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Confusion between French and Portuguese and when to start with learning French after Portuguese?

Hello all,

there is the new thread "Confusion between French and Italian": https://www.duolingo.com/comment/23533594

I also found a statement from Danmoller comparing French with Portuguese, Spanish and Italian in this thread "Which is more difficult", so English+French may be a nice combination: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/11486025$comment_id=11529861

I know the website "Similarities between languages": http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/e/languages/similarities/index.html

So my question to you girls and guys is:
How confusing is French actually compared to Portuguese to all your personal experiences, when learning French in (overlapping) sequence and not 100% in parallel?

AFAIK I know that Spanish (e.g for a trip to South America Columbia or stay over the winter) or Italian would be kinda more confusing compared to Portuguese....

Time period:

  • After e.g 12-18 months daily / steadily learning Portuguese.
  • not being fluent / proficient in reading, writing, speaking in PT at this time after ~9 months (DuoLingo tree, Mondly tree and some Memrise courses are waiting to be finished)
  • -> therefore I would not yet start with French within next 6 months

What is your experience?

Is there a MUST to first reach a better upper-intermediate or advanced total and/or speaking level / B1 / B2 in Portuguese before starting another Romance language (basic, from scratch), especially French?

Can you still start more upper-intermediate / advanced vocabulary PT courses on Memrise once you have started with French on Duo/Mondly/Memrise/DP (both in parallel then)?

Is e.g ~18-24 months PT learning a more realistic time range before starting French?

I think the best phase is for a 3rd language when you can leave the active learning (vocabulary, grammar) phase, strengthen your skills and focus more on PT passive learning??

However, there is no need for me to seek for speaking / fluency in French (B1/B2) quite soon, not really...
But being able to e.g read (e.g Kitesurfing) French websites or make a little progression with the lying around Digital Publishing (DP) French language couse 1 (A1/A2) CD in the near future would be really cool.

As I quickly tested out the DP French CD my first impression was that the course level therein is probably too difficult for a real French beginner, who has to start French from scratch, with not ANY previous French knowlege from DuoLingo, Memrise, Mondly, because of:

  • it has a quite different learning (in context) concept than Memrise/DuoLingo/Mondly
  • many two person dialogs
  • I first would have to right click EVERY word / sentence to see the French->English/German translation
  • the teacher is talking in French all the time
  • fill blanks (French sentences) with French word blocks (which EN->FR meaning is not learned right before)

But starting a 3rd language like French in the next 1-2 years should of course NOT stop my active/passive Portuguese progress - and you probably know that it can be sometimes quite challenging keeping up with (daily) reviews all the time on all the PT courses....


Thanks! Much appreciated!


July 15, 2017



I can't quite speak for that combination of languages or of how these things work if you're only using Duolingo, but from my general experience learning closely related languages, I would say: It doesn't really matter what level you reach in Portuguese, you will, especially at the beginning, be very likely to mix Portuguese into your French. The main difference with your level in Portuguese is going to be how much French you then start mixing into Portuguese. If you've gotten to a level where you are somewhat conversational in Portuguese, you are unlikely to ever mix it up that way round. But how long it takes to get there is something I think nobody can tell you. This is different for everyone.

I think that is, unfortunately, the main answer for your question: It's different for everyone. Here is something you could try: You could start on the French tree on Duolingo and see how it goes. If you then realise that it makes you mix French into Portuguese, stop again and get more experience with Portuguese first. If you just try it for a few weeks, I'm sure it will not have any negative effects on your Portuguese learning, even if you decide it was too early.


Seeing the progression of the discussion here, I'd like to point out that there are advantages to learning French after Portuguese as well, because I think people (me included) have been focusing on the negative too much: French is definitely going to be easier if you know any other Romance language (maybe except Romanian?) before than if it was the first Romance language you learn. You will still highly profit from understanding grammar and I would guess that you'll be able to recognise somewhere between half and two thirds of vocabular because of the similarities to Portuguese. Take something like the subjunctive mode. Once you've understood its usage in Portuguese, you understand it in French, Spanish and Italian (and possibly Romanian, but I wouldn't know that). While the details may be different, the overall function of the mode is the same. And you won't have to learn that twice.

Yes, you risk mixing the languages up, but in the end, you will always make mistakes at the beginning. It's often still better to try and guess a French word from a Portuguese word than just not knowing what it is or guessing from a non-Romance language.

So don't get the wrong impression. French will be easier after Portuguese. The main question, I think, is how much Portuguese you need to know for it to be "safe" from French. I've never experienced one language "erasing" another one in my head, but then I've never really stopped studying any of the ones I started.

Btw, my trick for studying related languages on Duolingo: Do them separated in time. I do Swedish and Spanish at breakfast, Dutch and Italian at lunch and Danish and Portuguese at dinner. These are the ones where it matters (because I learn other closely related languages), the remaining ones I put in where I have additional time. It works fairly well for me.


I'm a native Portuguese speaker and I learned a bit of French here in Duolingo. The two languages are not that similar for you to really mix them up. Except for a few words, spelling and pronounciation are distinctive enough for you to know when it's one language or the other. The similarities, i think, will only help you. For instance, if you have already learned how to conjugate verbs in several tenses (something that is much more difficult to do in Portuguese and French compared to english) it'll be easier to learn it in the other language. I'm still learning French and German at the same time (not that they are that similar as in your case), and I find it a good challenge to keep me going. Sometimes learning a language can become boring, then I can forget one of them for a while and focus on the other. Hope you can get my point, sometimes I tend to make up sentences that make no sense in English :)


Thanks for your feedback Bruna.

Actually your English is quite good!

If I ever will be able to write / explain something like this in Portuguese.....wow, that would be more than I could have expected starting from scratch.

Well, November / winter is "almost" knocking in front of my German door (it will probably do in October).......and I am not prepared to move to Brazil.

I have hopes that I will be able to finish the last 22 skills until October.
A few are already "pre-learned" on Memrise.

Wakeboarding season may be still good in September (some warm / sunny days) and it lasts until mid / end of October.

I have hopes that I will be able to finish the last 22 skills of my DuoLingo (forward) tree until October.
A few are already "pre-learned" on Memrise.

But the main work might be the Duo reverse tree courses and building up more intermediate/advanced grammar on Memrise.


I am a native Spanish speaker and English is my second languague. I had the dream of working in Switzerland, so I learned French during 2 years (I reached like an B1 in the course). After that, I moved to Paris for study reasons (not related to the language). I lived there one year.

My courses... were in English (it was an international master). Yet, I used French in my daily life (the bank, the supermarket, buy stuff, the metro, the people, you know: your daily life). After that year, I return to my homecountry but I keep my French practice using Duolingo. I'll say that after all that experience I still have a B1 level. Still, Duolingo has helped me A LOT for not forget the language.

Recently, I decided to learn Portuguese and you know: French and Portuguese are not so quite alike. I even feel like "from Spanish to Portuguese" have been easier than "from Spanish to French". BUT I mix Portuguese with French, I don't know why.

Sometimes, I pronounce Portuguese as it was French. Other times, when I try to practice my speaking, French words/pharases/expresions comes to my mind faster than in Portuguese.

It's impressive. 2 years after living in France and only using Duolingo, French continues to have such a strong weight. Plus, I feel that I practice French as little as I can with Duolingo (review 1 or 2 lessons a day). With Portuguese instead, I do 50 EXP every day, I listen to podcasts and music, I watch videos and interviews... and I mix basic things like "il" with "ele" or even "elle" with "ela"! Or when I want to said "meu nome é..." my mind do "je m'appelle".

In the other hand (looking the bright side of life), I will also said that French has help me in the Portuguese learning process. Some sounds, like the "r" in Portuguese or the nasal sounds, I can actually do it thanks to my French (these sounds do not exist in Spanish)... but I'm still learning.

I know you post your comment 5 months ago but I want to shared my experience with you. How have you been? Will you start French soon? The process of learning a language is different for everybody.


¡Hola Dafne,

thanks for your reply and your interesting insides and living experiences, how you have been learning French for 2++ years. and still practicing it.

How did you manage to find this older thread? ;)

For fun I did a French intro on 12/26/2017 for 12 minutes on www.lingvist.com and I practiced 101 cards and "learned" the first 31 new words.
I could not "test out" anything.

Wow, French is so VERY different in comparision to English and Portuguese or Spanish, even for the basics.

I have to admit, that I learned a bit of Spanish (1000 words) for 11 days for my "Lingvist end of 2017 year challenge": https://www.duolingo.com/comment/25606961/Challenge-Learn-3000-5000-words-in-12-days-on-Lingvist-until-end-of-this-year-2017

There is not yet any Portuguese Brazil or EU/Portgual target course available (only as PT base/source to English), so I had to choose something else (besides English)....

I could also "test out" 18 Spanish words by answering correctly some of the first ~70-75 cards ;)

I tried Google translate for my 1st sentence and got this:
"Gracias por su respuesta y sus interesantes interiores y experiencias de vida, cómo ha estado aprendiendo francés durante dos años y todavía lo está practicando."

I think I can read and start understanding very little bit of Spanish now ;)

To practice / review French:

I think you would maybe love - like annika - Lingvist for it's ~5000 French words and showing you some sentences and nice audio.

Give it a try: Up to ~3000 words is still free in 2018.

Do you continue to go to local language exchange derived tables ("Stammtische") on www.meetup.com to regulary practice French?


¡Hola de nuevo Thomas! ¿cómo estás?

I found this thread because I wanted to know if someone had the same problem as me (mixing Portuguese and French). I found your post and your questions were interesting.

It makes me happy to know that you actually start some French. I didn't know about Lingvist but I'll give it a try too for the 3000 words ;)

Yes, French pronunciation is so different from other romance languages and in my personal opinion, that's what makes it difficult (and unique). I think reading or even writing are a little easier but the oral part (speaking and hearing) is a challenge.

Nevertheless, I believe accent have an influence: Although I lived in Paris, for me It's easier to understand Canadian accent that the Parisian one.

I want to go to a meet up in the future or maybe, go to a conversational club. But most of all, I practice my French is in duolingo and sometimes hearing canadian podcast.

I also like to know that you are learning Spanish. I don't know for non-spanish speaker how difficult It could be. However, I hope you keep practicing it. ¡Buena suerte!


I personally find French and Portuguese pretty different. Even when the words are similar, (homme/ homem), the pronunciation is so different that it sticks in my mind which is which.


Thanks for your opinion!

How long have you been learning French and did you learn it from scratch?


I've actually been learning French a long time- I'm just using Duolingo to boost my skills a bit more.


Very confusing. I learnt french years ago and was not bad in it, but learning portuguese has erased all french in my head.


Thanks for your feedback!


Thankfully learning other languages does not erase our 2nd English knowledge anymore :-)

Wow, that would be actually quite bad if learning French e.g 12/18-24 months after PT would erase some or most of my knowledge of Portuguese (just because I have not progressed too far).

And it even even happend to your French which you learned longer than just 12-24 months....

I am speechless...


Hi all,

thanks for all your feedback until now.

I found an additional sub page listing overlapping language groups: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/e/languages/overlapping-languages.html


How about never? This is just my opinion of course, but learning two Romance languages is too consuming for me. I have a good progress in French, but when I tried to pick up Spanish I found it to be just too much. Because of the complicated conjugations in both languages, I don't feel the urge to do all that again. Not to mention that similar words having different meanings are truly annoying.

If I will learn another language, it will most likely be something completely different, that will not easily mix with French, like Japanese or Russian or something like that. But if you really want to learn French along Portuguese then anything is possible at any time, depends on how much effort you are willing to invest. But you are probably asking this because you also realize it won't be easy at all.


Is e.g ~18-24 months PT learning a more realistic time range before starting French?

Okay, according to your posting it is obviously not :-)

Sag niemals nie. Never say "never" :-)

Well, I am definitely not yet over the - difficult for me too - verb conjugation PT phase with all tenses with my Portuguese (too many grammar stuff open).

I can clearly see that with Memrise Portuguese Brasil Basics:
I learned the course - reviewed it multiple times ("all typing" user script and longer sentences is not the real push to try to review finished courses daily).
Then I progressed with offical PT4/PT5 (finished), started PT6 lately....

....and as soon as I get back to review (water) those PT Basic course levels which just randomly throw all that more difficult grammar/past, can/may/would, etc. and future tense stuff in:
I am lost and almost everything I learned before is blown away and I could start with some levels from scratch again ;)

I guess it is time to get a PT grammar book (I actually have seen someone putting Memrise chapter courses - besides "Oi Brazil" - for one grammar book online specifically!)? :-)

I can not remember the URL, but I once found grammar book resources online for some Romance languages to learn the grammar TOGETHER for multiple languages at the same time?!?

I probably had higher hopes that French grammar would get (a lot) easier and not more complicated with Portuguese before :-)
So this is not the case (like with Spanish in your case).

Or that I may slow down my next intermediate/advanced PT learning phase or even double / triple efforts when I am at both of the languages or would start to mix in different concepts from one into the other.


You can compare French and Portuguese side by side: http://www.goethe-verlag.com/book2/FR/FRPX/FRPX003.HTM You can pair any of the languages on the site.


Yeah, I was using their www.50languages.com native MP3 recorded DE-PT/EN-PT audio courses and some of those written daily scripts up to a specific level.

They have a free Android app too (supports offline download).

Only hearing audio is NOT enough for me...and printing daily sheets is no real solution.
Carrying a book on my walk was neither.

talkingtodd has created "50 languages" user-created courses on Memrise (without level / 100 days design).
I hope I will resume this PT course on Memrise any time soon.

User scripts with TTS audio (Memrise Audio-Provider by Cooljingle,) IMHO actually helps to learn and review those sentences without uploaded audio.
But there are more useful scripts like "Auto-correct", "All typing", etc.

Do you think it is better to learn French from Portuguese to avoid confusion instead of DE-French/EN-French?

However, the big problem on DuoLingo is that the full grammar "tips & notes" material is written in L1 (source) Portuguese instead of German or English (3rd selectable translation language).

Mondly has no grammar explanations at all for their topics :-(

As DuoLingo has removed all their conjugation tables from the hint popup window, I start loving seeing (long) Mondly's conjugation tables within excercises ;)


A wonder about this as a practical rule of thumb: If Duo's French from Portuguese tree is entirely undoable, then it's too early for French. If it's a challenge but a workable one, you kill two birds with one stone. If it's harder than that, you know you need more time with Portuguese.

If you needed to learn both for some reason, I doubt it would be that much of a drawback: these are languages that sound extremely different. [And of course the grammatical similarities can only help you.] But, having the luxury of time it sounds like, I understand the desire to want to optimize outcomes.


If you needed to learn both for some reason, I doubt it would be that much of a drawback

Well, my interest of starting with Portuguese was because of an acquaintance I meet in October, who works as a photographer in Brasil / Salvador.
Spanish would be very beneficial for Colombia (not Columbia).

You can't do Kitesurfing or Wakeboarding in Germany in the winter (well, you could go Snowkiting IF there is snow...which often is - of course - NOT in January/February).

I really hate more and more German winters (the whole season mid of October to Februar...or depending on weather quite often until March/April).

The bstoked wind forcecast for South America (e.g Colombia) in winter is really good: https://www.bstoked.net.

French is just of a more general long-term interest for me, as it may help in summer (e.g surfing) or the European job market.
But the killer of course is the Digitial Publishing French course 1 CD (lying around way too long!) and that I heard a German workmate actually talking in French on phone ~16 years ago with a friend....

I believe I got way too long side drifted because of several IT job and personal circumstances.
Something needs to be done the next 2-5 years to turn this around!! :-)


Hi Adam, do you think there is a difference between:

  • able to read and listen to L1 Portuguese "normal" course tree skill material (to translate the sentences)
  • vs being able to read and fully understand Duo's "tips & notes" longer text and more complicated (detail exemples) grammar excercise material? https://www.duolingo.com/comment/23539808$comment_id=23550410

I know that this has already been brought up in other threads (I had one side question about that), but one feedback usually was for laddering courses from a very experience language learner:

"I do not care - I do not really read those section material, I just do the exercises and translate sentences" (something like that) ;)
I guess you are probably speaking about BOTH points and you are actually INCLUDING the second "tips & notes" to really meassure my progress in Portuguese??
Well, of course I know myself there is a difference because of PT reverse EN/DE trees which I started months ago but have not continued at this time to be able to "focus easier daily on one thing".
Those material was written for PT L1 native speakers!!
Therefore trying to read through those PT longer sentences and detail explanations earlier this year gave me quite a hard time (I started Portuguese ~9 months ago in October), so I just did some Duo lessons.

This is quite FUNNY anyways, as I have NOT actually done that by starting all those Memrise PT courses in parallel ;)

I guess collecting Memrise points and seeing some real phrases/sentences in action with the offical PT courses was more fun to me...

But I really believe e.g doing the Memrise-DuoLingo course in parallel or even learning vocabulary a view days / weeks earlier on Memrise helps me quite much to hammer those words into my head before [or after] doing Duo lessons....and now all Duo skills are all locked in the new Scala portal anyways).

BTW: I am already "trying" those Duo labs / Portuguese intermediate stories, and of course not all PT vocabulary already sticks (I have not yet completed my Duo tree).

Also the Firefox Google translation plugin really helps me with "unknown parts" in the question part or with alternative sentences after submitting an answer, where no hints per word are available from Duo (I just have to mark the text within the Duo website and double-click to get the popup translation window).
Maybe I can find my own addon thread (which got down-voted) again, which I posted earlier...


I just took a look at the Portuguese from French tree (I think it was the second tree I completed here). I obviously didn't check every skill, but I only saw two lesson with anything like lengthy T&N: Intro 1 and the first lesson introducing the past tense. Other than that, there are a few tables, but most skills have nothing.

I didn't actively recall that at the time I wrote my comment, though. I was really thinking that the useful indicator would be whether or not you could easily read the hints and construct the necessary sentences (right verb forms, etc) to get you through the tree at least as far as a point where your knowledge of Portuguese grammar was maxed out: obviously maybe not knowing everything, but not having to look up so many words as to make it too irksome (whatever that cutoff would be for you).

I think this "T&N lite" approach is possible because knowledge of Portuguese grammar is by and large enough to figure out French grammar, as E.T.Gregor has just laid out. Frankly, I'd say Portuguese grammar is a little bit tougher (at least at levels a Duolingo tree would ever reasonably touch). There's no future subjunctive or present perfect continuous to worry about in French. Other than that, it's pretty much going to be one-to-one correspondence.


Coming from the new thread "What is the EASIEST language for native English speakers? Why that language?": https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/33232004

Hard to believe 2,5 years have already passed by.

Q1: Does anbody of you maybe have any concrete experiences with learning French AFTER Portuguese and getting used to the different audio and pronuncation?

Q2: Is French listening much harder to accomplish than Portuguese Brazil (native recordings or TTS), especially on Duolingo TTS, when you have to start with that language totally from scratch (with the PT->FR course) but you know at least one Romance language?

Right now I can't step into LanguageTransfer.org (LT) "French Introduction" or other courses with native French audio recordings to make my own biased decision.

Q3: Will there be any difference if you know one or none Romance language and which one (e.g PT vs ES/IT)?

Q4: How long does it take you to understand some French basics? 6 months? 1,0-1,5 years? More?

I started this French thread two years ago and still have not started with French :-)

Background to Q4:

Sorry, I have not yet mastered this listening phase and understanding native content (TV, radio, videos, BliuBliu, Podcasts, etc.) in real speed with Portuguese (BR) after 2,5 years...

......I ocassionally use Mondly for PT BR audio (sounds like real native recordings) and pre-recorded "conversational lessons" (two-person dialogs with longer phrases/sentences) and

......I am also back at this "50languages" phrasebook but I currently focus on the related (user-created) course on Memrise (Decks) and learning those phrases with spaced repetition so for the moment I am back at PT BR TTS (no uploaded audio recordings).

Because of this I have not yet started with French on Memrise, Mondly, 50languages and Duolingo or tried other resources like LT.

I feel I need to complete my two Duolingo PT (BR) reverse trees first because Duolingo French alone won't be enough.

My plan for learning French is to start with the PT->FR Duolingo course (because of more transparent dedicated "grammar skills", shorter course) and to avoid the newer theme-oriented CEFR EN->FR course for the first 1,0-1,5 years so staff/contractors can fix errors, add missing alternatives and rollout 2-3 new tree versions (e.g B1).

There are also some great Hacking / beginner French courses on Memrise with limited vocabulary where you can push through much faster to grasp the basics or for traveling vocabulary.


RoughGuide phrasebook (free mp3 audio) with European Portuguese (Portugal, not Brazil) seems to be (for me) MUCH harder to listen to; without having the text in front of me I hardly understand anything.

But of course this is also related to the more complex spoken phrases and 2nd partner replies (in the target language) when compared with 50languages and would probably also occur (to me) if the audio was just recorded as Portuguese Brazil and not European Portuguese (Portugal).

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