I have recently started learning Portuguese since I will be moving to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for 6 months next year. Even though I am by no means fluent in the language yet I would like to share some tips and tricks that has helped me tremendously. The steps are in random order.
- Immerse Yourself in the Culture and Language
- Get a Private Teacher
- Quickly Expand Your Portuguese Vocabulary
- Buy The Best Language Learning Software for Portuguese
- Get a good Portuguese book
- Listen to Audio CDs With Brazilian Portuguese
Immerse yourself in Brazilian culture
Learning a language is more than just words and grammar. The cultural aspects hidden within a language are just as important when trying to comprehend. I have found it extremely useful to listen to Brazilian music as well as watch as many Brazilian movies as possible. Don’t just settle for “City of God” and “Tropa de Elite“. Brazil is so much more than the stereotypical favelas, carnival and beautiful women. Here is a small list of a couple of great Brazilian movies worth watching.
The Man Who Copied
André, relatively poor, falls in love with Silvia, a neighbor whom he spy’s with a telescope. Falling more and more in love with her, he begins to follow her around the city and realizes she works in a clothing shop. He works in a xerox place and makes a copy of a brand new 50 real bill in order to buy a dress from her store. This becomes a vice and he begins to photocopy more and more money, until it gets out of control. However, things begin to go wrong when he decides that photcopying is not the only way to make money.
Set in the desert landscape Brazil’s draught ridden sertao, the film follows the northeastward journey of a city professional, returning to his birth place after his father’s death in order to confront an archaic and mythical universe. Superstitions and new age religious fanaticism converge as the super highway catches up with the sertao.
It is also worth checking out the local Brazilian community in your city if it has any. Seeing Brazilians interact and communicate will help you understand the language and customs even better in the long run. You might even want to pick up on Brazilian cooking – I have learned to make a mean feijoada and mouqeca.
How to find a Portuguese teacher
Private teachers are always a great way to learn, but can in some cases be quite expensive. From experience I prefer the private teaching to the classroom experience as I have much more control over the pace and lessons in general. Together with my girlfriend I have found a private teacher for the same price of being enrolled in a class of around 30 students. Needles to say we get a lot more attention with a private teacher and all of our questions are answered.
So how do you find a teacher? If you follow my first tip about immersing yourself in Brazilian culture and your local Brazilian community you will quickly come across someone who can help you. Don’t be afraid to seek out places where you can come across a qualified teacher. Go to local events, visit Brazilian restaurants, go to concerts etc.
Expanding your Portuguese vocabulary
When kids learn to talk they spend an enormous amount of time grasping concepts and words. At first the vocabulary and the sentences might be very restricted but they try hard to get their point across. In order to build up my vocabulary quickly I have plastered every object in my home with small notes spelling the object in Portuguese along with a translation. That way I force myself to read and say the word when I pass it and learning new vocabulary becomes a 24/7 task without becoming overwhelming.
Learning Portuguese grammar – Falar Ler Escrever Portugues
Grammar is daunting no matter how you look at it. I know there are people out there who think that grammar is up there at the same level as sex, but I am not one of them. That said, once you get the grasp of conjugating verbs it feels really good.
The book “Falar Ler Escrever Portugues” is one of the best ways of getting started on the language. It is used in many language courses and I suggest using it together with your private teacher. It is full of exercises within all aspects of the language and will pave the way for a greater understanding of the language.
Language learning software – Rosetta Stone Brazilian Portuguese
There are many different variants of Portuguese language learning software on the market. However, one piece of software stands out above the rest: Rosetta Stone Brazilian Portuguese. The program works on both Mac and Pc and allows you to immerse yourself in Portuguese. You can put together your own set of lessons depending on what you need to learn and your current understanding of the language. The lessons are divided up into Pronunciation, Grammar, Speaking, Writing, Vocabulary, Listening and Reviewing. You can buy separate levels expanding as you go along. Rosetta Stone is widely used in both corporate and government institutions is seen as the industry standard of language learning software. They even provide a 6 months money back guarantee – for me it was a no brainer and it is highly recommended. Get the package here
Audio Cds – The Pimsleur Method
The Pimsleur Package is a set of CDs full of typical scenarios you might encounter in daily life. Each lesson is about 30 minutes and by completing one every other day you will slowly but surely expand your vocabulary. After the first few lessons you will be able to do short sentences and it will build up your confidence in no time. Just as Rosetta Stone you can buy separate levels or get the whole package at once. One of the advantages is that you can load the CD to your iPod or smartphone and practice whenever you want.
Last but not least there is a great podcast at Portuguese Pod101 that is well worth checking out. You can subscribe directly to the podcast and sync to your iPod, iPhone or whatever player/phone you might have an practice on the go.
The above is by no means a complete guide or certified method of learning a language. It is however my own personal experience and I can tell you it has made a great difference to me. Above all it is important to make the learning experience fun – it should never become a chore. That is why I suggest watching the movies, eating the food and otherwise immerse yourself in the cultural aspects. Slowly but surely all the pieces will come together and your will find yourself speaking Portuguese in no time.