Thinking in a Foreign Language: 7 Methods to Help You Train Your Brain
In learning a foreign language, there are four basic language skills- reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
In Portuguese, much like in any other language, there are often one or two “proper” ways to say something and a lot of other informal ways to get the same point across. In other words, native speakers often use Portuguese slang words instead of “formal” words.
Wonder what I’m talking about? Let’s look at the word “Hello”.
“Hello” is the most basic word for greeting someone in the English language and one of the first words that an English language learner will learn. However, a native English language speaker might say “Hi” when they greet someone.
“Hi” means the same thing as “hello”. It is the slang or informal version of “hello”.
Many languages also have their own version of “Hello” and a few versions for “hi”. In Portuguese, these are “olá” and “oi”.
“Oi” is an example of a Portuguese slang term that native speakers understand to mean “hello”.
In the simplest terms, slang is an informal language. It is a set of words and expressions that are used by people who belong to the same cultural or social group.
Portuguese slang is a specific set of vocabulary that is understood among people for whom Portuguese is a major language, if not a first or native language.
It may not exactly be “textbook” Portuguese, but slang terms may actually be more commonly used by native speakers rather than “formal” Portuguese.
When learning any language, learning slang is an essential part of building your vocabulary.
The importance of learning Portuguese slang might not necessarily be emphasized informal language learning courses. Textbooks might not include many slang terms or Portuguese idioms and expressions.
However, any experienced native Portuguese speaking tutor will tell you that learning slang is important if you want to gain fluency or just sound like a native.
Native Portuguese speakers use slang daily. They understand what these words mean and will pepper their speech with them almost automatically. In order to participate in daily life among Portuguese speakers, you need to understand how they use slang.
Another important reason to learn Portuguese slang is, it will keep you from inadvertently offending someone. As we said, slang is informal, so there are certain times when using it is inappropriate, rude, or even disrespectful.
|Bonus: Download here a FREE PDF of 24 Portuguese Slang Words|
To help you get started, here is a list of some common Portuguese slang terms.
Translation: Informal yes
Meaning: Yes or Uh-huh
You can say “ya” to a Portuguese speaker if you want to say yes. It is basically an informal way of expressing agreement.
While it is “informal”, it is common enough in usage that it is acceptable to be used in a workplace or business setting.
This Portuguese slang term originated among teenagers, but it is now ubiquitous enough that it’s acceptable in office or business settings.
There are actually two ways that this slang term is used. The most common is similar to an English speaker saying “dude” or “man”. The second, however, is when you are in between thoughts. So, it’s kind of like “uhh…” in English. A slight pause or noise you make to let people know you are gathering your thoughts before saying them out loud.
This is actually a possessive pronoun that means mine, however, it is also used similar to “pá”. Note, however, that this is used when you are addressing a male.
Meaning: Cool! Good!
This is a commonly used Portuguese slang term, especially among teenagers and young people. It is the equivalent of the English slang term “Cool!” which is basically a way of saying something is good.
“Fixe” is usually used to praise or express admiration for someone but it can also be used to describe an object that someone thinks is praiseworthy.
Note that, in Brazilian Portuguese, they use “legal” instead of “fixe”.
Meaning: Go away
When a Portuguese speaker says this, they are telling someone that they want to be left alone. While this may sound “harsh” it’s not necessarily considered impolite. Just, think about who you are saying it to and why.
Translation: Spin or turn
Meaning: Cute! Nice!
Portuguese youth will use this term if they want to say something is “cute”. It is usually used to express admiration for a person, especially if you are referring to their looks. It can also be used to describe an object or an animal – like a fluffy dog.
Portuguese is a gendered language, so if you want to use this slang term to talk about a male, you use “giro”. If you want to refer to a female, you use “gira”.
Translation: We were cool
Meaning: We’re cool
This Portuguese slang term is basically used to reassure someone that you are okay with them or with a situation.
If you are in a more rural part of Portugal, away from the big cities like Lisbon, you might hear “táss bem”. This is basically the same thing as “táss cuul”.
This is a Portuguese slang word that is used as a conversation filler by teenagers. It’s the equivalent of an American teenager adding “like” to their sentences.
It also has another gendered meaning, however. If someone says “tipo” they could be referring to “that guy”. While if someone says “tipa” they are referring to “that girl”.
Translation: Very good
This is a slang term that is used to express approval for someone and their actions. Again, this is a gendered term, so “porrerio” means a cool guy while “porreria” means a cool girl.
Meaning: A lot
This slang term is usually used with another word such as “fixe” to give emphasis to what you are saying. For example, saying “bué fexe” means that something isn’t just “cool” but “very cool”.
Translation: What a pledge
Meaning: How lucky!
If someone tells you some good news, this is an appropriate slang phrase to use to express your happiness for them. It is the equivalent of marveling at their luck or saying “how lucky” they are.
Meaning: The Portuguese people
This is a slang term used to mean people from Portugal or of Portuguese descent. It is basically “Portuguese” shortened.
“Tuga” is the singular form, while “Tugas” is used if you are referring to a group.
The slang words we are going to discuss below are common; you will probably hear them in casual conversation. However, they should only be used with care as they are mildly offensive and considered swear words.
Meaning: Shit! Fuck!
This common Portuguese slang word is a mild curse word that is used similar to how English speakers say “shit” or “fuck”.
While it is technically a curse word, it’s not considered offensive, so you are likely to hear it casually tossed out in daily conversation. Rule of thumb, if they don’t sound angry, they’re probably not.
This is the common Portuguese slang term for homosexual. It’s not that politically correct and can be mildly derogatory, but it is a common term that you might hear in your travels.
As with any potentially derogatory term, you should probably refrain from using it yourself. But don’t be too shocked if you hear a native speaker use it.
In Brazilian Portuguese, they say “bicha” when they mean “paneleiro”. You should take note of this as in European Portuguese “bicha” means a queue or line. Don’t get confused.
This is a mild insult. But it is also part of a common slang phrase that is uttered to mean that someone thinks that something is cool: É do caralho!
Translation: Female sexual organ
This is also an insult. It can also be used the same way that some English speakers use the word “pussy” so someone who is acting cowardly or unmanly.
This Portuguese word for a woman who sells herself is used as an insult and an exclamation of anger. It’s similar to saying “bitch” in English.
Portuguese is the sixth-most spoken language in the world, with around 270 million speakers. There are actually two very common dialects of Portuguese: European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese.
There are approximately 211 million native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese in the world. While most of the vocabulary and grammar rules of European and Brazilian Portuguese are the same, there are some differences, notably, Brazilian Portuguese speakers often have their own common slang words and expressions.
Here are a few common Brazilian Portuguese slang words that you might hear if you are traveling to Brazil.
This is a slang term that Brazilian Portuguese speakers use to say that something is “cool” or “awesome”.
Translation: An over there
Meaning: Hi! What’s up?
If you hear this from a Brazilian Portuguese speaker, they are greeting you. This phrase is basically the informal version of “Olá” which is “Hello” in both European and Brazilian Portuguese.
It’s a casual and useful expression that is used among Brazilian teenagers much like American teenagers say “what’s up”.
Meaning: I agree.
If you hear someone say this, they basically say saying that they agree with someone or something. So if you are making plans with a Brazilian Portuguese speaker and they say “Beleza” they are agreeing on the plans.
Meaning: I agree. I’m well.
This slang term has two meanings. First of all, it is used to agree with someone or something, similar to “beleza”. Secondly, it can be used to answer the question “how are you”. It is the equivalent of saying that you are well or that you are great.
Translation: All good?
Meaning: Do you agree?
This short phrase is used to ask if someone agrees with or is okay with something that is being discussed. You can answer either “beleza” or “joia” if you do agree.
You can also say “Tá bom” to mean I agree, or even just say “Tá”. This is understood to mean okay or all right.
Meaning: Good looking
While this word might literally mean the four-legged animal, it’s a slang term in Brazil to describe a human being. If this is used to describe someone, the speaker is saying they are hot or very attractive.
This is another gendered Portuguese word, so if you’re talking about a man, he is “gato”. A hot or attractive woman is “gata”.
Translation: To talk
This slang word is derived from the past tense of the verb “falar” which means to talk or to say in English.
“Falou” is basically used by Brazilian Portuguese speakers the same way that an English speaker will use “okay”. It can be used both to answer a question about your state of being and to inquire about someone’s state of being.
In order to properly communicate with native Portuguese speakers, it is important that you learn common slang words as well as expressions and idioms.
The samples of Portuguese slang words that we listed above are only a few examples of how “colorful” and creative the language is. You should download the PDF of this list here and study it with a native Portuguese speaking tutor.
A good tutor will not only better explain how to use these Portuguese slang words, but they are sure to have their own list of important slang words and expressions that you should learn.
Building up your mental library of common Portuguese phrases and slang words will help ensure that you can have real conversations with Portuguese speakers and help you make new friends. Happy learning!
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