Just starting out? Your first foreign language? If you’re an inexperienced language learner, you’ll most likely search for a material that utilizes English. You’ll work with short, common translations, etc. There’s nothing wrong with this. Personally, I started with Pimsleur and then moved on to FSI. In general, look for material with lots and lots of listening material.
You should try speaking the language, and you might do it just fine, but you’ll likely find yourself translating in your head and not understanding why something “does not sound natural” when in your head it’s perfectly reasonable. One day you’ll open real book and realize that you’re pretty far from actual fluency. This brings us to the next phase…
The input phase. Here, you’ll want massive amounts of listening and reading material. What you’re trying to develop is a native-like sense of right or wrong. The problem is the huge amount of vocabulary you’ll face while doing this. Luckily, I found an old copy of Travessia which had a lot of translations. But today, this isn’t as difficult as it once was, thanks to Google Translate, Linguee, Tatoeba, LingQ, etc. These are sites which not only translate, but provide example sentences and the like to help you assimilate the new vocabulary more naturally by seeing it used in various contexts. I suggest my Chrome extension Inglês Flash which brings you 40 such sites at the click of a button and tightly integrates the creation of flash cards.
Many students never make it out of the input phase. Some have bought into the idea that some school or some book can bring them to fluency. They put along, little by little, without diving into real material. Native material is where the fun is. You can find loads of topics you find interesting. Listen while in the car, read a book in Portuguese, make friends on exchange sites, etc. You don’t need a school for this phase, it will only slow you down. If you do go to a school, go there to speak, not to ‘learn’ vocabulary.
To avoid pitfalls during the input stage, have a look at this article about 10 things not to do. As for me, I’m not perfect. This blog details the things I’ve tried over time but I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you do those same things. Most of the posts on this blog are “Reading Exercises” which are meant to help a learner at the initial part of the “Input” stage. Basically, it’s real material made easy by having all the hard stuff (correctly) translated, and the really hard stuff backed up with example sentences. The additional example sentences are also an insight into the type of flashcards you may want to save.
1. Common Words (Just a list of the most common words with example sentences)
2. I have previews of many books available on the internet, see here. But personally, I think you’re going to want a few hardcopies.
About Books: In general, avoid books that only focus on grammar, or books full of pointless exercises that just waste time (fill-in-the-blank, crossword puzzles, etc.). If you’re ready to start building intermediate reading abilities and improve your grammar, I recommend Travessia (only a couple dollars off Amazon)
3. Side-by-side translations: Movies. Best to not compare translations, just see if you can understand the Portuguese.
1. Notes from the FSI courses regarding subjunctive forms (Reference for anyone who used FSI)
2. Practice with the Subjunctives: Present (May Not Be Useful)
3. Practice with the Subjunctives: Past (May Not Be Useful)
4. Practice with the Subjunctives: Future (May Not Be Useful)
5. Present Perfect (A source of confusion for English learners, easier in Portuguese!)
6. Practice with Would/Should/Could Statements (w/ help from Glinda)
7. Associating the Correct Preposition with Verbs (Flash Cards)
2. When to NOT use the Subjunctive (It’s a long read, perhaps a little confusing, but a must if the Subjunctive interests you)
3. When I first started reading more, these are the sort of flashcards I made: Flash Cards (Common Words Beyond Intermediate Level, English -> Portuguese). Also see these posts on Quizlet. However, at that point, I hadn’t yet grasped what a “good” flashcard is, and for that, see (4.).
For my current thoughts on how to properly use flashcards, see here. My flashcard approach is: 1. Find a phrase while reading, 2. Find a better context for a word if applicable (short, simple, useful, recognizable) and 3. Review several times in Anki to passively acquire the vocabulary.