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This an update to Holly’s Portuguese in 3 Months mission.
How did I get on after one month of learning to speak Portuguese?
If you read my previous mission updates, you’ll remember that my mission is to reach a B1 level in Portuguese in three months. I aimed to do this by focusing on speaking and listening. I wanted to keep reading and writing to a minimum.
There were a couple of snags in my first month, including a week-long trip that slowed my progress. But I surprised myself by always getting right back to it. Having a goal and being kept accountable to it really do make a difference.
Let’s dig in and take a look at how I did over my first month.
“Forcing Functions” Made Sure I Got Speaking Practice
In my update about the first few days of my mission, I confessed that I didn’t practise any Portuguese with a native speaker in my first week. To avoid making this mistake again, at the beginning of my second week I bought a five-lesson package with Tatiana, my Portuguese teacher from italki.
Buying a package of lessons created what I call a “forcing function” – and it works really well for keeping motivated. For example, what’s the best way to make sure you’re motivated to clean your house? Invite friends over for dinner. Inviting friends is a “forcing function” for cleaning.
Likewise, buying a package of lessons was a forcing function to make sure I followed through on learning Portuguese. When you buy a package, you pay upfront for all lessons, so you have to follow through with the lessons or you lose your money.
If you’re struggling with motivation in your language learning, booking a package of lessons can quickly turn that around.
Portuguese Meetups Boosted my Confidence
After several lessons on Skype, I found a Portuguese Meetup group in my area. About three weeks in, I attended my first Meetup with the group at a local cafe. What a confidence booster! Everyone was so friendly and helpful. And they gave me all kinds of compliments on my language skills, even though I knew I still had a long way to go.
It felt amazing to sit in a group of people where they understood my caveman Portuguese and I could even understand a little of what they were saying!
I Ended Up Breaking my “No Reading or Writing” Rule. Here’s Why…
My original intention was to avoid reading and writing Portuguese except in a handful of circumstances (reading song lyrics, setting my phone to Portuguese, and using Duolingo). However, I discovered fairly quickly that purely verbal communication with my teacher on Skype was not going to be quite enough for me to learn the new words she was teaching me.
Sometimes I simply couldn’t hear the correct pronunciation, and I couldn’t tell if it was a bad connection, or just my ears. So for tough words, my teacher would type them out so I could get the correct pronunciation. Then I would try to remember the word by using it again in conversation with my teacher.
I learned that it’s okay to adjust your methods whenever you find that something isn’t working for you.
My “Un-Routine” Kept Me Motivated to Learn – Every Day
You might be surprised to hear that I didn’t actually have a real study routine for my Portuguese. I didn’t set aside a specific hour or two each day to study.
I knew that if I set aside study time, and something came up that cut into this, then I risked throwing away the entire study session because “what’s the point if I can’t follow through on my whole commitment?”
Instead, I sat down and studied (or put on some audio lessons or podcasts during a walk) whenever I wanted, for as long as I felt like it. Sometimes it was two hours, sometimes it was fifteen minutes. I didn’t stress over this too much. As long as I did something every day, I knew I was progressing, and it made me feel good.
Here are some snapshots of typical study days (I kept a journal of every study exercise I did for the whole three months):
- Day 5: 60XP in Duolingo; two lessons from PortuguesePod101. This was a typical light study day.
- Day 14: Five clips of Got Talent Portugal; one-hour lesson with my italki teacher; seven lessons from PortuguesePod101; memorized the song “Não Pare Pra Pensar” by Pato Fu, a Brazilian band. This was one of my most intensive study days of the month.
- Day 18: Two-hour meeting with the Portuguese Meetup group at a local coffee shop – my first time practising Brazilian Portuguese; two lessons from PortuguesePod101.
- Day 19: Three lessons from PortuguesePod101.
- Day 28: One-hour lesson with my Portuguese teacher; one PortuguesePod101 lesson; one episode of the European Portuguese podcast Private Joke, which is all about movies – and I love movies. I actively listened, but it was still very difficult to understand.
I managed to blast through dozens of PortuguesePod101 lessons in my first month. This is because I go for a lot of long walks with my dog, so it’s a perfect opportunity to put on some audio lessons.
One top of that, while I usually read in bed at night, I swapped my ebooks for my iPad and watched Got Talent Portugal most nights before bed.
So, PortuguesePod101 and “Got Talent Portugal* became the two staples of my study routine. Once I’d discovered this, I didn’t have to alter my daily schedule very much at all. I love the idea of fitting studying into daily activities that I would do anyway.
My Portuguese Mission After One Month: Video Update
I made another update video at the end of the month to show my progress in the language. (Full disclosure: I actually made the video a little closer to the six-week mark, a) because I missed over a week of study during my first month while I was on vacation, and b) because I had to cancel and reschedule the Skype chat I had planned for earlier).
This chat is with my good friend Nancy, who’s originally from Thailand but moved to Canada in 2002 (where she learned French), then later moved to Brazil (where she learned Portuguese) and now lives in Australia!
Click below to watch my one-month(-ish) update video. You’ll need to turn the sound up for this one; I made the rookie mistake of pointing my uni-directional mic in the wrong direction (!) so the sound is quite low. Be sure to activate the English subtitles to see the translation:
Nancy speaks Brazilian Portuguese, so I tried to speak in that dialect too. However, I still spoke with some obvious Euro-Portuguese tendencies. For example, when I asked “What are you doing these days?” I said “O que você está a fazer?” before I corrected it to “O que você está fazendo?” The first way is how it’s said in Portugal. I find the Portugal phrasing easier since you can just use the infinitive!
Despite the differences in our dialects, Nancy and I had very little trouble understanding each other. If you’re considering studying Portuguese and aren’t sure which dialect to choose, I personally don’t think there’s any problem with doing a little of each. However, when you’re speaking the language, it’s best to pick one for the duration of that conversation. You’ll sound a little funny and unnatural if you use both in the same conversation – as you can see from my video 🙂 .
Next up: Month Two
After a month of using nearly the same resources each day, I branched out a little more in month two and discovered many new interesting methods.
Check back soon to read about month two of my Portuguese mission, and to watch my two-month update video.
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.