What if we could cut away the excess and confusion in Portuguese learning to get you up and speaking fast? It’s possible and this is what you’ll get in this article!
Before considering my move to Brazil back in 2004 and based on previous expat experiences in Puerto Rico, I knew the importance of learning Portuguese to successfully integrate into the Brazilian culture.
Unfortunately for me, I walked into a mess of language methods and courses - not one of them on the market taught Portuguese fluency!
Why? Because the market for people wanting to go all the way is a small one, it’s much more lucrative to target a bunch of soon-to-be red-nosed tourists visiting Brazil’s beaches for a week or two. They have money to spend and generally don’t follow through with it.
Facing a jungle ahead and lacking any map or tools to confront it, I pressed on anyways…
The zig-zagged language path was eventually carved and I made it out the other side fluent, though it wasn’t easy. Today, I’m here to show you some of the correct tools and a bit of a map to bring you through to fluency so that you can have doors of opportunity swing open before you in Brazil and a successful lifestyle. More importantly, so you can avoid wasting energy and money on methods that only deliver frustrations - shall we dive in?
1. Focusing on What Works
One of the first things that stick out like a sore thumb when learning Portuguese is the fact that Brazilians speak nothing like you are taught! They avoid about 40% of the grammar rules they make you learn in most language courses. So why do they insist on teaching these rules? Pride. They want you to speak correct Portuguese (which sounds weird to Brazilians FYI).
Here are some grammar rules to throw out the window right away:
- Speak about future things just like in English: say “eu vou fazer…” (I’m going to do..) instead of “eu farei” (a special future tense built into the verb *yawn)
- Use “a gente” instead of “nós”: say “a gente vai fazer” (referring to “we are going to do…” in a singular slang form) instead of “nós vamos fazer” (the “us” conjugation that has been all but eliminated in spoken form).
- Use “para” when in doubt: Brazilians say “para” a lot (for/to) and it can be confusing for us to understand when to say “por” vs. “para” vs “a” etc. When in doubt, default to “para”.
The above three rules should speed your learning up a lot and cut away the unecessary fat, though let’s speed it up even more.
2. Learn Cognates First
What if I told you that you have literally 1000’s of Portuguese words locked up inside your mind waiting to get out?
I bet that sounds like a pretty bold statement to make and a bit implausible! It’s true: some of the main influencers of the English language are both Latin and French. And to which family does the Portuguese language belong? Latin.
There are tons of similar words in your mind just waiting for the right technique so they can come out and play.
Here’s a sample of a few:
- anything -able in English becomes -ável in Portuguese (probable = provavél)
- anything -ity in English becomes -dade in Portuguese (city = cidade)
- anything -sion in English becomes -são in Portuguese (transmission = transmissão)
- anything -t in English becomes -te in Portuguese (important = importante)
That should get you up and running pretty quickly.
3. Join a Strong Community
The single most important thing you can do is to join a strong and active community of passionate Portuguese speakers.
Regardless of how much passion or ambition we have in the beginning of learning Portuguese, we need each other to be successful! You may have once heard: “A cable with two strong strands is better than one”, this is both true and relevant to your Portuguese learning.
Back in 2004, I found a community of passionate people in the Seattle (USA) area, joined them and within a total of 6 months was fluent in Portuguese…
Yes, I learned Portuguese fluently in under 6 months while living in the USA and no I don’t say this to brag… This is to hopefully encourage you to find like-minded people around you and to dive into it whole-heartedly all the while utilizing a method that works.
After you’ve put the time in and gotten fluent, you’ll look back from a totally new perspective and never regret for a second that you did it. Here’s to your success and come on over and join us on the fluency side!
By Kevin Porter, an American expat in Brazil. Check out his blog and Port uguese 101 Guide.