Ask Luís! (#5): Assessment of Duolingo for EP learners / Text revision

Hello, everyone! I hope you’re having a great week – hopefully the weekend will be even better (:

Today, I have a query and a text revision assignment coming all the way from Russia. This one is from Yuliya:

Olá Luís!

Aprendo Português (EP) desde setembro passado. Tenho as aulas no centro da língua e cultura portuguesas. Mas quero ter mais prática e por isso uso curso de Português de Duolingo.
O questão é: acha que Duolingo é útil para practicar a língua no entanto sendo BP orientado? Pode prática de BP ter uma conseqüência negativa para um estudo de EP?

Muito agradeço (não ainda aprendí o tempo futuro :)) se você revisa esta mensagem também.


Hello, Yuliya! First of all, thank you so much for your comments and feedback – it’s always good to know there are people who are invested in learning EP and that my work is somehow making things easier for you.

An answer to your questions, together with a revision of your vocab and grammar like you asked, will follow the jump. This is a big one, so read it calmly and without stress!

P.S. If you’d like your EP skills to be reviewed by me, send me a short message (2 to 3 main paragraphs) to my Q&A form.

Assessment of the Duolingo Portuguese course for EP speakers

I’d like for a stronger, more emphatic statement on my thoughts about Duolingo to have its own place (together with a few other articles I’m planning about language controversies or more political/social/cultural subjects directly linked to the Portuguese language); that said, I can still answer a few of your questions about the issue, one I obviously have strong feelings for.

In theory, having a Portuguese course that teaches BP should not be a big problem for EP learners; during my time at Duolingo, I was very vocal (in my usual assertive, albeit acerbic way) about the necessity to find common ground among all speakers and learners of Portuguese: the differences are there, and they’re quite substantial in phonetics and some common use vocabulary, but the structure of the language is basically the same and the little differences that do pile on, even on grammar, could be integrated into the course in a more meaningful way, one that continuously warned EP learners that they were learning a different variant of the language and that provided them with clues to where EP and BP diverge.

The problem is, Duolingo was unwilling to make those adjustments. After being told EP speakers/learners mattered to them and that my cooperation was invaluable for that effort going forward, I was routinely told off everytime I made a suggestion to help EP learners harness the power of the BP Duolingo course to their EP advantage: for example, we the moderators suggested to the Duolingo community team (the people in charge of the forums) to make my first List of EP Study Materials (which also includes a tutorial in how to survive Duolingo as an EP learner) a sticky post, but they were vehemently against it (we had enough trouble getting the Portuguese Help Index sticky; they have a weird problem with too many sticky pages, regardless of the fact that people keep asking the same question about EP vs. BP over and over again on the forums, and it would be in their best interest to provide suitable communication to its members).

If someone were to ask me to give an honest assessment of the Duolingo Portuguese course for EP learners, I’d sum it up in a single (long) sentence: Enjoy the addictive aspects of the Duolingo model, but don’t ever believe the course is catering to your specific needs as an EP learner. Unless they make changes in the incredibly flawed ways they view language learning (which won’t happen for a very long time, if ever), the voice will always have a Brazilian accent; the symbols used to represent the course will always be the Brazilian flag and Rio’s Christ the Redeemer; the given sentences in an exercise to translate from Portuguese to English will never have EP-specific words in them; the translations from English to Portuguese may not accept your EP vocabulary (and will never see your answer as the best answer, which means even when you see a green screen, you may find yourself having to read a second sentence with the BP selected “best” alternative); the community in the forums may give you advice about BP instead of EP (many people on both sides of the language divide are unfortunately too ignorant of the full breath of the differences between them to give you an honest, accurate answer, and they’re usually very willing to force their own answers – even if totally unqualified – on you). 

That said, you should enjoy Duolingo for what it is (if you want to, you should use the link to my List of Study Materials over there to drown out the Brazilian things you can avoid); if you’re careful and you don’t take any information you receive from the course for granted, learning some Brazilian Portuguese words or turns of phrase will only make you a more alert, well-integrated member of the Portuguese language sphere, someone capable of seeing things through both sides and learning to enjoy both variants for their differences as well as their similarities. Until you have a good grasp on spoken EP, I advise you stay clear from too much spoken BP; once you can distinguish the two variants properly, you should do what most people don’t – trying to bask yourself in the language as a whole, enjoying each country’s different cultural expressions and ways of seeing life, but from the European Portuguese POV you chose to learn.

I hope this helped!

Text revision

I think your text is a really good effort, especially from someone who’s only learning EP since last September. I know how hard it must be for a native Russian speaker to learn the dynamics surrounding definite articles (and Portuguese can be so arbitrary when to use them or not), but you should know you’re already capable of transmitting ideas in written Portuguese (and since that’s the main point of communication – to make sure a message gets across someone else), that’s more than half the job done: now you just need to keep polishing your skills to enhance the good things you’ve already achieved (:

So, here’s how I’d write your message (notes will follow):

Olá, Luís!

[Aprendo/Estou a aprender] Português (PE) desde setembro passado. Tenho as aulas no centro de língua e cultura portuguesa[s], mas quero ter mais prática e por isso uso o curso de Português do Duolingo.

A questão que tenho é: achas que o Duolingo é útil para praticar a língua mesmo sendo o curso orientado para estudantes de PB [português do Brasil]? Pode a prática do PB ter consequências negativas para o estudo do PE?

Muito obrigada (ainda não aprendi o tempo futuro) :) Se não te importares, gostava de te pedir para reveres esta mensagem.


  • I’m being finicky (most people don’t really make this distinction), but Portuguese grammar stresses the importance of the comma to separate the vocative (someone/something you’re calling) from other elements of the sentence. Here Luís serves as a vocative, and as such it should separated from the greeting that precedes it (this same thing works for other greetings: Bom dia, Paulo!Parabéns, Yuliya, feliz aniversário!)
  • Also, don’t worry too much about when to use the articles just yet; just make sure that you use them properly ([a] questão) and that things that are somewhat finite/delimited have the definite accent (that’s what distinguishes ter [mais] prática and a prática da língua, really; the first is associated with a verb to give out a generic activity, while the second refers to the practice itself).
  • Unlike English (which mandates the present perfect), there’s nothing stopping you from using the progressive (estar + a + infinitive) form with desdeThat’s the form I’d use here to give the action of learning a more continuous, propulsive energy, but either way is alright.
  • I’ve changed your verb [você/o senhor] acha to [tu] achas to express some informality. If you were writing a formal message, you probably wouldn’t start it with Olá! (: In any case, you’ve used the verb correctly (and without the actual pronoun, which marks it clearly as an EP, albeit formal, construct), so that’s a good sign!
  • [o] Duolingo is a masculine noun in Portuguese; I’m in the process of writing a Grammar Tips post about gender when it comes to the world of tech and the internet, where I’ll explore the reasons as to why most websites/apps have masculine gender, and how to deal with gender of novel words in general.
  • Portuguese doesn’t have an equivalent to the noun-adjective combo English loves creating (like BP oriented), so we use the adjective/participle together with the preposition associated with them: in this case, it’s orientado para.
    • P.S. We do have some combos between adverbs (like meio – half) and adjectives; for example: “estar meio ensonado” means “to be rather/partially sleepy”.
  • Fantastic use of the gerund, congratulations! If you want to write “despite” in the sense of “even though” (to introduce a second clause that introduces some contrary/negative caveats to performing the action of the first clause), you can use mesmo + gerund.
  • I think you were trying to write “Muito agradecida”, which is grammatically fine, but quite formal and ancient-sounding (just like the English “much obliged”).
  • If a word has i as its last syllable, the stress is directed there automatically and the i itself doesn’t need an accent; if, however, the stress in a word with those characteristics is to lie elsewhere, there has to be an accent on the vowel of that syllable to make the switch: e.g. [o] lápis (pencil); [o] dândi (dandy).
  • EP has somewhat substituted the conditional with the imperfect in a few structures. Gostar de with a conditional aspect (English “would like“) is one of those instances.
  • De is a preposition that, when used between a verb and an infinitive, actually allows either the pronoun to go before or after it. That means “gostava de te pedir” and “gostava de pedir-te” are both acceptable here.
  • No need to worry about the more complex verb tenses either, but for those of you keeping check, [te] importares is in the future subjunctive (Se não – If you don’t… – is always followed by this tense) while reveres is in the personal infinitive (which is a personalization of a regular infinitive – pedir para rever [algo], used for effect, to emphasize the person reviewing and not the action itself)


  • BP Intrusion Watch:

    • the trema/diaeresis (¨) in u in que/qui and gue/gui to mark a sounded /u.e/ pairing instead of the expected disappearance of the u (compare quente – which has a /k/ sounds followed by the nasal e; with consequente, where there’s a /w/ in between, like most English words with qu) were never used in EP, and have been completely abolished from the language by the Spelling Reform;
    • revisar (to review) is strictly BP; the EP equivalent is rever; the noun, however, is the same: [a] revisão (review).

6 thoughts on “Ask Luís! (#5): Assessment of Duolingo for EP learners / Text revision

  1. Hannes May 6, 2016 / 10:04 am

    These exercises are enormously useful! Thank you, Luís!

    Liked by 1 person

    • luisdomingos May 6, 2016 / 11:24 am

      You’re welcome! I’m really glad you’re finding them useful (:


  2. julkastarter May 6, 2016 / 4:33 pm

    Olá, Luís!
    Muito obrigada pelas tuas resposta e revisão. São muito úteis. Sanaste completamente as minhas dúvidas sobre o Duolingo. Vou continuar. :)
    Há uma coisa que eu não consegui expressar bem na mensagem anterior: na minha última frase quis dizer “I will appreciate very much if you review the message as well.” Mas não ainda aprendi estas estruturas. Posso compreende-las mas não posso as usar. Então, a tua explicação foi muito a propósito. :)
    Acho que “tu/você” merece uma particular questão em “Ask Luís” e vou te perguntar dentro em breve. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • luisdomingos May 6, 2016 / 6:01 pm

      De nada! Fico feliz por ter podido ajudar :) Desejos de um bom fim de semana!

      P.S. I already have a few posts planned on personal pronouns, some of them half completed; I’ll gladly accept your “Ask Luís!” question, but I’ll answer it in “Grammar Tips” form.


  3. edmeyr May 9, 2016 / 3:06 am

    Meu dever de casa…ler todos os seus posts tão bem escritos. Que esforço, que trabalho vc tem feito ultimamente!

    Liked by 1 person

    • luisdomingos May 10, 2016 / 8:35 pm

      Obrigado pelas simpáticas palavras, Elaine! Boa sorte com esses trabalhos de casa – the syllabus keeps getting expanded, so you really have to keep up! (:


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