Subject Advice


Contact the adviser, Geoff


Despite being amongst the top six most widely spoken languages in the World it is the language that has the fewest opportunities for learning in the U.K (not just the u3a!). For this and many other reasons I started sharing my love for Portugal, it’s peoples and its language over ten years ago through the auspices of our Steyning & District u3a, and the numbers of our group members have not stopped growing since then.

Portugese 1

Not just beautiful beaches and coastlines but a country full of historic and cultural interest and a diverse landscape from the plains of the Alentejo to the mountainous Serra da Estrella and the wild and beautiful Peneda-Gerés National Park.

Portugese 2

If you have read this introduction so far you will probably already be interested in learning this delightful language; perhaps because you have, or are thinking of acquiring, property in Portugal, because you enjoy visiting one of the countries where Portuguese is the native tongue, or because you have acquired Portuguese members in your family. Whatever your reason, you will derive much pleasure in learning it and will be rewarded by the gracious comments you will receive when you use it.

Portugese 3 As Subject Adviser, I am also on hand to offer support to existing groups and their leaders and to facilitate the interchange of ideas and resources amongst those groups.......and who am I? Geoff Phoenix, from Steyning & District u3a of which I have been a member for twelve years, almost seven of which as a committee member and all twelve as Group Leader of the Portuguese Language Group. 

What you need to know

You can learn a language without a professional teacher but it helps to have some guidance on the approach to learning your chosen language.

You can get help from the subject adviser who will be able to tell youpor

a) if there are groups in u3as near you and if there are any groups using Zoom or other video platforms to continue their studies.
b) Where to go for learning resources, e.g. self-teaching courses, booksellers and publishers as well as online help which is freely available.
c) What resources the u3a might have or which other groups will be happy to share with you.
d) How to go about setting up a group within your local u3a where there are no other alternatives.
e) How to use Zoom to greater effect in running your group online. Check the u3a website event tutorials for support on this.

Finding a group

At the moment there are very few groups within the u3a offering Portuguese as a subject and some of those are not operating fully during the current Covid pandemic restrictions. However, Zoom and other video conferencing websites, have created wonderful opportunities for not only continuing with our groups, but also of welcoming into our groups, members from other u3as who don’t have a group operating within their immediate area. The u3a Oversights Groups page has a search facility that will enable you to search for any group across the UK.

If all else fails and in anticipation of the easing of restrictions for meetings why not consider setting up a group in your own u3a. You might be surprised by the number of members who would join you and we can help in the process, including resources to make your learning easier. You only need one other person to join you to start to learn a language. However, you can always contact the subject adviser for further help and advice.


Learning a language as a mature student is in many ways rather different from doing so as a child or young person, so we have developed some methods of our own to help in the early stages of the learning process and will be happy to share those with you and your group.

Our two groups, beginners and more advanced, have built on their experience during the past ten years and will be able to help you in providing lists of language learning resources when you are ready to start and during your years of learning. In fact, the whole point of a Subject Adviser is to be a focal point through whom all groups can share their discoveries and experiences while they are improving their own skills and knowledge.

History and culture.

We have shared a long and rich history with Portugal which is proud of its colourful past, and its part in the discovery of other parts of the world during the years of Discovery when Henry the Navigator was sending his ships far and wide in a successful bid to find a new trade route to the East. Henry, by the way, was half English, his mother being Philipa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster. A marriage which cemented the foundations of our long term friendship which was embodied in the Treaty of Windsor. (known popularly as the Treaty of Eternal Friendship).

As part of our study of the language, we have also spent time becoming familiar with the history and culture of Portugal, including the more popular aspects of folk customs and food and drink. (in Steyning we have, under normal circumstances, an annual Sardinhada in July, which is a sardine barbecue with Portuguese traditional fare and of course their excellent wines).

Portugese 4

European or Brazilian Portuguese

There is a difference! The difference is akin to the difference between American and British English where not only vocabulary but pronunciation is different. The reason for your learning the language will probably dictate which you decide to learn, but be warned that due to the fact that the population of Brazil is nearly twenty times greater than that in Portugal, and the fact that it is hugely influenced by North America, means that the bulk of material online is in Brazilian Portuguese.

Our groups learn European Portuguese and we put great emphasis on accurate pronunciation due to the fact that it is easier to read and write but more difficult to speak than other Romance languages. If you have some Spanish, Italian or French you will find that many of the aspects of the language are easier than you might expect, but some of the sounds which you will have to learn are quite alien to the English language.

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