When I’m learning a new language, I like to keep it simple at the beginning. And Disney songs are the perfect resources to get started. You probably know the rhythm and the tune. It’s made for kids, so the vocabulary and sentence structures are rather simple.
For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years, Frozen is a Disney/Pixar animated movie released in 2013. “Let it go” is the main song of the movie. Elsa (the main character) expresses her frustration and unleashes her powers. The song was very popular, and you can find a lot of parodies and remixes on YouTube. Saara Aalto, a Finnish singer, even made a cover in 15 languages.
In this post, I’ll show you simple words and basic grammar rules in Brazilian Portuguese. All of these examples are from the Brazilian version of “Let it go”, called “Livre estou” (= free I am).
It’s important to keep it simple when you start learning a foreign language. There’s no need to learn something like “the red roses of my delicious garden keep blossoming in pumpkins each winter, season after season”! Keep it simple and focus on words you already use on a daily basis in your mother tongue.
The first thing you can notice is masculine vs feminine. In Portuguese, all nouns have a gender:
Um reino de isolamento e a rainha está aqui = A kingdom of isolation and the queen is here
um = a (for masculine nouns) // For feminine nouns: uma
de = of
e = and
a = the (for feminine nouns) // For masculine nouns: o
está aqui = is here / it’s here
Não podem vir, não podem ver = They can’t come, they can’t see
This looks like a simple sentence, but you can actually learn a lot from it.
First, let’s take a look at podem (= they can). Two things here: Verbs have different forms depending on the subject (e.g., later on in the song: posso = I can). And the subject doesn’t appear. Here “they” is omitted in Portuguese.
Then we have a negation with não. If you compare with other negations in the song, you’ll see that não always appear and doesn’t change. So you can deduce that negation is represented by a simple word, added before the verb, and doesn’t alter the latter. So they can’t = não podem.
Sempre a boa menina deve ser = Always a good girl you must be
Again, there’s no subject in Portuguese: you doesn’t appear. But beware! It doesn’t mean that there’s no subject in Portuguese. The only thing we can conclude so far is that it doesn’t seem important to use them. But we can’t say anything about their existence…
Pay attention to the construction deve ser (= (you) must be). Just like in English, and just like can before, the second verb comes directly after deve (or posso, or podem). More on that later on.
Mas agora vão = But now they will
Here we have two frequent words: mas = but, and agora = now.
You can also notice vão for “they will”. Does it mean Portuguese has a verb to express the future tense, just like English? Who knows…
That’s why I like to say “be the detective”. You can learn a lot with just one song. But you’re also going to have a lot of questions. And that’s okay. Don’t expect to find the answers right now. Or don’t draw conclusions too fast. Take time to tame the song. Take time to learn more with other songs. You will find answers to your questions, little by little.
Não posso mais = I can’t anymore
As I said before, posso = I can. Again, no subject. Again, negation = não, and the verb posso doesn’t change. We see here mais, to express “anymore”. This word means “more”, but combined with não, you get “not anymore”: não…mais = not…anymore.
Will & other modal verbs
vão falar = they’re going to say/speak
o frio não vai = the cold won’t
vou testar = I will test
Vão, vai and vou are all forms of the same verb, used here to express the future tense. This is actually the verb “to go”. And it’s used here as “going to”.
I’ve been insisting on these verbs (posso, vão, deve) because they are powerful tools. Pay very close attention each time you meet the translations of can, will, must, need to, should, have to, … Can, will, must & should are called modal verbs. And they are used in Brazilian the same we use them in English. You just pust the verb in its most basic form (infinitive) right after the modal verb. The beauty of this, and why I’m saying these are powerful tools, lies in the fact that you only need to know the conjugation of these modal verbs to then be able to use any other verb (as long as you know their infinitive forms). And that’s really important when you start learning a foreign language. Focus on the most useful structures when you get started.
Finally, two more things about these sentences: o frio = the cold, you get here an example of the masculine “the”. And you also have a cognate with testar = to test. Cognates are words that look alike in different languages. So they’re very easy to remember. That’s why it’s interesting to spot them.
Maybe you hate “let it go”. You heard it over and over again. And you just can’t take it anymore. I get it. But maybe you like other Disney songs. Maybe you like this approach and you want to try it out with other songs. But how do you find them?
Simple. Go to YouTube, and type “disney [your target language] sub trans”, and you’ll get tons of songs in your target languages with double subtitles (lyrics in your target language and the English translation). If you want a specific song, just type “[English name of the song] [your target language] sub trans”. For example: “a whole new world russian sub trans”.
Sometimes you’ll find the song you want but there won’t be any subtitles. For example, if you type “a whole new world farsi sub trans”, you can find the Persian version, but no subtitles. No worries. Just go to Lyrics translate. It’s a website with tons of lyrics and their translations. They don’t have everything, but you’ll sure find something you like. And if you’re still unlucky, try Musixmatch.
Going deeper & doing it yourself
You can learn much more from this song. What we just saw here, is only the tip of the iceberg. I just talked about the most basic things to get you started and show you how I proceed. Pay attention, be the detective & repeat.
Drill, baby, drill!
The next step is to drill the audio in your brain. Once you get the meaning, stop focusing on the written lyrics. You want to drill the audio version of what you’re learning in your brain. Make the words come alive. Let the melody sink in. I recommend an interval training workout for that.
Thank you for reading. If you have any question, let me know in the comment section.