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Language Schools for Expats in Portugal

Submitted: July 2014

There are only two countries in the world where Portuguese is the native language: Portugal and Brazil. Officially there are approximately 260 million Portuguese speakers in the world in nine countries or territories; of these, over 10 million of them live in Portugal. If you are moving to Portugal as an expat, you are going to have to learn some Portuguese, even if it only extends as far as por favor and obrigado.

The best way to jump-start the learning process is to spend some time back at school. This might involve anything from attending evening classes after work at a cost of around €150 a week, to spending a month on an intensive one-on-one course, with accommodation with the teacher included, at a cost of over €6,000.

If you are looking for a qualification to show that you are proficient in Portuguese, perhaps to help you to find work, you can study for the CAPLE (Centro de Avaliação de Português Língua Estrangeira) examination. CAPLE offer diplomas at five different levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) from A2 to C2. CAPLE diplomas are one of two official qualifications in Portuguese, and it is also recognised worldwide. The other is TELC, who offer a single level qualification, but only at B1 level. CELPE-Bras is another qualification available, but this is in Brazilian Portuguese. A CAPLE level B2 diploma is usually a prerequisite for foreign students wishing to take university courses in Portugal. It may also be useful if you are taking up professional work in Portugal, based on a foreign diploma or other qualification. Courses are available in many places in Portugal. Even if you do not particularly want the qualification, you can search for schools which provide CAPLE courses, as this may give you more confidence regarding the quality of the tuition at the school.

Choosing the right school for you depends on what you want to get out of it. If you are interested in more than just class-based learning, many schools provide sight-seeing tours, which not only help with your language development, but also give you more information regarding what you are looking at than you would get from a guide book. They may also provide outings such as sightseeing, shopping trips or restaurant visits. These can help you to learn the vocabulary you will need in these situations, and improve your confidence. Also a guided trip to a restaurant may encourage you to try the wide variety of Portuguese food on offer, and discover some new favourites. Some schools offer a combination of learning Portuguese and surfing.

Generally schools will run classes for students of all levels of ability, ranging from total beginners to accomplished speakers taking refresher courses. You will generally be assessed on arrival to see which class would be suitable, but you should always confirm that if you find yourself in a class that does not suit your ability, you can move freely into a more suitable class.

There are many different factors involved in the final choice of school. These include:

Many schools have their own websites, which give detailed information of courses offered. There are also websites that act as agents for schools such as this one, which also includes student reviews of the schools. There is a website here which allows you to search to find schools. Tripadvisor offers information from previous students here, and Lonely Planet has some information and links here. It may also be worth checking with the nearest university in Portugal to see if they offer courses.



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