Dear Portuguese speaker 😉 Are you planning to take the DUPLE exam? Congratulations! 👏
DUPLE is the C2 level exam of CAPLE, the Centro de Avaliação de Português Língua Estrangeira, the main Portuguese certifying body.
You read that right: the level is C2. In other words, near-native. It’s the most difficult of all. 😓 As you might expect, few candidates dare to take it. It’s a tough exam, but also undoubtedly achievable: if you prepare well, you can pass it on the first try.
And… is DUPLE useful in life? Yep, it is very useful: to land better jobs, to earn more, to get noticed, to work in Portugal or with Portuguese companies, you name it. 😉
Bear with me, I’ll tell you how I got it.
Passing the DUPLE: intro
A few notions about the DUPLE.
It is the highest degree achievable in European Portuguese, provided by the world’s leading institution. Other than the qualifications offered by CAPLE, I wouldn’t bother.
A significant proportion of candidates are teachers of Portuguese as a Foreign Language (or PFL). Others come from a linguistic background: content writers, translators, interpreters, computational linguists, diplomats, think-tank experts, etc.
Some want to get started in their profession, some have been practising for years but haven’t taken the DUPLE yet: for lack of time or simply because they are not yet up to the task. 😔
Many Portuguese teachers don’t have the DUPLE. It is clear that being a good teacher is more than just holding a qualification, but it is undeniable that a DUPLE under the belt increases one’s appeal considerably.
Passing the DUPLE: Get certified in Portuguese?
There are birds of ill omen who believe that the Portuguese is going through a bad time. They say that Brazil will no longer be what it could have become, that Portugal is a modest economy, that other languages have more prestige.
This is what they say: I would counter these arguments with hard facts.
Brazil is a Lusophone giant of 190 million speakers (which is the population of Germany + France + Spain + Belgium).
Portugal is one of the countries that has come out of the crisis best: it is a destination for investment 💰 and a large flow of tourists, entrepreneurs, retirees and creative people.
Lisbon and Porto are among the continent’s trendiest cities, and the other countries in the Lusophone area are growing at a tumultuous pace.
Raw materials, fashions, artistic avant-gardes and quality literature in Portuguese have never ceased to be produced there. 📚
Consider also Angola and Mozambique: complex countries, not without problems, but with growth margins that we dream of in Europe, and when they boom, they boom for real. There are a lot of Western companies investing there and they need skilled personnel fluent in Portuguese.
That is why we will need specialists with an excellent command of Portuguese. So, putting time and energy into getting the DUPLE is a great way to invest in yourself.
Passing the DUPLE: Pros
The range of possibilities that DUPLE can open up is wide. A few examples:
#1 Preparing the DUPLE helps you improve your Portuguese.
This happened to me and everybody else: not insignificant if you consider that in addition to having a solid qualification, you will have to use Portuguese for real.
#2 There is no university, research institute, public or private body that questions your level. It’s like applying to a karate school with a diploma from a Shaolin monastery in China.
#3 For the public administration, in Mozambique as in the Algarve, you are bilingual Portuguese. Applying for a job for native speakers, in private companies: now you can.
Since I got it, the job interviews I go to are like this:
Recruiter: Hmmm I see you speak Portuguese?
Recruiter: OK… Would you please take a test?
Me: Sure. This DUPLE I brought home is getting dusty, but I still have some fluency in the language.
Recruiter: You passed the DUPLE? The C2 level qualification? Ah yes, here it is… Well, no need to test it then.
#4 You meet the linguistic requirements to apply for citizenship in any Portuguese-speaking country and to access the highest positions in intergovernmental organisations. ✔️
#5 Your employability and potential salary go up.
Though variable, boasting a Portuguese C2 qualification in your CV unlocks some working superpowers. You can squeeze anything from 80 to 200 extra GBP per month for mastering Portuguese in many companies, even in entry positions.
On other occasions, knowing Portuguese is simply a requisite of a specific vacancy: if you don’t have it, you don’t get hired.
The advantage of having a DUPLE certificate is that you can apply for any position requiring fluent Portuguese: they want native speakers? With a C2 certificate, you’re on an equal footing with dudes from Coimbra, Faro or Guimarães.
Passing the DUPLE: First comes first
To find out whether the desire to prepare for DUPLE can get real, first of all, you need to perform a reality check. Ask yourself two questions:
- What is my level of Portuguese today?
- When do I want to take the exam?
Let’s go deeper.
What is my current level of Portuguese?
It seems easy to assess it and… it’s not: if you’ve never sat an official exam before, it’s a real pain in the neck to get the self-assessment right.
Your father-in-law from Lisbon might be full of praise, your Angolan friend generous with compliments: “oh, your Portuguese is so good”. But… more than a diagnosis, it’s friendship. 😶
The best thing to do is to download the mock exam from the CAPLE website and do it, according to the guidelines given there.
It’s a good idea to resort to private tuitions: you’ll need someone to correct your writing and help you with your speaking. Once you have done this, you can plan accordingly.
There is one thing you should bear in mind: preparing for the DUPLE is something you shall do when you have already mastered Portuguese to a C2 level. 💡 You can start your prep journey when you are still at a C1, but still without forgetting this.
It wouldn’t make much sense to train specifically for the exam when you are very far from C2 fluency.
When do I want to take it?
It’s not a trivial matter. There are usually two sessions per year, in summer and winter. Is it urgent for you to get it?
For those already at a C2 level, I’d suggest budgeting some three months to prepare for it: one-two hours daily then longer sessions on weekends
Some useful questions
Other appropriate questions to ask yourself are these:
- What is my learning style?
- How much time and money do I want to invest in this?
- Does my clan support me – co-workers, friends, neighbours, family?
- How will I strengthen my deficiencies?
- What obstacles might get in the way?
I recommend you answer them in writing: there is no comparison with just thinking about it or telling someone.
Now let me describe how it went to a guy I know well. Myself.
Passing the DUPLE: How it all started
When I started thinking about the DUPLE, I was far from a C2: rather, I had just taken the A2 certificate at a local vocational school. 😂
I was a long way off. But I loved Portuguese, and I was going to take a sabbatical year, dedicated to sharpening my language and study skills. I was able to dedicate half a day to it for a year, besides a lot of my free time.
I had created a lusophone world around me for a whole year: the following, I took the exam and passed. 🎉
How do I learn?
My visual memory is average; I have a strong auditory memory, though. It’s more complex than that, but to put it simply, I may need to read a text twice, but I don’t usually need to re-listen to an audio track.
What parts of my Portuguese were limping? Well, in the beginning, I was simply too far from C2.
Months later, already in C-ish lands, I took a mock exam and realised that I needed to:
- Improve my grammar,
- get rid of portuñoladas (mixed Spanish-Portuguese expressions, a surefire way to flunk),
- train my listening skills,
- acquire high-level lexicon and cultisms.
I looked for teachers and schools: I found nothing. Few reach advanced levels, and therefore few are offering this type of training. So, I returned once again to my old love, self-study.
To reach a C2, I worked hard on these books below:
Gramática Ativa 2, Lídel Edições Técnicas
Hoje Em Dia, Lídel Edições Técnicas
Português Outra Vez, Lídel Edições Técnicas
Qual É A Dúvida?, Lídel Edições Técnicas
Nova Gramática do Português Contemporâneo, Celso Cunha and Lindley Cintra, Lexicon
Each one has helped me to add quality and quantity to my Portuguese. I can only recommend them highly. The most extensive and complex of them all is the last one, Nova Gramática de Cunha and Cintra: useful? You don’t know how much: it allows you to raise your Portuguese to a true C2 level and even clarify the doubts your native friends may have. 😂
Up to here, it has been about reaching a C2 in Portuguese; then came the specific work to prepare for the DUPLE. That’s when a chasm opened up.
Passing the DUPLE: The real prep phase
If finding courses in language schools, from B2 upwards, is a challenge, when you seek to prepare for the DUPLE you’re better off purchasing patience in bulk.
To me, again, the only way has been to do study on my own. But then, another issue is that there are no freaking manuals available. You may have noticed that the best PFL (Portuguese as a Foreign Language) materials come from the Portuguese publisher Lídel Edições Técnicas: well, even they don’t have any such textbooks.
To make up for this, I have crafted a preparation guide:
To my knowledge, it is the only manual on the planet to get acquainted with the DUPLE. At the moment, though, it’s only available in Spanish and Italian: translations to English and Portuguese have been planned but not done yet.
I have poured into it all the research work, the approach to the exam, my experience and that of the test takers I have been advising ever since. You will find all the details of the case in the link above. 🔗
As I hinted before, it is advisable to be counselled by a private teacher while preparing the DUPLE: you won’t be able to do everything on your own.
Don’t be snotty about teachers who are inexperienced about DUPLE: you may look for them forever without finding one. Just mention them you’re after the highest possible command of European Portuguese.
Considering the insanely high level of the exam, I have broadened my general knowledge as much as possible. Books are formidable allies in this.
There are millions of good books out there to improve language skills. Please find below those I recommend for content, style and relevance for a C2 exam:
Rework, by Fried and Heinemeier Hanson. It’s a breath of fresh air in the business world, which is also something you need to master at a C2 level.
Ser Mortal, by Atul Gawande: a terrific reflection on medicine and life. It provides useful lexicon and cultisms.
Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas, by Machado de Assis: no presentation needed here. To pass the DUPLE with flying colours you don’t have to read literature, but some literary Portuguese comes in handy. And it’s a pleasant read.
Quando Lisboa Tremeu, by Domingos Amaral: the Great Lisbon Earthquake as was never told before. A lot of vocab and historical jargon here.
Portugal: História e Lendas, by Magalhães and Alçada: an easy book on Portuguese history. You have no idea how often related topics come up in exams.
FAQ about DUPLE
Q: The school where I study Portuguese has offered me the [insert name] C2 level certificate, do you advise against it?
A: There are dozens of private companies and institutions around the world that offer all kinds of qualifications. In some specific cases they may be useful, but as a general rule, be careful.
The world is full of shady schemes that want to sell you pieces of paper with your name and a grandiloquent, totally invented title for a hundred euros, which are, sadly, worthless.
Q: Would the DUPLE help me working in an international institution?
A: Portuguese is an official language, or working language, of many international organizations. It’s surely going to make a difference.
Q: Why do I find it so hard to find information about the DUPLE?
A: Because hardly any schools prepare you for it, there are no publishers interested in it, few people take the exam and, to top it all, the CAPLE is as transparent as the KGB. My baker has a better communication policy.
Putting together what I have published in my guide has been a difficult task. 😓
Q: Can I take the DUPLE if I am fluent in Brazilian / Angolan / Cape Verdean / … Portuguese?
A: Any CAPLE exam, from A2 to C2, is in European Portuguese.
Q: You’ve listed a lot of books up here: should I really study them all?
A: I have yet to meet a candidate who got the maximum mark in the DUPLE. You can avoid reading all of them if you feel confident, but first, make sure you have an understanding of what a C2 level is.
Many candidates, after failing for the third time, realise that it would have been better to invest this 300 GBP of exam fees in good textbooks. The more you prepare, the less you have to rely on sheer luck.
Q: I have learned all my Portuguese in informal contexts. I can’t now, many years after graduation, think of sitting for hours studying anything, which I fathom it’s precisely what I should do to pass the DUPLE, right?
A: Right. If formal studies are a remote memory, one needs to acquire the habit again. Your question sparkles two other reactions in me.
First, in informal contexts you may learn a huge deal of Portuguese, but not the formal language required to pass a C2 exam. Secondly, discipline isn’t a form of violence we practice on ourselves, all the contrary: it’s instrumental in achieving anything in life.
Without discipline, you’re a slave of whatever last-minute whim comes up in your head, and that is the worst possible form of slavery you can experience in everyday life.
Passing the DUPLE: false beliefs
I often receive emails about DUPLE, some ironic, some dramatic. Some are like these:
#1 I haven’t taken any mock exam yet, but I know I’m near-native.
Take them. Then you’ll tell me. 🤨
#2 Portuguese is almost the same as Spanish.
If such is your opinion, you are far enough from a C2 to not worry about DUPLE. And in that case, you might be interested in this post: Learning Portuguese: Everything You Need to Start Now (coming soon).
#3 I’m fluent in Galician, so I’ve got Portuguese in the bag.
Ehm, see point #2. I’ve never seen so many people fail exams as Galicians who think they have Portuguese in their DNA.
#4 At that exam centre DUPLE is easier, so I’ll register there for it.
The most sensible thing to do is to go where it’s logistically convenient for you. 🚆 Easier here or harder there are enduring urban legends in any language certification.
#5 Impossible to pass the DUPLE without having lived in Portugal for a long time.
I, to date, have yet to set foot on lusophone soil. And guess what?
I got my DUPLE, and so have several other students I helped, so living in a Portuguese-speaking country is not essential. Having said that, if you have the chance, it undeniably helps.
Passing the DUPLE: conclusions
I hope this post has helped you to clear up some doubts about the DUPLE.
If I managed to obtain this qualification, as wretched and useless as I am, I’m convinced you can do it too. The only thing is to approach it with a roadmap, enthusiasm and some advice from those who know the matter 😉
📲 If you liked the post, please share it with other lusofalantes in need of DUPLE. It took me time to gather this info and put it in words: to reach a broad audience is a way to make sure I can continue doing so. 📳
Wish you boa sorte in your language-learning endeavours. 🇵🇹
Your personal lusophonist,