard to understand the explanations – they may be too concise.
At times you have more than one page for explanations but it’s always one page for exercises. You can find all the answers on the last pages of the book.
And if you buy a new book you can find CDs enclosed.
I’ve never personally used the CDs as I am Brazilian. And my students who bought the book have told me that they have never used the CDs.
Good to have them, though.
The best part for me is the second book, which is aimed at intermediate-to-advanced level students.
And it focuses heavily on the subjunctive and the use of conjunctions, two areas you really need to express yourself clearly and elegantly
Português Via Brasil
Another book that I like very much is Via Brasil.
It’s for the intermediate-to-advanced level student, though I think their definition of “intermediate” is quite liberal.
The texts have proven to be quite hard for my (certified) intermediate-level students.
You have to feel pretty much at ease with reading in Portuguese and speaking at a more colloquial level to use this book.
Each unit is usually one longer, unadapted text.
Sometimes they say it’s been adapted but I’ve compared many texts to the original ones and found them to have been slightly adapted if at all.
At times the authors may be included a new column, or one or another word but nothing has really been done to reduce the level of difficulty of vocabulary or increase its accessibility.
But the best part is the Comprehension Exercises that come after each longer text.
And you’ll find lots of grammar drills and finer points of spoken Portuguese.
And here are some examples of things taught in Via Brasil that I haven’t really seen in other textbooks.
- Há quem diga que…
- Meio x metade.
- Using tornar or tornar-se
- And the word “mesmo” with its multitude of meanings.
It also includes lots of vocabulary exercises, with a focus on informal Portuguese.
Via Brasil’s going to be very helpful for you if you need to have a more intense interaction with Brazilians.
But it’s not really good to study from it on your own.
And if you decide to go solo, you might want to put your hands on the teacher’s handbook — it has the answers. But it’s indecently expensive.
Samba! Curso de Português para Estrangeiros
If you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese, it stands to reason that you want to visit Brazil. And once you’re here not only language but culture may be baffling. And although I like the textbooks that I have recommended previously, they don’t touch upon culture the way Samba! Curso de Português para Estrangeiros (affiliate link) does.
(Perhaps Ponto de Encontro does this, but PdE is quite academic.)
Don’t be fooled by what the cover says — this book is not for complete beginners. In addition to its being entirely in Portuguese, Samba! Start off by sparking conversations that beginners will have a hard time expressing themselves in.
But for someone who has steadily Portuguese for 30 to 40 hours and is slightly comfortable with basic conjugations and common vocabulary, Samba can prove to be a great companion to your studies. It has lots of interesting cultural facts, and it’s one of the few books to include audio that is both interesting and instructive.
Because this book has been developed for classroom use, it’s the main resource I rely on when planning Portuguese lessons for beginners. But if you want to use that to teach yourself, make sure you have someone else to discuss the topics with.
I wouldn’t bother to get its kindle version — the layout of the book isn’t Kindle-friendly. Besides, the print edition is so well put-together it’s worth having. And don’t forget to follow the instructions in the book to download the recordings.
A Few Extra Brazilian Portuguese Textbooks to Learn From
And the next ones are readers and others that didn’t quite fit in my criteria above.
The Brazilian Portuguese Reader by John Whitlam is a very good book.
It includes about 20 essays (a little bit more, it’s been a time since I left used it).
And each essay or story features a vocabulary section, besides some questions for discussion and comprehension.
Although the publisher states it’s for the intermediate level, again, the texts may be advanced. Especially if you have only finished Duolingo intermediate level or something like that.
But if you can speak Portuguese with people, understand our podcast, and read simple stuff like this, you’ll probably benefit from the challenge.
John Whitlam also wrote the Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar (this is the second edition; I have the first one).
It’s a pretty good textbook if you want to have concise explanations of grammar points in Portuguese.
It has lots of bilingual examples with accurate translations.
And it’s quite good for those situations when you don’t really know what you’re doing and want to have a definitive answer to your questions.
If you decide to go for this one I recommend you get the workbook for the Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar. It’ll help you consolidate the knowledge you get from the book itself.
It should never be used as a standalone book, as it has not been created for that.
But if you’re taking classes, and your teacher notices that you keep making the same mistakes, you could have your teacher suggest you take a look at some specific point.
And you could look it up here in this grammar book, do the exercises read the explanations, not necessarily in that order, and come out of it with a better understanding.
A Word of Caution
And lastly, I’ve recommended these books because I think textbooks are good if you have a good strategy to learn from them.
If you rely solely on them as your source of practice you might think it’s a little bit hard to see progress.
But if you have the chance to have a class with a teacher like me, or if you have Brazilian Portuguese speaking friends, you can also ask them, and they’ll give you some pointers as to what you have to search for in those textbooks.
And those Portuguese textbooks will help you develop a sense of the language that is used in traditional literature here in Brazil, too.
If you want to go farther than the 19th century and back, you might want to consider taking a look at our Classics Collection.
It’ll help you to get familiar with the historical setting and habits without the burden of dealing with an excessive number of unfamiliar words.
And do you have any recommendations you’d like to share with your friends?
Leave it in the comments section below.
Thanks for the book recommendations. I plan to buy some of them as I get tired of using Google as a translator!
Haha! Google is a good friend but it can take us just so far 😛 If you need any help, just let me know!
Thanks for the recommendations, Eli! Did you also happen to see “Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar: A Practical Guide” (2007, 2nd Edi.) by John Whitlam? I myself found the book very useful.