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.