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Summary of month 1 in the mission to become Brazilian

| 25 comments | Category: mission

capExactly a month ago I arrived in Rio with the mission of becoming Brazilian in 3 months. As in my previous language mission, I’ll give a monthly update for those curious of my progress, and my hopes of reaching the goal of walking the walk and talking the talk enough to convince some Cariocas that I’m one of them, at least for a few minutes, by December.

First I’ll get the bad news out of the way; I could have done a lot more this month. After my financial issues this summer requiring me to work double-time for 6 weeks, I’m trying to make sure that I don’t end up in the same situation again and have continued to work quite intensively to try to reach some sort of financial stability (not there yet). This has given me a lot less time to really appreciate Rio, and I still haven’t done much more than go out with Couchsurfers and other friends a few times a week.

Getting there!

Despite this, I’ve squeezed all the time I could out of my day to get some studies of the Carioca dialect of Portuguese, and chatted to lots of people and socialised only in Portuguese for the entire month; avoiding speaking English as always! Even though I could have achieved what I have this month in just a few days if it wasn’t for work, I can happily say that I have learned a lot, and I am still confident that I have a good chance of reaching my goal, especially since I’ll be giving more time to the mission for the next month! :D

What I have learned this month has been absolutely fascinating!! This will make a huge difference, not just to my Portuguese, but to all of my languages (especially the Romance ones), as I try to reduce my anglophone and general foreign accent. I’ve learned to a much deeper level that a foreign accent isn’t simply about pronouncing the letters right (which I’ve already had a pretty good command over), but so many other factors.

As I’ve already said, some non-Romance language speakers (like anglophones and those who speak other Germanic langauges as well as some Slavic ones for example) tend to focus too much on consonants, and this can leave certain vowels of words as not being said clearly. For example, the Portuguese word for “word” is palavra. In English, I don’t believe we usually say “ah” so often in non-stressed consonants (it depends on the dialect of course, this is the case in the Irish accent), so I tend to pronounce this as “puh-LAH-vreh” when speaking quickly. I would unfortunately also do the same in French, Spanish and Italian for example; this is a classic mistake that us English speakers make (as well as the other ones I mentioned in the above linked post, like our pronunciation of the letter R for example). With some help, I have been able to repeat certain phrases and can proudly say that under controlled conditions I can say a sentence so well that I’ve been told that it’s in a perfect Carioca accent!!

Unfortunately, “controlled conditions” means that I have to repeat that same phrase several times over and be very focussed and get corrected a lot until I say it right. I need to make this pronunciation come naturally, and this will be a big part of my challenge; deprogramming myself from 27 years of tossing unstressed vowels aside.

More discoveries

Other reasons I was told that I reached the perfect Carioca accent after lots of attempts at the same sentence include my work on rhythm. Sentence rhythm in Romance languages is extremely different to other European languages (depending on the particular language in question). I’ve been told that English and German speakers (the non-Latino gringos Brazilians would be most familiar with) have a very robotic way of speaking Portuguese, with a single sentence being segmented too much and not flowing like a wave. This is a crucial difference that I will come back to, to explain better – especially once I have learned to apply it better! :)

Finally, a language is not just the words you say, but how your body says them. Even saying that sentence perfectly would still seem unnatural if I had my hands on my lap as I said them. Speaking a language also involves adapting the body-language of native speakers; moving your hands and your head, and opening your mouth so you are saying things very clearly rather than mumbling them. My outward appearance and body language are just as crucial to speaking like a native as eliminating my accent is.

Less than two months left!

This isn’t actually a 3-month challenge since I’ll be going home for Christmas a week before the 3 months would be over. So the pressure is mounting! I need to get all the learning and theory and the bulk of practising done. The purpose of this next month will be exactly that; I want to learn all that I need to learn so that my final weeks are just for practising and ironing out the final issues until I (hopefully) reach my objective! I will continue to share my insights on this site along the way as always :D

The best part of doing this in Brazil first (before I try it with other languages), is that I am getting a huge amount of encouragement from Brazilians, as I had hoped. :D Not one has doubted that I will reach my objective! Even I have to admit that there is a good chance that this may be beyond my current capabilities, but I’m still presuming that I will succeed until proven wrong. No matter what, I will have learned so much in this time in Brazil about speaking like a native for any language, so it will be time well invested! And if I am even somewhat successful, I can take that confidence with me, that I will have entirely thanks to Brazilians being so nice with me, to a culture that will be much less encouraging and much more sceptical.

What about you? Do you think it can be done? Has anyone else reached a similar objective? Am I crazy to even try? Do share your thoughts in the comments and let us know you are out there :D

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  • Luciaa

    Vc vai conseguir carioca!
    Tu tem que aprender as gírias, demoro?
    Se vc for lá na comunidade que eu trabalho, escutando as crianças falando vc vai entender mais ainda, é uma experiência única!

    valeu, beijossss

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      e ai gata? Valeu – vou te acompanhar à comunidade depois viu!?
      Bjs

  • Luciaa

    Vc vai conseguir carioca!
    Tu tem que aprender as gírias, demoro?
    Se vc for lá na comunidade que eu trabalho, escutando as crianças falando vc vai entender mais ainda, é uma experiência única!

    valeu, beijossss

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      e ai gata? Valeu – vou te acompanhar à comunidade depois viu!?
      Bjs

  • http://italianstudent.wordpress.com/ jody

    ciao benny, questa idea e’ meravigliosa! you must already be fluent in portuguese? and i wonder how you don’t muddle up your italian, french, spanish and portuguese?! in bocca al lupo!!!
    .-= jody´s last blog ..Il Tedesco e gli Italiani in Germania =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Crepi!! I get asked that question a lot and will devote an entire post to it in November (you’ll notice I’ve slowed down in post frequency; still catching up on work!!)
      I’m already fluent in Portuguese, but despite the name of this site fluency is NOT the end goal and people should not stop their progress when they reach it. I am learning a lot of amazing things about the steps to take after fluency and I’ll share them in future posts!

  • http://italianstudent.wordpress.com jody

    ciao benny, questa idea e’ meravigliosa! you must already be fluent in portuguese? and i wonder how you don’t muddle up your italian, french, spanish and portuguese?! in bocca al lupo!!!
    .-= jody´s last blog ..Il Tedesco e gli Italiani in Germania =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Crepi!! I get asked that question a lot and will devote an entire post to it in November (you’ll notice I’ve slowed down in post frequency; still catching up on work!!)
      I’m already fluent in Portuguese, but despite the name of this site fluency is NOT the end goal and people should not stop their progress when they reach it. I am learning a lot of amazing things about the steps to take after fluency and I’ll share them in future posts!

  • Elthyra

    Bon je vais parler français cette fois :)
    Je pense que l’accent vient aussi beaucoup de la façon dont sont accentués les mots – par exemple mon accent français est très prononcé en anglais en partie parce que j’esaie de tout accentuer sur la dernière syllable, comme en français. Quant à ton objectif, personellement ça me semble possible~ Si tu es immergé dans la culture du pays, et que tu ne parles qu’avec des gens brésiliens, tu devrais assez vite adopter, au moins en partie, l’accent. Personnellement quand j’ai appris l’anglais je me conduisais de façon trèèèès asociale et introvertie, du coup en fin de compte j’ai assez peu parlé et je me retrouve toujours avec mon accent (oui, je raconte encore ma vie.)
    Bonne chance pour apprendre le portugais !

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      mdr, merci pour tes “biographies” :P :P et merci pour l’encouragement !!
      Je comprends le problème de se conduire de façon asociale et introvertie. J’étais comme ça à Paris… ça dépende de la culture aussi que l’apprenant. Les brésiliens sont tellement sympa que c’est presque impossible être asociale ici :) Ça m’aide beaucoup !!

  • Elthyra

    Bon je vais parler français cette fois :)
    Je pense que l’accent vient aussi beaucoup de la façon dont sont accentués les mots – par exemple mon accent français est très prononcé en anglais en partie parce que j’esaie de tout accentuer sur la dernière syllable, comme en français. Quant à ton objectif, personellement ça me semble possible~ Si tu es immergé dans la culture du pays, et que tu ne parles qu’avec des gens brésiliens, tu devrais assez vite adopter, au moins en partie, l’accent. Personnellement quand j’ai appris l’anglais je me conduisais de façon trèèèès asociale et introvertie, du coup en fin de compte j’ai assez peu parlé et je me retrouve toujours avec mon accent (oui, je raconte encore ma vie.)
    Bonne chance pour apprendre le portugais !

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      mdr, merci pour tes “biographies” :P :P et merci pour l’encouragement !!
      Je comprends le problème de se conduire de façon asociale et introvertie. J’étais comme ça à Paris… ça dépende de la culture aussi que l’apprenant. Les brésiliens sont tellement sympa que c’est presque impossible être asociale ici :) Ça m’aide beaucoup !!

  • Annette

    Hi Benny!

    I just discovered your blog and Youtube channel about a week ago and I have to say that I find you very inspiring. I am also very interested in learning languages and am currently working on Italian. I am cheering you on in your current mission to become Brazilian in three months and I look forward to all your great tips for learning languages.

    All the best :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      I’m so glad to see more people discovering my blog! I hope to read many comments from you in future Annette ;)
      Make sure to read through my recent posts for my best tips; I’ll of course be giving plenty of others, as well as describing each of my language and travel adventures too!

  • Annette

    Hi Benny!

    I just discovered your blog and Youtube channel about a week ago and I have to say that I find you very inspiring. I am also very interested in learning languages and am currently working on Italian. I am cheering you on in your current mission to become Brazilian in three months and I look forward to all your great tips for learning languages.

    All the best :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      I’m so glad to see more people discovering my blog! I hope to read many comments from you in future Annette ;)
      Make sure to read through my recent posts for my best tips; I’ll of course be giving plenty of others, as well as describing each of my language and travel adventures too!

  • danielpoole

    Hi Benny!
    Okay so I am in France on exchange (which means I’m living with a French family and going to lycée) and have 3 months left round abouts. I really want to achieve fluency in this time, I was wondering if you could please reply to this message and tell me how to go about this! I’ve already decided to speak no more English, and my French is about at conversational level and I am 16 if that means anything.

    Please help me out!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      I’ve discussed several of my learning methods on the site. If you are new here, please read the post summarising all the ideas I talked about during the summer and click the links to specific posts that may help you (memory techniques, improving your outlook etc.)
      Otherwise, you are doing well if you are not speaking any English, but what is most important at your stage now is getting feedback. Corrections aren’t so much fun in the early stages when we need confidence, but if you are already speaking, to be fluent and speak with much less mistakes you have to tell all your friends and the family you are staying with to help you speak better and tell you when you make mistakes. Luckily the French are generally very happy to do this and are proud of their language, and prefer for it to be spoken correctly. Good luck!!!

  • danielpoole

    Hi Benny!
    Okay so I am in France on exchange (which means I’m living with a French family and going to lycée) and have 3 months left round abouts. I really want to achieve fluency in this time, I was wondering if you could please reply to this message and tell me how to go about this! I’ve already decided to speak no more English, and my French is about at conversational level and I am 16 if that means anything.

    Please help me out!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      I’ve discussed several of my learning methods on the site. If you are new here, please read the post summarising all the ideas I talked about during the summer and click the links to specific posts that may help you (memory techniques, improving your outlook etc.)
      Otherwise, you are doing well if you are not speaking any English, but what is most important at your stage now is getting feedback. Corrections aren’t so much fun in the early stages when we need confidence, but if you are already speaking, to be fluent and speak with much less mistakes you have to tell all your friends and the family you are staying with to help you speak better and tell you when you make mistakes. Luckily the French are generally very happy to do this and are proud of their language, and prefer for it to be spoken correctly. Good luck!!!

  • Patk

    “What about you? Do you think it can be done? Has anyone else reached a similar objective? Am I crazy to even try?”

    On one hand, I think it is way too difficult. On the other hand, I did reach a similar objective without even trying. Despite not having spent any significant time in Italy, I see that people are constantly convinced that I am Italian. When I deny that, they conclude that I have Italian origins – which is not the case.

    The fact that I look like them is probably a decisive factor. Still I don’t think that I have the body language at all, and I don’t dress exactly like an Italian – but they might just think that I am kind of strange. After a few sentences I probably betray myself by making some mistake that shouts “foreigner” (or missing a well-known cultural reference) though.

  • Patk

    “What about you? Do you think it can be done? Has anyone else reached a similar objective? Am I crazy to even try?”

    On one hand, I think it is way too difficult. On the other hand, I did reach a similar objective without even trying. Despite not having spent any significant time in Italy, I see that people are constantly convinced that I am Italian. When I deny that, they conclude that I have Italian origins – which is not the case.

    The fact that I look like them is probably a decisive factor. Still I don’t think that I have the body language at all, and I don’t dress exactly like an Italian – but they might just think that I am kind of strange. After a few sentences I probably betray myself by making some mistake that shouts “foreigner” (or missing a well-known cultural reference) though.

  • maria_teresa_araya

    Hi Benny, I was born in Chile. When I was 5 years old my family and me had to go away because of coup d'état. We arrived in the Italian side of Switzerland. Until 8 years old I spoke Spanish, but after then I completely forgot it and never heard it. After 21 years I come back to Chile for a long holiday. I had to learn -or maybe remember- my own language and culture and way of thinking. I realised that this three things were deeply connected. I was really surprised when I realize that when walking in the street I was the only one who was asked to change dollars, even when I was not talking! How could they detect me? My aunt answered me: all about me was shouting “Gringa”: the way of walking, the shape of my glasses's frame ecc. After some time (no idea how many, maybe three months!) I noticed that nobody was anymore asking me for dollars. One day I was with a friend in the street and I said “Look at that gringo”, then I realized that I was perfectly able to detect them in the crowd! I was becoming Chilean again. I think you can do this, it's easier if you like the people, the culture and the society, you need to love them and accept them and they will change you enough for thinking you are native. Good luck with Brasilian and Brasilians!
    Now I'm a couchsurfer and speak Italian, Spanish, French, English (CAE) and a bit of German.
    Thanks for your blog!

  • http://www.dmitrymakarov.ru Dmitry Makarov

    I have a similar experience in learning Spanish, but it was like learn or you will die as nobody around me knew anything about my native language or English or French… So, I had no choice…