When you walk into a Capoeira class you will hear a lot of Portuguese. As you train, you’ll no doubt become familiar with certain nouns and phrases. One way to get a jump start on your practice is to learn some of these key terms and phrases early.
In addition to common phrases like “hello” and “how are you?”, I’ve included phrases that are commonly used in Capoeira classes and in some cases include slang. Brazil is a big country, and there are tons of slang words depending on the region you go to. I tried to include some of the more common slang you’ll hear after class when everyone is hanging out.
As you’re going through this list of Portuguese words and phrases, try to see how many you can identify the next time you’re in class.
This is the stuff you’ll find in almost any language book. It’s the most obvious stuff, but it’s also some of the most used stuff. Almost every Portuguese conversation will have at least one of these phrases.
- Bom dia – Good morning
- Boa tarde – Good afternoon
- Boa noite – Good night
- Como vai? – how’s it going?
- e aí? – Whats up?
- Tchau – Bye
- Oi – Hi
- Estou bem, obrigado – I’m good thanks
- Tenho uma pergunta – I have a question
- Mais ou menos – More or less
- Pode fazer mais uma vez? – Can you do it one more time?
- Pode fazer devagar? – Can you do it slower?
- Pode explicar de novo? – Can you explain it again?
- Ó – Look (you’ll hear this more than you would think)
- Bate palma – Clap
- Compra o jogo – Buy the game
Parts of the body
If you’re going to learn a martial art, it’s critical that you know the parts of the body. Even if you don’t want to be fluent in Portuguese, practically speaking, these words are very handy to know.
- Mão – hand
- braço – arm
- Cotovelo – elbow
- hombro – shoulder
- pescoço – neck
- peito – chest
- cabeça – head
- olhos – eyes
- barriga – stomach
- perna – leg
- bunda – butt (slang version. you’ll hear it)
- pé – foot
- joelho – knee
- calcanhar – heel
- Quadril – Hips
- Tronco – Trunk or Torso
Notice that after #15, all the numbers follow a pattern. They all start with the “Deze (10)”, “Vinte(20)”, or “trinta(30)” (or any other multiple of 10) and end with 1,2,3,4,5,etc. For example, 21 is “Vinte e um”. Literally means “twenty and one”. 39 would be pronounced “Trinta e nove”, and so on. Once you can get past 15, you can easily count up to 100.
- Um – One
- Dois – Two
- Três – Three
- Quatro -Four
- Cinco – Five
- Seis – Six
- Sete – Seven
- Oito – Eight
- Nove – Nine
- Dez – Ten
- Onze – Eeleven
- Doze – Twelve
- Treze – Thirteen
- Catorze – Fourteen
- Quinze – Fifteen
- Dezesseis – Sixteen
- dezessete – Seventeen
- Dezoito – Eighteen
- Deznove – Nineteen
- Vinte – Twenty
- Trinta – Thirty
- Cem – One-Hundred
Capoeira is an art built around movement. Knowing how to talk about movement is very beneficial. Here are some basic words that will help orient you in space.
- Pisa – Step
- Lateral – Lateral
- Frontal – Frontal
- Para trás – Backwards
- Esquerda – Left
- Direita – Right
- Reto – Straight
- Pula – Jump
- Pra/em Cima – To go over / Over
- Pra/em Baixo – To go under / Under
- Lá – Over there
- Aqui – here
There are many words that you will hear while training. These words will rarely be used on their own so make sure to pay attention to the context. You might hear a bunch of mumbo-jubo and then “…acompanha o golpe…”. Within the context of the sequence or movement you’re learning you can get an idea of what is being asked.
- Dupla – Pair
- Acompanha – follow or follow along
- Oposto – Opposite
- Golpe – Hit or strike
- Rápido – Fast
- Devagar – Slow
- Atenção – attention
- Estica parna – straighten (your) leg
- Desce – Go down
- Sobe – Go up
- Prática – Pratice
- Treino – Training
- Roda – wheel (the capoeira circle)
- Esquiva – Dodge
- Mestre – Master (of Capoeira)
- Jogo – Game
Brazil is one of the biggest countries in the world. Everywhere you go in Brazil, the slang will change. If I tried to create a list of every slang word in Brazil the list wouldn’t end. Here, I tried to put together some common words that you will hear on a daily basis. I chose to exclude the more vulgar ones, but just like in any language, there is plenty of that too.
- Nossa – Oh my God
- Nú – Oh my God (another version)
- Ave Maria – Oh my God (but to Mary)
- Pera aí – Wait there
- Pernada – Very hard hit with the leg
- Soco – Punch
- Besteira – Bull crap
- Ta certo – It’s right/true
- Show – cool
- Beleza – Beautiful (also means cool)
- Cara – dude or guy
- Gente – Guys (literally means people)
- Valeu – verbal equivalent of giving someone a thumbs up
- Saroba – clumsy
- Legal – Awesome / cool
- Fica a vontade – Make yourself at home or similar to “no pressure”
- Sei lá – No clue or I don’t know
Proven strategies to learn Portuguese
Giving yourself a reason to learn a languge is the most important thing when it comes to learning a language. If you don’t have a reason to learn a language, it becomes very easy to put off practicing and studying.
Find a tribe of native speakers
Capoeira is the biggest promoter of the Portuguese language around the world. An incredible amount of people learn Portuguese through Capoeira because of social encouragement! Capoeira gives people a tribe where everyone is learning the same language. It’s much easier to learn a language when you see that everyone around you is learning the same language.
Listen to Music
Brazil has an incredibly rich tradition of music that you can easily get excited about. Samba, Bossa Nova, Funk, Choro, Forro, etc. For people who do Capoeira, learning Capoeira songs is a massive advantage to learning Portuguese for two reasons. Firstly, Capoeira songs are very simple. And second, you are constantly exposed to them. Capoeira songs usually use a simple vocabulary and sing about common subjects.
Here is an example of a commonly heard song…
Olha um peixe pulou da mare, Olhe um peixe pulo da mare
A mare subiu
Sobe mare (choros)
A mare desceu
Desce mare (choros)
Check out the rest of the song here! https://dendearts.com/a-mare-ta-cheia-ioio/
This song says, “Look at the fish jump out of the sea, Look at the fish jump out of the sea. The sea rose. Sea Rises. The sea descends. Sea descends“. This song sounds silly, but it’s a very common song for children and the simple vocabulary makes it easy to learn.
Learning songs like this is really useful because the vocabulary is very practical and you’ll also use these songs often in Capoeira. Every couple of classes you will hear similar songs that help reinforce what you know. Doing Capoeira really is like cheat codes to learning Portuguese.
- Ask questions A LOT
If you’re in a setting where Portuguese is being spoken often, then try to ask people what things mean. You might need to ask a couple of times. This might sound annoying, but most people genuinely want you to learn their language.
After you are told how to say something, repeat it so the person can quickly correct you if needed. Everyone feels a bit of embarrassment , but you have to fight that feeling and ask when you don’t understand something.
- Online Coaching/learning
I wish this option was more widely available when I started. Many online courses and classes provide video calls or even in person meetings for people to practice their skills. This is a great way to supplement what you’re learning and go over the grammar you won’t learn in Capoeira.
Online Language Learning
As I mentioned, I wish I had this option when I started learning Portuguese. Below are the top three options I would recommend (other than Capoeira) to someone trying to learn Portuguese.
The main benefit of Fluent City is that you have vetted coaches teaching you how to speak. There are other language learning courses that make you go through audiobooks or slides like Rosetta Stone. A cool feature about Fluent City is that it gives you a chance to talk to someone who is knowledgeable and have a real conversation. Pricing is on the higher end of online language services, but they’re not terribly high when broken down by the hour (which I did below).
Private online lessons: 35/ hour of lessons
Group online lessons: ~20/hour of lessons
Italki is the Upwork version of language learning. Prices are way better than Fluent City, but you’ll have to be careful while vetting your language teacher. There seems to be less structure with Italki, but that might be a good thing, depending on what things you’re trying to learn. The only disadvantage is that the teachers are not vetted, but teachers do get ratings, which should help you choose who you want to learn from.
Hourly cost: $7 USD to $30USD
Duolingo is a little different than the other two options because there is no personal contact. Duoling uses a more traditional approach with flash cards and audio recordings to help you learn. The main pull with Duolingo is the gamification of the software. I used this option for a long time when I was a student and the app has gotten a lot better since then. You can even compete with friends to see who practices more! If you are good at keeping yourself accountable, then I would take a serious look at Duolingo.