As you certainly know, getting to speak a foreign language fluently takes significant hard work and practice. And it takes time, which requires perseverance and consistency. Nevertheless, there are language learning hacks to help you on your journey. Below are 4 of these hacks.
I would love to know what has been helpful to you in your Portuguese-speaking journey. Please share in the comments. I am sure that others will benefit from your experience.
1. Five words at a time (maybe even less)
When we are beginning to learn a new language, trying to understand everything at a go and getting to learn a lot of words abruptly can be overwhelming.
In addition, at any stage in the learning process, we learn new words and then forget them because we haven’t heard or used the words enough in context.
To get around this challenge, I suggest you select a few words to master and then spend a few days using those words in different contexts. This will help you take ownership of the words, which is how you make them available to you (= you remember them) when you need them.
This is a great way to learn idiomatic expressions. Choose a new expression and spend a few days befriending it. Use it throughout your day even if you are talking to yourself, your pets or your plants. Say it out loud. That matters.
2. Speak the language
To learn how to cook, you need to cook. To learn how to ride a bike, you need to ride a bike. To learn how to write, you need to write.
To learn how to speak a new language, you need to speak it.
Reading, studying grammar, and watching videos are all important parts of the learning process, but nothing can replace real speaking practice to take your speaking to the next level.
When you practice with native speakers, you also get to improve your everyday vocabulary, your listening skills, and your pronunciation, and you learn to sound more natural speaking the language.
I encourage you to always speak the language even if you feel that you are not ready to do so.
We can help with that. We offer Portuguese lessons via video meetings so you can learn at your pace and learn what you want in a safe and productive environment.
3. Listen and listen again
Part of your language learning strategy should involve paying attention to the intonation and rhythm of words. Watch Brazilian movies, watch Brazilian news, listen to podcasts in Portuguese.
Go beyond getting the main point of what you hear. Make listening an active learning practice by paying attention to the pacing, rhythm, and pronunciation of words. Observe how words are put together. Listen more than once and, just like with a song, you will get a little more each time. Choose a few words or sentences and repeat them out loud trying to imitate the speaker.
A while ago I sent a newsletter with a list of Brazilian podcasts. I will update that list and make it into a blog post. Follow the blog and stay tuned 😉 There is a button on the right-hand side to sign up and receive new blog posts via email.
I wrote about this in a recent newsletter and a reader shared their experience with active listening, which I am sharing here with their consent to inspire you:
I have been learning Portuguese for a while, only because I traveled to Brazil many times for the carnaval. My spoken Portuguese remained basic and without rhythm, listening and understanding was so-so, reading was ok, writing not good. But then, I got TV Globo on my tv at home and started watching the novelas – amazing. At first I understood very little but the stories seemed so interesting and the people so beautiful, that I kept at it. Before long I was understanding more and more till I eventually could, except for the rare word here and there, understand everything. I have Brazilian friends so I practiced speaking with them. I remember doing as you suggest – picking phrases or words that sounded cool/used a lot, and saying it over and over with the correct intonation/inflection till my “accent” became quite good.
4. Make dictionaries your friend
Being able to use words correctly in a foreign language takes more than simply translating the word. Although obtaining words for physical objects can be straightforward, translating concepts can be harder.
There are great online dictionaries that will not only tell you what the word means but will also show the word in a sentence in different contexts and with different meanings.
I greatly encourage you to use a Portuguese-Portuguese dictionary too, and not only a bilingual dictionary.
I have written about my favorite online dictionaries to learn Portuguese.
Which of these tricks have you used to learn Portuguese? What else has helped you along the way? I would love to hear from you.
Now, if procrastination is your challenge, check out my tips to beat procrastination and improve language learning.