August 08

Learning Brazilian Portuguese

About a month ago I started learning Brazilian Portuguese. As a girl I had a bit of a crush on Ayrton Senna, amongst a whole slew of men who decorated my teenage bedroom at one point or another. That one came about because my dad loved Formula 1 and I loved my dad and so we ended up watching the races on Sundays and it was kind of our time. He was rooting for Prost, I was rooting for Senna, because even back then I tried to be a rebel. So for many years I’d watch the races, read books and cut out newspaper articles about Senna.
He had always loved Brazil and by reading about him, I also learned a lot about Brazil. I always imagined myself travelling all over Brazil. After that tragic day of the accident nearly 20 years ago and some rough teenage years, Brazil wasn’t really a priority anymore, but the interest was always kind of there.

Once I started studying Spanish and came in contact with a lot of the South American culture, coupled with my long standing dream of spending a year trekking all over South America, I decided that I wanted to learn Portuguese. I was and still am slightly worried that I end up mixing the two languages and I promised myself that I will learn Portuguese but only after I have reached a good level in Spanish. Now, ‘good’ is up to debate and I don’t think anyone ever says they are truly happy with their level of fluency in a foreign language, there’s always room for improvement. Still though, I do think that I’m fairly fluent and I hope that I won’t end up mixing them too much and speak some sort of Portunhol.

The other day I had a conflict with a bunch of appointments and ended up having an hour of Portuguese with a Skype teacher right after an hour of chatting and practicing with Gustavo, my Argentinian friend. And it wasn’t an issue at all. So I hope that I will be able to keep the languages separate in my head, so far it seems to work, but my Portuguese is still very basic.

I had decided that Portuguese would be second priority to Arabic and that my main focus would be on Arabic and I would only do a bit of Portuguese, simply because it’s much faster to pick up. I have to admit that I’m not really doing that. While I still do study Arabic, it has fallen a bit by the wayside, mostly because I have a really tough time finding a decent teacher to study the Levantine dialect with. They all seem to focus on MSA or maybe the Egyptian dialect. I’ve also had some negative experiences with native speakers when doing exchanges. I’m committed to learning it and I have no doubt that I will eventually get there, but I see no point in forcing myself. After all this is my hobby and not a ‘need to pass’ university course.

So I’ve concentrated a lot more on Portuguese and I love it. I love the sound of the language, even if it is the biggest stumbling block still. I think I have retained enough French pronunciation to get close, but applying it and understanding spoken Portuguese is a whole other ball of wax. I mostly study with a great Skype teacher and have had some text chats with natives, because reading Portuguese isn’t all that hard. Still, it’s not ‘just like Spanish’. Much of the vocab is similar, but it seems the most common words are the ones that are the most different. Most of the grammar is similar as well, with some marked differences, but so far that has all been pretty simple. Like I said though, I am very much a beginner and half the time I’m still trying to guess if the Spanish word can just be pronounced in a Portuguese sort of  way.

Next week I’m going to meet up with a local Brazilian who also teaches over Skype, but as we happen to live in the same neighbourhood of the same city I figured a bit of real human interaction wouldn’t hurt and we’re going to do a proper 1 on 1 lesson.