Preparing for a trip to Brazil has been an exciting endeavor for me, and I decided to make the most of this opportunity by immersing myself in the local language. Over the last 90 days, I have dedicated myself to learning Brazilian Portuguese. Starting with the Duolingo app, I embarked on a language learning adventure that has brought me both joy and challenges. In this article, I will share my experience, the resources I used, the hurdles I faced, and my goals for achieving fluency in Portuguese.
Duolingo: A Solid Foundation
In my curiosity about the efficacies of language learning apps, I turned to the Duolingo app as my starting point. Duolingo proved to be an excellent choice, as it introduced me to the basics of Portuguese. The app's gamified approach made learning engaging and fun. From vocabulary to simple sentence construction, Duolingo provided a solid foundation for me to build upon.
However, Duolingo has its limitations. It does not thoroughly teach vowel pronunciation rules or deep dive into the intricacies of grammar. Nonetheless, it served as an essential tool for vocabulary acquisition and basic sentence structure, which laid the groundwork for my language learning journey.
Tutors: Expanding Horizons
Recognizing the need for personalized guidance, I sought additional support from tutors. I enlisted the help of two tutors on italki.com, a popular language learning platform, and one in-person tutor, my Peruvian friend Cesar, who happens to be a hyper-polyglot.
My online tutors, Maria and Pedro, offered valuable insights into Brazilian Portuguese. With their guidance, I could practice conversation, improve pronunciation, and gain a deeper understanding of grammar concepts. The interactive nature of the online lessons allowed me to ask questions and receive instant feedback, enhancing my learning experience.
Working with Cesar, who possesses an impressive command of over 20 languages, was an extraordinary opportunity. His wealth of knowledge and experience helped me navigate the nuances of Portuguese, providing context and cultural insights along the way. His in-person tutoring sessions gave me a chance to practice speaking, and his patience and expertise made learning enjoyable.
The Challenges of Similarities and Differences
Initially, I assumed that my background in Spanish would make learning Portuguese relatively easy. While there are similarities between the two languages, such as shared vocabulary, the differences quickly became apparent. The distinct vowel system and pronunciation variations proved to be significant challenges.
Portuguese pronunciation is often unique, and mastering the sounds required careful attention. For example, words that appeared familiar due to their Spanish counterparts often had completely different pronunciations in Portuguese. This required me to retrain my ears and vocal cords to adapt to the new language's phonetics.
Additionally, Portuguese has a different alphabet, including letters such as "ç" and "ã," which are not present in Spanish. The spelling rules and accent marks added complexity to my learning journey. While I anticipated some differences, the extent to which Portuguese diverged from Spanish surprised me.
Goals and Future Aspirations
As I prepare for my trip to Brazil, my primary goal is to achieve at least an A2 level of proficiency in Portuguese. This level of fluency would enable me to handle everyday situations, engage in basic conversations, and navigate my way through the country with relative ease. However, I am ambitious and strive to reach a B1 level of proficiency shortly after my time in Brazil. This higher level of fluency would allow me to have more meaningful conversations, connect with locals, and immerse myself in the culture.
My 90-day journey of learning Brazilian Portuguese has been both challenging and rewarding. From the initial reliance on the Duolingo app to the personalized guidance of tutors, my language skills have grown significantly. While there are still many intricacies to master, I am excited about the progress I have made. As I embark on my trip to Brazil, I am confident that my efforts will bear fruit, enabling me to communicate effectively and engage with the vibrant Brazilian culture. Learning a new language has not only enriched my travel experience but also broadened my horizons in ways I never imagined.