Monday, May 20, 2013

Learning Portuguese

Vincent Bevins links to video statements by John Kerry and Brazil's Foreign Minister Antonio Patriotra. His English is incredible.

So here's the problem. The U.S. government talks all the time about how important Brazil is. Huge economy, tons of potential. But almost nobody speaks Portuguese.

Closer to home, we have a problem--one I have heard echoed elsewhere--convincing the university that Portuguese matters. In part I suppose because it doesn't come up in immigration discussions. But people, we need our students to learn Portuguese! This would open up all kinds of opportunities for them, but we struggle to offer more than the bare basics.

At a time when Humanities is getting a bum rap, we should also emphasize the economic development benefits of foreign languages. It's not just reading books, but it is learning a culture you can navigate in a way that others cannot.

And to my students, go find a language to double major in.


Lillie Langtry 11:21 AM  

I highly recommend the resources from the university of Texas, all free online and specifically for native English speakers who already speak Spanish and are moving on to Portuguese.

Randy Paul,  4:18 PM  

What Lillie said. They have a great course for Spanish speakers called Com Licença.

I speak, read and write it fluently, but learned largely on my own through immersion and marriage to my Brazilian wife, in addition to trips to Brazil where I had no choice but to speak Portuguese to in-laws who spoke no English. Having some grounding in Spanish helped, but now my Portuguese is much better than my Spanish. I even dream and think in Portuguese.

It's interesting to note that Portuguese speakers who cannot speak Spanish have little difficulty understanding Spanish, but the opposite does not hold true. My wife will watch Brazilian telenovelas on Telemundo and Univision and has no problem understanding things, but when we have gone to Spain and Spanish speaking Latin America, I have to do most of the speaking.

I have been told that this is because every phoneme that exists in Spanish also exists in Portuguese, but Portuguese has several phonemes that do not exist in Spanish.

Interesting factoid: more people speak Portuguese as a first language than speak French as a first language.

We went to Portugal and the difference between Continental Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese was very dramatic.

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