Learning Portuguese, Part II

As I near completing Portuguese on Duolingo (I have about half a level left), I thought it would be good to give an update as to how fluent I really am. Nowadays, I can speak with Minha Namorada’s family somewhat, and make myself understood in fairly long conversations. I do sometimes use odd phrasing in Portuguese, but that’s because I don’t yet think in Portuguese. Even though I do it at a faster pace, I still decide what I want to say in English and then translate it in my head. Portuguese also no longer sounds as fast, even when I don’t understand it all. I am able to go to restaurants with my English-speaking friends and order without difficulty, asking questions about the food/service. I can do transactional-Portuguese very well, and I feel I could visit most large Brazilian Cities where there is minimal, but not zero, English, and not feel like a fish out of water. I always apologize for my accent at the outset (stereotypically Canadian, I know), and with how welcoming the Brazilian people are, I can get by just fine.

One unexpected great translation tool I’ve added to my repertoire is Wikipedia – when searching for the right word, Google Translate might give you ten different words with some of them being translations of entirely different meanings of the same word. But, you can look up much more complex concepts and ideas on Wikipedia to ensure you are using the right meaning, then simply switch to the Portuguese page.

The big drawback from Duolingo is listening – I still find it difficult when others are speaking Portuguese to me. Some people I meet I can understand without any difficulty, but the majority of people I still need a lot of assistance from Minha Namarada to understand. You would think this is the easiest skill to practice, since I could just listen to music or watch Netflix in Portuguese, but its not quite as easy as you would expect. Netflix, for some reason, will have different translations for the dubbed over voice than for the subtitles – they are always similar, but the small differences (e.g. using “bom/good” vs. “legal/cool”) make it very difficult to follow along. Music is also very difficult, because the pronunciation changes drastically when words are put to a melody.

The better option, I find, is to find a YouTube channel (pick any topic) in Portuguese, you want a higher-quality YouTuber so that they have proper subtitles, and set the video playback speed to seventy-five or even fifty percent. That speed allows you to still follow along in the subtitles while the spoken words still sound approximately the same. That’s my plan to improve my Portuguese now that the finish line with Duolingo is in sight. Not that I’m going to stop the Duolingo, mind you. It is a quite useful tool to practice Portuguese, and I plan to use it as long as I can.

Learning Portuguese – Initial Observations

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve now been learning Portuguese for about two years. It is difficult learning a new language, although I still think my progress is going well. But, here are some of my initial observations from when I started learning.

The best way that I’ve found to learn Portuguese is on the Duolingo app for your phone. The lessons are short (15 questions), and there is significant gameification to make it enjoyable, and it slowly builds upon itself. Don’t bother with Duolingo Plus, it is a waste of money. The main benefit of it is the offline mode, but, honestly, how often don’t you have internet connection? Regular Duolingo just requires you to start the lesson when you have internet, you can go offline during the lesson without any issues, so, even an intermittent internet connection is good enough.

duo200

Referral LinkRegular Link

From the start, it’s important to acknowledge that learning a language is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t expect to learn useful phrases right away, for those you should look for a tourism phrase book. Learning a language is a lengthy process which takes dedication and commitment. Duolingo will teach you unusual phrases, and these actually help you remember the words better, but gives you very little useful knowledge at the beginning. It takes time before it all starts to click together.

free-to-use-sounds-pM9p3StkknY-unsplash.jpg

You will learn a lot of pronouns, which are useful, but you will almost never hear them used by native Portuguese speakers. Portuguese tends to just use the conjugation of verbs in place of its pronouns. Learning the pronouns will help you to learn how to conjugate words, and will help when you are speaking. They will allow others to understand you even through the (doubtless) grammatical errors of a newbie to language.

Add don’t get upset if your initial progress slows down. Portuguese is very similar to Spanish and French, languages which many North Americans have a fair amount of exposure. This helps a lot in learning the language, as you’ll already have some basics, but you will quickly exhaust those stores of knowledge. You might think that you’ve plateaued, and that can be disheartening, but its actually that you are now at a normal learning pace. Keep going through it, and you’ll eventually hit other milestones as the rules and phrases start to click.

austin-distel-fEedoypsW_U-unsplash.jpg
Note: Duolingo doesn’t have a progress chart like this, but it should.

Learning Portuguese, Part II

Learning Portuguese

 

element5-digital-352043-unsplash.jpgI was once asked what did I view as the biggest challenge in my relationship with Minha Namorada (My Girlfriend), and my answer was that I do not speak Portuguese. That is still my answer today. Luckily, Minha Namorada speaks English quite well, and that has allowed our relationship to flourish. However, it is still very important to me that I learn Portuguese. There are many reasons but one of the most important reasons is culture.

Culture helps define who we are, it tells us where we came from, where we are going, and it binds a community together. While Minha Namorada and myself are building a life together now, and while A Familia Dela (her family) always do so much to make me feel welcome, I still always feel a bit excluded from her Brazilian Culture, simply because I don’t speak enough Portuguese to participate fully. Unless there is an English translation out there, I can’t understand the shows Minha Namorada watches in Portuguese, I can’t read the books she’s read. But, even translations tend to lose much of the raw emotion and feel of the originals

As well, at the best times when families are just laughing and joking, and everyone forgets themselves, it becomes that much harder for me to follow the conversation – I am inadvertently excluded at the time when everyone is attempting to make me feel most welcome. I am never offended by this, and in fact am very touched that they are so welcoming towards me, but it does bother me that I can’t follow along with everyone.

todd-ruth-1699174-unsplash.jpg
My favourite memories of family, mine or Minha Namorada’s, are when everyone lets loose,  laughing and enjoying each other’s company.   I just wish I could understand more when I’m with her family.

After two years, I can generally read news articles in Portuguese without too much difficulty, and I’ve learned enough Portuguese to be understood one on one. Minha Namorada’s friends and family are always impressed with how much Portuguese I’ve learned since we first met, but I still have much to go. It is a slow process, as I expected, but one which reaps many rewards. And not just in my relationship, but also in my ability to broaden my horizons. Being able to read non-english sourced newspapers gives me new perspectives on world events that I would not have known if not for those newspapers. Only about 1/7 of the population speak English, so learning languages helps me learn about the other 6/7ths of the world.

 

sara-riano-467205-unsplash.jpg

So, let’s start a conversation about tips/tricks, and other observations about learning (and hopefully eventually mastering) Portuguese.