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Differences between abbreviations and acronyms

Date of Publication


Target Group


Domain Area

Business & Communication
International Relations
Teacher Education

Learning Scenario

Autonomous learning
Classroom Context

Target Language


Language of Instruction


CEFR level


Type of Material


Linguistic Features





RTP (Portuguese radio and television) broadcast in 2007 a set of 10-minute programmes on the Portuguese language, titled: ‘Cuidado com a Língua’ (Mind the language!), each module focusing on a specific theme. The example presented here can also be consulted at RTP Play ( The actor Diogo Infante and the journalist Maria Flor Pedroso (voice-over) present some specificities of the Portuguese language in a didactic, informative and humourous way. The specific theme selected could be useful for students of Portuguese for specific purposes, such as teacher education or International /Lusophone relations where the language must be used proficiently. The differences between acronyms and abbreviations, and their meanings, sometimes are not clear for the students. This short video (1 minute) explains it very well. This resource can be used as a warmer.

Case study

This resource, as well as the other videos of the same production available at RTP Play, could be used as a way to practise and consolidate knowledge on spelling, semantics (meaning of words), and intercultural aspects of the language. Learners (Portuguese or anyone learning Portuguese) have easy access to the resource and can watch the videos on their own. They should have at least a B1 level. In the classroom, I would use this as a warmer in order to set a context and call students’ attention to the difference between acronyms and abbreviations. While watching the video, students would be asked to write down all the acronyms and abbreviations identified. After watching the video, students would give feedback, and then I would give them a list of other common acronyms and abbreviations in the Portuguese language. The learning of this topic is useful in an LSP context, such as business, education, tourism or international relations.


Classroom context:
1. Warmer: Provide students with slips of paper with acronyms and abbreviations written on them (the ones displayed on the video could/should also be included). Ask them to read them out loud. Check if there’s a difference in the reading.
2. Set the context: With no further comments on the readings, elicit from them the name of the” words” they read. Sts should answer acronyms, abbreviations, or both. Tell students they will watch a video where this difference is made clear.
3. After watching the video and having now a clearer idea of the difference between acronyms and abbreviations, students in pairs are asked to prepare a list of acronyms and abbreviations (doing research online, for example. VARIATION: they could be given a text where…..
4. Sts check answers


Comprehensive approach
Capacity to match the needs of lecturers and students


Added value
The provided tangible improvements


Motivation enhancement
The capacity to motivate students to improve their language skills


Effectiveness in introducing innovative, creative and previously unknown approaches to LSP learning


Measurement of the transferable potential and possibility to be a source of further capitalisation/application for other language projects in different countries


Skills assessment and validation
Availability of appropriate tools for lecturers to monitor students’ progress and for students to assess own progress and to reflect on learning


Flexibility of the contents and possibilities for the LSP lecturers to adapt the contents to their and to students’ need


Assess the technical usability from the point of view of the lecturer and the student


Assess the accessibility from the point of view of the lecturer and the student


The resource is easily accessible online and it is also easy to use and understand as the video illustrates the linguistic aspect focused on in a very interactive way. It can be used in a more LSP context (teacher education, international relations) but also within teaching Portuguese as a foreign language. Non-native speakers can use it if they have at least level B1. Even though the language is simple, some structures might have some complexity. This resource can highly motivate the students/learners because it’s short, appealing (use of pictures) and entertaining.
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