Guest Post: Brazilian Portuguese for the Utterly Confused

Jun 18, 2010 5:01:32 AM / by Mango Languages


Guest Blogger Marina Khonina has taken on the task of using Mango Languages to learn Brazilian Portugese. She is providing monthly updates through our blog as she progresses through the course. Here is part three:

One of my recent Mango Languages lessons in Brazilian Portuguese was entitled Direções Para o Hotel (Directions to a Hotel). As luck would have it, shortly after completing the lesson I found myself navigating the streets of Istanbul with my Portuguese-speaking friend looking for an elusive hotel that housed a visiting professor from Brazil and his companion. The professor was interested in the history of Byzantium, I was told, and, as an aspiring scholar of Byzantium and a great admirer of the historic city where I happen to live these days, I agreed to give the visitors a brief tour of the Byzantine monuments in Istanbul.

Thus started a new chapter in my adventure with Brazilian Portuguese. Although the professor spoke English, his companion did not. My Brazilian flatmate cheerfully joined our improvised field trip along with her sister, who was here for a visit, and so Portuguese was heard with increasing frequency as our small group moved from one historical site to another. My brother, who does not share my Lusophone passions, dutifully tagged along, and so it is to him and to his patience in the midst of Brazilian and Byzantine chatter that I dedicate this post.

The field trip proved to be exceptionally rewarding, linguistically speaking. After beating myself up for forgetting the simple phrase, "Prazer em conhecê lo" ("Nice to meet you", Mango Languages - Lesson 1), I eventually found myself understanding quite a bit of the conversation and even surprising my brother by translating a joke from Portuguese. Alas, I did not succeed in breaking my self-imposed vow of silence in encounters with the speakers of foreign languages.

Apart from this day-long immersion experience, however, I am not very happy with my lack of significant progress in Portuguese. This, I believe, is a direct consequence of letting too much time elapse between my Mango lessons (exacerbated, perhaps, by my earlier decision not to supplement Mango Languages with other learning materials at this point). Whatever breakthroughs in understanding that I experienced recently were largely a result of exposure to spoken Portuguese. Since visiting professors from Brazil are hard to come by in Istanbul, I suppose it is time to intensify my Mango Languages lessons, aiming for at least 3 lessons per week (as opposed to the once weekly lessons I have been doing so far). This should be easier to do now that the spring semester is over and my university-related commitments are not nearly as overwhelming.

I find it crucial to maintain a consistent schedule for reviewing previous lessons. For this purpose, the "Phrasebook Review" option offered by Mango is usually sufficient: I am quizzed on various parts of the lesson's dialogue, which are then presented in their complete form. I presume that if I complete more lessons per week these "forced" reviews will become unnecessary, since there appears to be a repetition algorithm built into the Mango Languages system.

As I work to complete my Mango Languages challenge, the support of my Twitter followers is invaluable. Many a time I find myself being cheered on by fellow language learners or by Portuguese native speakers. Sometimes, these brief interactions turn into learning experiences: a few days ago a Brazilian follower wrote to me saying, "Português é Legal!" Who would have thought that "legal" can also mean "cool"? Luckily, I have my flatmate to explain the intricacies of Brazilian slang in moments when it leaves me utterly confused!

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

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