Emma Maier hasn't made a good start in learning Portuguese. The German is from Munich and wants to move to Portugal in August. For her, there is no integration without a command of the language, so she looked for ways to learn.

"I was disorientated for a long time. I saw lots of apps, most of them in Brazilian Portuguese, videos on YouTube and other materials. There was a lot of scattered information and I felt that these resources only worked as a supplement. I needed structured lessons," says the 41-year-old German.

So she decided to start online classes. But, once again, she lacked something to advance in the language: "I had lessons twice a week, but I wanted to work much harder. Although the tutor sometimes gave me homework, I felt like I could go much further."

It was then that she was recommended Conversa Portuguese, an innovative virtual school for teaching European Portuguese, which combines online classes with a platform containing hundreds of resources. "It's totally changed the way I learn Portuguese. I'm progressing faster than I ever dreamed. The other day I realised I was conversing fluently with a Portuguese man in Munich."

What has changed? Emma says: "A completely free platform with materials for self-learning, a digital library (a repository of music, series, films, gastronomy) and a reading room, as well as "a teacher who loves what she does and is very qualified".

After each lesson, Emma has to carry out specific tasks to work on the content she has learnt and her biggest difficulties. Another aspect she likes are the recordings of words that are more difficult to pronounce: "I work a lot on pronunciation and that gives me more confidence in speaking Portuguese".

She also practises the language through many other exercises on the platform and is already able to read some texts by Portuguese authors in the reading room, thanks to the translation and explanation of the most difficult words." Very positively, Emma says, she no longer has to waste time looking for Portuguese films, TV series or music, because "the platform has everything".

Emma finally has "what she needs to learn Portuguese: structured, needs-focused lessons, hundreds of resources to practise the language and an excellent teacher". She adds: "Cláudia loves what she does so much that she forgets about time and we usually spend much longer in class. I don't see time passing either. The lessons are very interesting.

Emma isn't Cláudia's only fan. Students of different nationalities pass through or have passed through her classes: expats living in Portugal or Portuguese-speaking African countries, people with families in these countries, business people, students preparing for exams, particularly the CIPLE, tourists visiting Portugal, people passionate about the language and culture, children and teenagers. For everyone, the success of learning the language and friendship remain.

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Client; Example of an exercise in the self-study room

Cláudia Taveira had the idea of creating this school model because, in the case of European Portuguese, there are only online classes or platforms/applications. "There are a lot of classes on offer, but one method alone isn't enough. Contact with the language is essential and cannot be limited to the classroom. It's important for learners to have access to a structured course that guides them, but also to other resources that promote contact with the language outside of lessons." The investment was big, "but seeing the students progress more quickly makes it all worthwhile".

The teacher has over 22 years' experience teaching Portuguese as a second/foreign language. It all started in East Timor, where she combined two passions: the Portuguese language and working in the field of development co-operation. "I truly believe that it is possible to build a better world and, in East Timor, I realised the power that language has to change lives, both professionally and personally," she says.

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Client; Example of a reading comprehension exercise from the Self-Study Room

During these years, in East Timor and Portugal, Cláudia has had a varied adult audience, which has forced her to adapt the courses to the students' needs, including formulating different programmes, manuals and other specific materials for learning the language.

She says she is "curious and eager to learn". After graduating in Portuguese, she did a Master's degree in Portuguese as a Second Language, where she studied the language transfer of native English speakers when they learn Portuguese. This helped her to understand the main difficulties of this audience and to create strategies to combat critical linguistic areas.

She is currently completing her PhD in Portuguese Studies, focusing on the development of metaphorical competence, an essential but neglected area in second languages. She is also passionate about the use of technology in Portuguese teaching and devotes much of her time to studying the most appropriate tools for students' goals.

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Client; Example of a resource (TV series with Portuguese subtitles) from the Digital Library

As in all physical schools, at Conversa Portuguese students have access to rooms, but here they are virtual: their own classroom, with all the class materials organised, an independent learning room (with videos on grammar, interactive exercises, games), a reading room (with chronicles, short stories, poems, which include translation and/or explanation of difficult vocabulary and cultural and historical references), as well as a digital library (a repository of films, series, Portuguese music, among other resources).

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Client; Example of a chronicle from the Reading Room, with words and cultural references and stories explained

The school offers a free trial lesson and, if you decide to continue, 1h30 minute lessons in General Portuguese or Specific Purposes, Conversation or for Children and Teenagers. Only the lessons are paid for because access to the platform is completely free. "And you're also contributing to a better world, because for every lesson taught, Conversa Portuguese gives 1 euro to a solidarity project. Our students are thus improving their world and the world in which they live."

Language learning didn't start well for Emma, but now she says she's on the right track. And for her, the path will lead her more quickly and with fewer obstacles to a destination: fluency in Portuguese and integration. Book your free trial lesson at www.conversaportuguese.com.