Monday, November 5, 2012

Fastest Way to Learn Brazilian Portuguese

Image found here.

Here are 5 steps to put you on the fast track to speaking Brazilian Portuguese.
  • Step 1: Learn the alphabet and sounds of the language.
  • Step 2: Learn vocabulary and basic phrases.
  • Step 3: Learn one past, two present, and one future form of the 17 different forms of verbs.
    Hint: Go for the simple forms. They aren't called simple for nothing.
  • Step 4: Get a Brazilian Portuguese dictionary that shows the stressed syllable in the pronunciation of a word.
  • Step 5: Get a handle on the false cognates and false friends. The misuse of a word can make for a really bizarre conversation, and the mistaken assumption that you are not only a foreigner, but a total weirdo.

What are the best resources to accomplish this quickly and easily?

For those whose native language is American English, I recommend Portuguese in 10 minutes a day by Kristine Kershul. You can learn the sounds of the language, some basic phrases, and vocabulary. It is written in a Carioca accent, so just change the "sh" to "s" for other regions. Using this book, I caught up to a local Portuguese class for estrangeiros that had been in session for two and a half months a mere 2 weeks! Everyone was amazed (and a wee bit jealous).

The most comprehensive vocabulary resource I have found is the Word by Word Illustrated Dictionary English/Brazilian Portuguese - Second Edition by Steven J. Molinsky & Bill Bliss. It is important to get the 2nd edition because they added common phrases and additional vocabulary words. Although there is no pocket edition, I carried this thing around everywhere during the first year that I was here. Don't be shy! Embrace your inner nerd.

As for the verbs, I recommend that you scour the internet for conjugation tables in English and Portuguese. You can also find conjugation tables in the dictionaries listed below. Verbs end in —ar, —er, or —ir, in the base and infinitive forms. Compare them, and focus on the following four forms of the verbs until you are more fluent. If, at that point, you feel that you can tackle the other 13 forms of the verbs, then more power to you! :)

The Present Continuous tense:

I am writing. = Eu estou escrevendo.

(English —ing =ando, —endo or —indo in Portuguese.)

The Simple Present tense:

Do you like vegetables? = Você gosta de verduras?

The Simple Past tense:

She wrote an informative book. = Ela escreveu um livro informativo.

The Simple Future or Futuro do Presente tense:

We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Or the medium way. Or the semi-medium-easy-hard way. Or the sort of hard, with a touch of awkward, easy-difficult-challenging way.

So that's how you want to play it, huh?

Me, too.

The easy way is a form of the future (futuro composto), which is closest to how we speak in English.

He is going to work tomorrow. = Ele vai trabalhar amanhã.

The harder version of the same thing means changing the end of the verb. That involves more memorization, which you could focus elsewhere... Here's an example of the same sentence in a more difficult version of the simple future form (Futuro do Presente do Indicativo):

Ele trabalhará amanha.

Just remember that everything begins and ends with a KISS ("um beijo") in Brazil, so...

Keep It Simple, Superstar!

Image found here.

It's your lucky day. The Dicionário Didático Básico by Edições SM is perfect for beginners. The best feature is the way the (7,000+) words are broken down phonetically in Brazilian Portuguese, with emphasis on the stressed syllable. The definitions are as simplified as they can get in the Portuguese language. (It's for kids.) As you progress to a more thorough understanding of basic Portuguese, graduate to the Dicionário Didático that has fewer pics, but over 43,000 additional definitions to add to your vocabulary.

False cognates and false friends (linguistically and personally speaking) are the bane of my existence. Yours, too. You'll be trying to tell people that you intend to do something, while you're really saying that you understand (entender) something... that makes absolutely no sense. Someone will tell you that they intend (pretender) to do something, and you'll wonder why they are planning on pretending to do something.

For this reason, it is so very worth it to pick up a copy of Inglês Urgente! Para Brasileiros by Cristina Schumacher. It has the most complete list of false cognates (in English and Portuguese) that I've seen, yet, and is a great addition to your arsenal of books to help you conquer Brazilian Portuguese as a second language.

Again, I'll reiterate that Portuguese in 10 minutes a day is the best solution for those that speak American English. If you speak British English, then the book Brazilian Portuguese by Sue Tyson-Ward, from the Teach Yourself series is a great resource. The phonetic base of any foreign language is key, and like Kristine Kershul, Ms. Tyson-Ward does it up right.

Just so you know, I am not being paid by any of these book publishers to promote their products. I simply hate to see anyone waste their time, money, and efforts in methods that do not work.

Boa sorte in your studies!

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