Do you need to speak Portuguese in Portugal?

When you’ve made the big decision to study abroad and chose Portugal as your destination, you might be asking yourself, “Do I need to speak Portuguese in Portugal?” The short answer, thankfully, is no. But if you’re making the financial commitment to live and study abroad the short answer probably won’t fill you with confidence.

Here, we’ll take a look at the various factors to consider and compare them with other popular destinations. We want to give you an idea of how easy it is to start your new life in Portugal.

Educational life

The whole reason for you moving abroad is to study. For some people this means sleeping in late nursing a hangover, but on occasion it can also mean actually turning up to class. On this level, you can relax. The clear majority of schools, like the NOVA school of business and economics, offer all their classes and resources in English. Since they take in so many international students, most classes are designed to be accessible for non-native speakers too.

As a point of comparison, in some countries like Spain this is not the case. Here, most classes are in Spanish (or one of the regional languages like Catalan) which can pose particular problems for some students. Even if they offer courses in English, these tend to be restricted to areas like tourism which might not suit everyone. The lesson here is that regardless of where you want to go, don’t just check what language the school says it supports on its website. Always double-check your course so you don’t get stuck.

Professional life

Education might be the primary motivator for studying abroad, but it’s a good bet that professional considerations come into play too. If you want to work while you study, or try and find a job after you graduate to make your stay more permanent, Portugal is a great choice. In its role as the new silicon valley of Europe, in addition to its already established place as one of the tourism capitals of the world, Portugal is home to many large multinationals.

Regardless of whether your field is finance, tech or tourism, almost all companies speak English both with their clients and within their business. As they become increasingly international, they are also finding that they lack people with the requisite language skills to help them grow. So not only is it easy to find a job without speaking Portuguese but being in possession of another language gives you the edge over everyone else.

An obvious point of comparison here would be the UK. Most people speak English as a second language already, so surely this is the easiest place to find work? Well just remember that the UK already has a proficient English-speaking workforce. Remember too that most companies these days take it as a given that people speak some level of English already, so why waste your time developing your second language a tiny bit more when you could be learning your third!

Social life

You don’t want to spend all your time in the classroom or office. Every now and then you’re going to want to be on a beach, sipping a coffee in a praça, or taking a beer in a fashionable spot like Bairro Alto. You’re in luck here too. According to wikitravel, almost 35% of people in Portugal speak English, and this level increases substantially in cities like Lisbon and Porto. As vibrant multicultural cities, they also host expat communities from many different countries. What could be better than spending your weekends gossiping in your native tongue? Other countries, like Germany for example, also have high rates of English, a willingness to speak it and diverse populations. But the drawback there is that unless you plan on holidaying in Austria and Switzerland, your social life might become limited.

Although you can get by in Portugal without speaking Portuguese, if you take a little time to learn the language, you’ll be able to really explore and appreciate the whole world. You can end up in Africa, Asia and the Americas and have a whole different perspective on things.

The short answer to do you need to know Portuguese to study in Portugal is still, no! In terms of education, work and social life, you’ll be fine with English or your native tongue. The longer answer though is that by choosing Portugal you’re getting a great opportunity to learn a beautiful and rewarding language. You can seriously improve your quality of education, opportunities to work and experiences of travelling by taking the plunge of studying in Portugal.

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