I have been using SSiW for a few years now and have discovered that it has completely spoiled me for more traditional styles of language learning… I recently went on holiday to Portugal and tried before I went to learn using some mp3 resources I found online, but was constantly frustrated by the passive nature of the course. Of course, I hope that one day there will be a SSi course in all the languages of the world, including Portuguese, but in the meantime, I wondered whether anyone has come across any good resources for learning Portuguese in an active, SSi style way? I absolutely adored Portugal and am already planning my next trip
Thanks for any advice you may have!
[I’ve had to split this into a number of posts as I can only include two links per post]
I have been looking into the resources available for learning Portuguese and thought I’d summarise what I’ve found so far:
Brazilian or European Portuguese?
There is far more available for learning Brazilian Portuguese than European Portuguese. I am in two minds about whether to start by learning Brazilian Portuguese. As far as I can tell, the major differences are in pronunciation, some grammar, and some words. I’m wondering whether the differences are comparable to the differences between North and South Welsh in that it would be obvious to a native speaker which you are speaking, but they would still be able to understand you.
In terms of pronunciation, it seems that Brazilians pronounce vowel sounds a little more clearly than Europeans, so that might make it easier to learn, but then it might make it harder to understand European Portuguese when you go to Portugal, which is my aim at least (although I wouldn’t be averse to a trip to Brazil…).
In terms of grammar, the biggest difference I’ve encountered so far is that Brazilians very rarely use ‘tu’ for you whereas this is widely used as the informal form of you in Portugal. Instead, Brazilians use ‘você’ widely, whereas I have read in many places that this is considered rude in Portugal. There is a quite a lot of conflicting advice about this, but I think what Portuguese people do is just miss out the word você, so it might not be too hard to adjust to this if you’ve learned Brazilian Portuguese.
I have been using this for a week. I think it’s a good way to learn vocabulary, and with continued use I am naturally picking up grammar, for example, I now use the correct verb endings in the present tense just through natural repetition. If you’re using the desktop app there is an element of speaking, but rather than playing the correct phrase so you compare it with what you have said (which I understand from Aran’s blog posts about high intensity language learning is a really important element in the learning process) it’s processed by the app which then tells you if you’re right or not. I don’t think this is as effective and there have been a few times where I’m sure I said the right thing but it didn’t process it as correct. I’m mainly using the app on my commute and there is no option for any speaking with that. So it’s okay but I wouldn’t recommend it as the main source of learning.
I was able to get the first five lessons of the Pimsleur European course from Audible - it was less than £5 as I had a few credits that I’d got on special offer, so not too expensive. This is as close to SSi as I’ve found but I’m not impressed so far for a few reasons:
it’s really slow… I’ve done three 30 minute lessons and I’ve found the pace far slower than my experience with SSiW. This might have something to do with the fact that I had had zero exposure to Welsh (beyond the music of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) before beginning SSiW, whereas I had picked up a bit of Portuguese before starting the Pimsleur course, plus many Portuguese words sound similar enough to English words that I felt I had a head start, but so far I have found the lessons frustratingly slow.
They are aimed squarely at Americans, to the extent that I feel I have spent at least 30 minutes saying ‘I am an American’… which started to grate, particularly as it’s a really simple sentence anyway!
Having read so much about how você is considered rude in Portugal, I was really surprised that they introduced it in Lesson 3 as the best way to speak to pretty much everyone, unless you want to be very formal or very informal! I am going to contact them to ask about this but it really made me lose faith in the course.
Sorry to write such lengthy posts! I hope it is helpful to anyone else hoping to learn this beautiful language. I’ll add more resources as I try them.
Aran, when you are at a stage to need volunteers, I would be really happy to help with a SSiPortuguese course however I can!
You’re not kidding about the vowels being clearer in European Portuguese – a friend of mine once joked to me that if the placename “Tottenham Court Road” were Portuguese, it’d be pronounced with only one vowel. A comment on Language Log somewhere about optional vowel deletions (“it’s like watching Latin turn into French before your very eyes”) mentioned a visitor from to Portugal from Macau nonchalantly observing, after a gap of some years, “ah – I see you’ve lost another vowel since I was last here…”
You also have to reckon with the fact that Portuguese immigrants to Brazil tended to be poor farmers, so while the Portuguese look down on the Brazilians as Colonials, the Brazilians look down on the Portuguese as country bumpkins. They can understand each other, but both countries tend to stereotype the other as a bit stupid
Is there any news on Portuguese (preferably European) being available on SSi before November?
The reason I ask is that I am taking Maureen to Madeira for her 21 x 3.333… birthday.
I’m not keen on Duolingo or Memrise, so I’ve ordered a classic book and cd course to get me started. I’d much prefer to learn through SSi though, naturalmente.