Learn Brazilian Portuguese with Songs – Video 1

I am thrilled to post the first video of the new series Learn Brazilian Portuguese with Songs in collaboration with Susanna Zaraysky, author of the book Language is Music.

Below the video is the transcript of our interview. Enjoy!


Susanna: Oi! My name is Susanna Zaraysky and I’m the author of the book, Language is Music. My speciality is in learning and teaching foreign languages using songs, TV, radio, music and other media. I speak seven languages. I am here to help you learn Portuguese with Brazilian songs.

Luciana: Oi, tudo bem? I am Luciana from Street Smart Brazil and I’m co-author of the book 51 Portuguese Idioms – Speak Like a Brazilian. As Susanna mentioned, we are going to create a series of videos to teach you Portuguese using Brazilian songs. For those of you who speak Spanish, we are going to contrast Portuguese and Spanish. The challenge for Spanish speakers who are learning Portuguese is to separate the languages because they are similar and yet very different. Beleza?

Susanna: Luciana, I am like many of your students. I spoke Spanish before learning Portuguese and I had to learn, and am still noticing, the differences between Spanish and Portuguese sentence structure. I don’t want to speak Portuñol. I want to speak pure Portuguese!

Luciana: And you will. Susanna, at Street Smart Brazil, songs are an integral part of our class material. Could you tell us how songs can help our students learn vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar?

Susanna: It’s very simple. Music engages more parts of your brain than language does. Additionally, each language is like it’s own radio station, it has a range of frequencies of sounds. (Susanna shows on mini piano the range of notes.) You have to listen to your new language like you would new music to learn the sounds that exist in that language. For example, Portuguese has many nasal vowels (Luciana: for example, não, são, mão, avião) and those sounds don’t exist in English and Spanish. In order to pronounce these sounds, you first have to listen to Portuguese for your brain to get used to the new sounds before you try to pronounce them. Music is a fun and highly effective way for your brain to assimilate the sounds of Portuguese. Luciana, do you remember nursery rhymes and childrens songs from when you were a kid in Brazil?

L: Yes, of course.

S: Do you remember what you wrote on your shopping list last week?

L: No, I don’t think so.

S: See, music sticks in your brain better than language does. So if you remember information in a song and the grammatical patterns in a Portuguese language song, you’re more likely to remember words and how to form the sentences in Portuguese than by just reading a grammar book.

L: Songs are even used in speech therapy, right?

S: Right. Recently in the US, we witnessed the remarkable story of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head with a bullet and suffered massive brain damage. She is going through music therapy to regain her speech. “When the music fades away, the words stay”. After listening to songs, Representative Giffords remembers the words from songs that she previously could not say. The music activates her memory of the words and ability to pronounce them. Music is literally helping to rewire her brain so that she can restore the language areas of the brain that were damaged by the bullet.

L: Great. We are going to use Brazilian songs to teach you Portuguese. Stay tuned!


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