Practice Portuguese

Now when you fly TAP, you'll be speaking your first Portuguese words before you even land! (…and that's "European Portuguese" from Portugal, which, as many foreigners find out the hard way, is very different than Brazilian Portuguese.)

Practice Portuguese was founded in 2012 by Joel Rendall (from Ontario, Canada) and Rui Coimbra (native of Lisbon, Portugal). The project has followed Joel's journey towards Portuguese fluency, thanks to Rui Coimbra's passion for languages and the ability to clearly explain even the most intricate Portuguese details. 

What started as a podcast has now grown into a complete, interactive platform with video, quizzes,  audio "Shorties," and much more to help a learner become fluent in the language without feeling like they're stuck in a classroom. 

How did the idea of creating "Practice Portuguese" come up?

Joel -  Shortly after moving to Lisbon, I realized that there were many unique challenges to learning Portuguese. There were few options available. With such a wide variety of sounds that don't exist in other languages, having materials to practice listening skills (and master pronunciation) was really important.

Rui - To be honest, we started this as a side project, and members would pay a small fee to access transcriptions to follow along with the audio. Within just a few weeks, the word started to spread throughout the international learning community. Over the years, we have grown into a complete learning platform with a fantastic community of Portuguese learners.


What are the biggest challenges you have had throughout these years?

Rui -  We always have so much we want to do, ranging from our platform's technology to deciding what content to create next. Together with the routine tasks of running a business, we always have to be hyper-aware of how to best spend our time. 

Joel - We now have a 1-year-old daughter, which has been an exciting adventure for us, making it even more vital to manage our time and energy effectively. Thanks to our members' loyal support, we've built an incredible team to help us stay on top of everything, including content creation, software development, customer support, and more.

Rui and Joel recording a recent video podcast
A Canadian living in Portugal... Was the adjustment difficult, Joel?

Joel The most challenging aspect of adapting was definitely the language. Especially in the beginning, it took a lot of energy each day to feel like I was making progress. I was a web designer with lots of projects, so I would have had an easy excuse to not learn the language. But we both knew that that would have been detrimental to me feeling fully integrated. 

Rui encouraged me to prioritize Portuguese learning right away because it's much harder to find the motivation to learn after you've already adapted to a country. That initial wave of motivation when you first arrive is the most powerful. 

Another challenge was that when I would try to talk to people in Portuguese, they would switch to English on me. I often felt like a failure, but Rui would always remind me that Portuguese people are proud to accommodate other cultures by speaking their languages. 

Rui - Simply telling someone that you are learning the language and need to practice really helps. Portuguese people are often thrilled because It shows them that you aren't just passing through but that you're making a genuine effort to learn and adapt to the culture.

Your project has recently boarded TAP's planes. How do you feel about that, and what are the expectations?

Joel -  This was definitely a significant milestone for us in all of the years we've been growing Practice Portuguese. 

Rui - This is true, we've been really excited and honoured to have our videos onboard and share our project with more people.

Joel -  TAP has always been important to our family, as Rui was proudly part of the cabin crew for 14 years. He has met thousands of people from the many different cultures that TAP welcomes on board. He saw first-hand their own love of Portuguese culture and their struggles with the language, which has been a huge motivator that fuels our work. 
Our goal with the videos is for TAP passengers to learn a few phrases before they land. If someone tells us that they were able to have their first basic conversation in Portuguese after viewing our videos, then that's a great achievement for us.
Joel and Rui with their daughter (Photo: Rita Ansone, People of Lisbon)
The sections of Practice Portuguese videos available onboard TAP
Joel and Rui with their daughter (Photo: Rita Ansone, People of Lisbon)
The sections of Practice Portuguese videos available onboard TAP

What has this experience been like, preparing your videos for this TAP partnership?

Rui - We were really excited and got straight to work. We wanted to make the most of this opportunity, so we produced an entirely new series of videos, specifically with TAP passengers in mind. We're really proud of the balance we've struck, making this series accessible and engaging while teaching you a great deal in just a few minutes.

Joel - We've already had TAP passengers reach out to tell us they've discovered our videos onboard TAP, which has been exciting for us.

What are your plans for the future?

Joel -  We have tons of new videos planned and constantly work on exciting new features for our platform and app. 

Rui - Our mission has always been to build the best platform for European Portuguese learners. With constant feedback from our growing community, we're honoured to be able to do that every day. 

At Lisbon office with friend & collaborator, Molly Rudesill

Do you want to leave a message for our passengers?

Joel - Don't wait until you've mastered the entire language before you start using it… because that will never happen! Look for simple signs that you're making progress, such as being able to order at a restaurant or carrying a basic conversation at the grocery store.  To become fluent in Portuguese, you have to get over the fear of embarrassment that many adults feel when trying something new.

Rui  -  Even after 9 years, Joel makes mistakes, but that's better than not making any effort at all and feeling like a permanent tourist. Challenge yourself, and realize that every time you try to speak and make a mistake, you'll improve much faster than studying grammar books alone. 

Joel  -  Languages are for connecting with people, so get out there and make some mistakes!