I’m learning my fifth language, and I decided to document every minute of it. In this post, I describe what I did every day to learn Brazilian Portuguese (← I’m going to say only “Brazilian” instead of “Brazilian Portuguese” from now on).
Disclaimer: I’m French, and I also speak Spanish and Italian. So I expected Brazilian to be easy for me. I also kind of started learning Brazilian Portuguese twice before. I spent one week on Duolingo in June 2016, and spent some time watching Masterchef Brasil in March-April 2017. But I don’t remember anything.
While I clearly had favorable conditions to learn Brazilian, I believe my experience and results can be replicated by anyone. That’s why I’ve been documenting everything.
My approach puts a heavy emphasis on audio. For me, written words are only crutches. For example, they can help to understand the audio when it’s going too fast for you to get the meaning. But they shouldn’t be the main vehicle to learn a language. I learn languages to connect with people and discover foreign cultures. My end goal is to be able to communicate and to understand what is being said. That’s why the core of my method is raw native audio.
For this experiment, my goal is to be able to understand ~75% of Dani Russo’s videos. She’s a Brazilian YouTuber that I found a few months ago. I hope to get there after a few weeks.
For this first week, I won’t spend more than a few hours a day on learning Brazilian. I want to grab the most basic principles of the language, and start building my ear. And then, no more than 1-2 hours a day in the following weeks. I see language learning as working out. You need short intense learning sessions, followed by rest and recovery. I believe you can become good at any language after just seven days of intense full immersion. But my goal is more long-term oriented. I want to set up a sustainable system to learn and maintain my Brazilian at a decent level, without killing myself or spending hours and hours on it each day. I’d rather do 50 push-ups a day every day of the week, than 1000 push-ups in one day once a month or once a week.
That’s my approach and my philosophy regarding language learning. And that’s why you’re going to see several short sessions focused mostly on audio.
I added the links of all the resources I’ve been using at the end of each day.
Day 1 – 10/23/17
23 min – Reading Wikipedia page Portuguese phonology. There’s nothing new regarding the consonants, since I can speak French, Spanish and Italian. I have to pay attention to /ʎ/ though. It’s present in Italian but I’m not sure I really make this sound when I speak or sing.
Then vowels. Some are new to me. I’m used to nasal vowels since I’m French. However, Brazilian Portuguese has some novelties I’m not used to. I already have the mechanism in place to make this kind of sounds, so it shouldn’t be a problem for the pronunciation. But I don’t know about hearing them, recognizing them. It might be challenging. We’ll see how it goes.
36 min – Listening “How far I’ll go” from the movie Moana/Vaiana, then singing along. I also stopped the song several times to repeat. I recorded myself to check my pronunciation.”Nenhuma” is a challenging word to pronounce.
11 min – More “How far I’ll go” (or “Saber quem sou”). Same with “Colours of the wind” (“Cores do vento”) from Pocahontas.
4 min – Same with “A whole new world” from Aladdin.
7 min – Listening (and following with the lyrics) “How far I’ll go” in speed x1.25, x1.5 and x2. I also listened to the song without reading the lyrics in speed x1.5 to train my ear and see if I could understand. It was ok.
25 min – Watched, paused and repeated some videos by Easy Languages with basic vocabulary and sentences. Easy Languages is a YouTube channel for people learning languages. Each video is a street interview of native speakers, with subtitles in English and your target language.
10 min – Listened to “A melhor do baile”, by Dani Russo.
10 min – “Batendo palma” & “Solo seduzente”, by Dani Russo.
20 min – Watched some videos of Damon and Jo in Brazilian with English subtitles. Damon and Jo are two travel YouTubers. They speak different languages and share their tips. Jo is Brazilian, and Damon is an American learning Brazilian.
Day 2 – 10/24/17
9 min – Read some more about the pronunciation and the different Brazilian sounds.
41 min – Disney songs. Listening (normal speed) & reading the lyrics.
15 min – Watching Damon and Jo with English subtitles.
10 min – Brazilian idioms with Damon and Jo (with English subtitles).
23 min – “Livre estou” (“Let it go”) from Frozen. Listening with and without subtitles and translation. Then same with speed x1.25 and x1.5.
15 min – More Damon and Jo with English subtitles.
8 min – Read some articles about the most common mistakes Portuguese learners make. I also read about the most common mistakes Brazilians make when speaking English. It can give you some key structures about their mother tongue. Honestly, I didn’t really pay attention though. I have a short attention span, and reading this kind of thing bores me really quick. The only thing I found interesting is this: a gente vs. o pessoal. It’s a common mistake because “a gente” means “the people”, but Brazilians use it to say “we”. And they use “o pessoal” to say “they”, like “everyone else”.
Forvo, the largest pronunciation guide in the world, with millions of words pronounced in their original languages by real human beings
Day 3 – 10/25/17
20 min – One video of Damon and Jo, and then looking for Brazilian rap. I went to lyricstranslate. There you can look for songs by language and by genre. Some of them even have translations.
15 min – Listening to “Rap lord” by Haikaiss, with lyrics.
50 min – More Damon and Jo.
Lyrics translate, tons of lyrics in different languages with translations –
NB: When you can’t find lyrics and/or translations of your favorite songs on lyrics translate, try musixmatch.
Day 4 – 10/26/17
20 min – Damon and Jo.
34 min – Workout with “Saber quem sou” and “Livre estou”. I listened to the song without lyrics. Then read the lyrics and the translation. I listened to the song one more time to see if I could understand everything. And finally, I listened to the song with speed x1.25 and x1.5.
21 min – Looking for Brazilian rap. Found a couple songs by Emicida. Also used forvo to check the pronunciation of a few words.
7 min – Damon and Jo.
Day 5 – 10/27/17
23 min – Workout with first verse of “Rap Lord”. Listened with lyrics, then read lyrics with translation, and listened several times without lyrics. This song is very challenging! (11 min). Then review of “Saber quem sou”. Once normal speed, then once speed x2. (4 min). Same with “Livre estou”. (8 min)
8 min – Started listening to “Boa esperança” by Emicida, with lyrics and translation.
15 min – More Damon and Jo. Some conjugation (conditional?!) with Damon studying.
20 min – More Damon and Jo.
Day 6 – 10/28/17
24 min – Reviewing “Rap Lord” + 2nd verse. The 2nd verse is way too fast for me to follow without lyrics.
10 min – Reviewing and working on 1st verse of “Boa esperança”.
18 min – Damon and Jo, with and without Spanish subtitles (only some videos had subtitles).
38 min – Damon and Jo, without subtitles.
Day 7 – 10/29/17
40 min – Damon and Jo, with and without subtitles.
28 min – Review of “Saber quem sou” with speed x2 (1 min) and “Livre estou” with speed x2 (2 min). Review of “Rap lord”, and going further (third & fourth parts) (25 min).
17 min – Damon and Jo with and without English subtitles.
10 min – Review of “Boa esperança” + working on the first half of the main verse.
20 min – Workout with “A melhor do baile” (4 min), “Batendo palma” (10 min), “Solo seduzente” (6 min). For each song:
- First reading the lyrics and translations.
- Then listening to the song with the lyrics several times.
- And finally listening to the song without lyrics several times.
15 min – Damon and Jo with English subtitles.
10 min – More Damon and Jo with English subtitles.
There’s another exercise I’ve been doing everyday. I call it freestyle. I’m writing and saying a few lines. Just to practice and have personal output. Nothing fancy, I don’t even care if it’s correct. I’m just playing with the words I know, and coming up with rhymes. I didn’t mention it before because…honestly…I forgot. And also because it only took me a couple of minutes a day.
Here’s how much I time I’ve spent learning Brazilian so far:
Day 1: 2h26
Day 2: 2h01
Day 3: 1h25
Day 4: 1h22
Day 5: 1h06
Day 6: 1h30
Day 7: 2h20
Total for this first week: 12h10, or ~1h45/day.
On day 7, I watched a video made by Dani Russo. I could understand approximately 50%.
I’ll spend less time in week 2. Again, my goal is not to master completely the language. I haven’t even mastered French, my mother tongue (don’t ask me about French subjunctive and how to use it). My goal is to get to a decent level, that enables me to understand and communicate with people.
Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions, let me know in the comment section. I also created a page where I describe my method, and another one where I describe different language workouts.