The internet is full of articles on how to get Portuguese residency, how to obtain NHR and how one might get Portuguese nationality by passing the language exam CAPLE A2. Several years back, there was an excellent article in the Algarve Resident about taking the exam in Faro and preparing for the same. This article seeks to update with my experiences in Lisbon this April; forewarned is forearmed!
A few disclaimers first; I have just turned 76 (not a good age for the stress of public examinations). I spoke French in my profession as a lawyer, learnt Italian for professional reasons and spent many years in school learning Latin, without it ever crossing my mind I could put it to good use 65 years later!
In October 2018, I decided to attempt the A2 (by my reckoning about ‘O’ level standard) at the end of April 2019. I was not at my books the month of January, whilst travelling. By the grace of God, I got through with “suficiente” level 55-69%.
With that said, did I find it easy? No. Enjoyable? Yes, in a masochistic way!
Whilst working for the exam, I had two, two-hour lessons by Skype working on grammar and one, one-hour lesson with an English teacher who had studied Portuguese pronunciation. Certainly, without the support of these two people, the exam would have been beyond my reach.
As many readers will know, the Algarve dialect is very difficult to penetrate, and most young Portuguese speak outstandingly good English, so conversation is hard to come by – let alone achieve fluently.
The exams follow the same format each year, written and oral, but outside of a teaching school, it is not easy to find copies of earlier papers. There are a number of books in Portuguese for the exam, and I found these excellent, and the MP3 for listening essential. The English books do not have CAPLE A2 as their goal expressly.
I was worried about the oral comprehension with hearing loss from military service. Late in the day, but happily not too late, I put these disabilities forward to CAPLE and was impressed how fairly they treated me, once I had substantiated my case.
Since all the parts of the exam, and their marks, are aggregated, one part can materially raise or lower the overall score. As it transpired, what I thought would be my Achilles heel, the oral comprehension and conversation, noticeably raised the overall mark – but it could so easily have been otherwise.
1. One must go to a school used to preparing for this exam. I had two periods of four days immediately before the exam at a school in Lisbon and, without this, I would not have been well enough prepared.
2. Skype works well and now the sessions can remain recorded for 30 days and the transcript always available. Pronunciation is very different from English and the rules for the stress on syllables and elision are so different. It helps having a teacher coming at the problem from a shared mother tongue!
3. If you have a disability, CAPLE are there to help. Get in touch early.
4. Age. I saw no other student (I would guess about 150) even a third of my age! One has to be of good memory, resourceful stamina and stout heart! You really have to want to get the exam!
5. I would recommend a minimum of six months, not the five months I gave myself.
6. It’s good to have a team of teachers with one on the journey. They keep one up to the mark, and the finishing school is indispensable for mock exams and orals.
7. Never, ever lose your sense of humour, or your sense of purpose. It is very rewarding to feel that by endeavour – your endeavour – you have made a bond with the country you have made your home and you have done it by yourself. Good luck!
By Anthony Slingsby