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Why Duolingo Offers Only Brazilian Portuguese

The other day, I was accused by a Portuguese citizen of not being clear enough about my being Brazilian.

Well, I’m Brazilian.

I’ve never hidden this fact. But it seems some native speakers from Portugal are incensed. They want me to disclose it in every article I write, video I make, and communication I have with my students.

And if you’re here in this article and want to go to Portugal, skip Duolingo.

Skip me, by the way.

As one of the articles I read states clearly, you’ll likely be corrected in Portugal if you speak “Brazilian.”

And that has been my experience… and that of many of my students.

But okay, you want to learn from Duolingo anyway.

So, why doesn’t Duolingo offer a European version? It doesn’t make sense if they want to make money, right?

Not really, and there are some reasons for this.

The Global Reach of Brazilian Portuguese

Portuguese is a global language; it’s the fifth language with the most native speakers, predominantly of the Brazilian variation.

This fact has positioned Brazilian Portuguese as a pivotal language learning choice on platforms like Duolingo.

This strategic focus acknowledges that Brazilian Portuguese has the most speakers because of Brazil. Also, it’s a variant of cultural and economic importance.

Duolingo, being such a big company, may want to help you learn languages, but they want to make money too.

You can hear Brazilian Portuguese everywhere

The ripples of Brazil’s language can be felt from Lisbon to Luanda.

Brazil is a media exporter. Our telenovelas are watched in all Portuguese-speaking countries. Native speakers of other variants are accustomed to hearing our accents. Heck, not long ago, Portuguese parents were panicking over their children’s changing accents due to exposure to a Brazilian YouTuber.

(the video below is by an American who speaks very good Portuguese)

All that has influenced Duolingo’s decision to curate a course that meets the communicative demands of a diverse, global audience.

By concentrating on Brazilian Portuguese, learners gain exposure to a form of the language widely understood by Portuguese speakers around the globe. Even though some speakers insist on correcting you (or discriminate against you because you speak “Brazilian”), you will be understood.

In a nutshell, Duolingo wants to make money, and more people are coming to Brazil and consuming Brazilian media than any other country or variant of the language.

A closer look into why Duolingo focuses on Brazilian Portuguese

This decision caters to both the distinctive linguistic elements of Brazilian Portuguese and language learners’ global preferences.

Language Varieties: Brazilian vs. European Portuguese

The two main varieties of Portuguese, namely Brazilian and European Portuguese, showcase interesting pronunciation, vocabulary, and even grammar differences.

While these differences are evident, they do not prevent anyone from understanding speakers on either side of the Atlantic.

I’ve had students who first learned the European version, then the Brazilian version, and can understand both.

One of my students went to Portugal for his doctorate but only spoke “Brazilian” and had no trouble getting around.

Yes, the differences are evident. But many people exaggerate those differences. For clout, for content, for want of things to do.

The differences are more in people’s perception than in language. I mean, it’s not like you will starve to death and be beaten on the street (although you will be discriminated against) just because you speak one variant or the other.

User Preference and Market Demand

As language learning evolves, market demand heavily influences course platforms like Duolingo.

Since Brazilian Portuguese is the majority dialect, learners looking to learn the Brazilian variant align with a larger audience, making it a practical choice for Duolingo to accommodate this demand.

Impact on Learners’ Experiences in Portugal

If you haunt online fora about language learning, this question always pops up: if I learn Brazilian Portuguese, can European Portuguese speakers understand me?

What they really want to know is whether knowing one dialect variant will impact their lives in another country.

And that’s a reasonable worry to have.

The differences in pronunciation and vocabulary should be an opportunity to enrich the language learning experience. That’s what I believe. Unfortunately, there is so much division among people that the simple fact of pronouncing vowels more openly or closedly will draw funny looks.

That’s why I suggested in another article that you learn European Portuguese if you’re going to Portugal. I’ve had students learn from me — a Brazilian — and go to Portugal and understand everyone quite well. But I’ve also had students who face discrimination and prejudice for the very same reason.

Anyway, if you don’t care about that, the groundwork in Duolingo Brazilian Portuguese will give you confidence for basic conversations. You will be able to notice the differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese. And with some extra effort, you’ll be able to understand what European Portuguese speakers say.

But okay, perhaps you’ve never learned from Duolingo Brazilian Portuguese and want to know more about its instructional approach.

Duolingo has done an excellent job.

It’s limited, though, because it doesn’t include human interaction. But Duolingo is good if you don’t have the time for classes and have a few minutes to spare while waiting in line.

Duolingo has successfully distinguished its Brazilian Portuguese course with an instructional approach rooted in interactive and user-friendly teaching methodologies.

This system appeals to a global user base by breaking the learning process into digestible units (very, very small ones), each designed to incrementally build the learner’s proficiency and keep them engaged using various innovative techniques.

At the heart of Duolingo’s instructional strategy lies gamification—a potent tool that transforms language learning into an adventure.

(I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes, I think I am much above this cheap strategy, but this works. I’m not beyond using Duolingo to learn another language. In fact, I have.)

Each lesson integrates experience points (XP), motivating learners to compete in leagues and strive for better performance and consistency.

This gamified learning experience adds a layer of enjoyment to the process, which is critical for learners beginning to explore Brazilian Portuguese.

The course’s structure also includes practical tips and culturally relevant stories that serve to reinforce grammar concepts and expand vocabulary.

Duolingo’s thoughtfully curated content ensures that learners memorize words and gain a contextual understanding of how to use Brazilian Portuguese in real-world situations.

Such an all-encompassing instructional approach optimizes retention and application of the language. And so, it provides learners with a competitive edge. The learners won’t feel completely clueless when they start having lessons with teachers.

And instead of contempt, in language learning, familiarity breeds confidence.

In conclusion…

Learning Portuguese requires aligning one’s objectives with the most effective tools at hand.

Duolingo offers a rich Brazilian Portuguese course, not a European one.

Those starting out or aiming to attain a general grasp of the language may find Duolingo’s course suited to their language goals. Its emphasis on making learning accessible and enjoyable is unquestionably beneficial for keeping students engaged and motivated.

If you learn Portuguese, you’ll eventually stumble upon different language variants. You can find other variants even in Brazil itself. Heck, even in the same state!

Your goal is to start communicating in whatever variant will be more common for you. But your goal should be to eventually become comfortable enough with the language to communicate in whatever situation you need to.

And if you’re looking to learn European Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, or Portuguese in general, check out these resources that will take you from beginner to intermediate in a simple manner.


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  • Johan Borg says:

    I would be lovely to have the option to learn European Portuguese too. The sound of it to me sounds captivating and I’m even sure the country of it’s origin deserves that much no? I love the Brazilian classes too but it’s a dialect of the original it’s called Brazilian Portuguese for a reason

  • It would be nice to have the option to learn European Portuguese as well. Portuguese sounds very attractive and I think my home country deserves it very much. I love Brazilian classes, but there’s a reason Brazilian Portuguese is my native dialect! I can also learn other languages ​​through the Louga application, which is really wonderful

  • There are multiples countries that use European Portuguese as the standard. It’s very frustrating taking a Portuguese course and trying to use Duolingo as a back up, but the grammar being very different and the accent being so exaggerated. Add on top of that, random vocabulary inconsistencies, and Duolingo becomes a hinderance rather than a resource. It would be like an English course being taught exclusively in Australian slang. The cultural, political, and linguistic reach of Brazil is severely exaggerated based solely on having a high population.

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