This week Dear Gringo provides you with some tips in overcoming "language barriers". He provides some easy suggestions that will enable you to better overcome your difficulties with the Portuguese language. Dr G also draws an analogy between English speakers and cockroaches..
Im having trouble with Portuguese. I was ready and willing when I came to Brazil, but I dont seem to be able. Is there a secret to learning languages? Or am I just going to have to face the fact that I am one of those people who dont have the ear?
No Falo Portuguese
Its true that some people pick up languages more easily than others, in the same way that some people seem to have a special way with math, spelling or keeping a beat. However, not having the knack does not mean you will never be able to speak fluent Portuguese (or play the drums). Ive done a bit of reading on language acquisition and the good news for you is that, as evidenced by the coherence of your letter, your brain has the proper hardware for speaking whatever language you want. If you can speak your mother tongue, you have the capacity for more.
As to the secret to learning, I cannot divulge that information (its a secret). What I can tell you is that learning anything is different depending on the person. You might have heard of "visual" learners. These people are purported to require visual stimuli in order to process information. (The next time you give someone a stern talking to, provide diagrams and pictures to help get your point across.) In reality, there is no such beast as a purely "visual" learner. We all learn best with variety. If you only ever study from a textbook, youre probably going to sound like a textbook. Mixing up your methods could be the key for you in studying Portuguese. Try as many of the following suggestions as you can, and see what works best for you.
Language classes (always a good place to begin-there should be lots of variety within the class)
Self-study textbooks (not for everyone, but can be very effective when combined with a regular tutor to answer your questions)
Portuguese TV with captions (reading and listening at the same time is great for picking up natural speaking rhythms and intonation-the "beat" of the language)
Conversation partners (probably best if you have some kind of focus, like a magazine article, specific topic, or mutual attraction-otherwise its hit-or-miss depending on the personalities of you and your partner)
Print media (Portuguese newspapers, books, etc.-You dont need to understand every single word, but regular reading is a great way to pick up vocabulary and to internalize troublesome prepositions)
Actually, the best way to really learn a language is to find yourself in situations where you need to use it as a means, rather than an end. The trouble with being a native English speaker is that we can survive almost anywhere in the world using only the so-called international language. English speakers are like cockroaches-they crawl out from everywhere.
Go bother some locals, NFP.
Hope this helps.
To read previous letters to Dear Gringo click below:
Pining in Pinheiros
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