Author Archives: Lisbet Beryl Weir

About Lisbet Beryl Weir

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Our newest, shiniest Portuguese lessons yet!

So, perhaps you managed to avoid all the hype about the exciting release of Pimsleur’s Third Edition of Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese 1, but it was pretty big news in my world – as I was the co-writer, and all!

Pimsleur Brazilian Portuguese Lessons 1, 3rd Edition CDWe made some really exciting changes to the course – let me share some with you:

We updated the vocabulary to reflect contemporary usage, teaching more of the informal /semi-formal você and spending less time on the more formal a senhora/o senhor, as well asreplacing the more old-fashioned esposo/esposa with marido/mulher. (To explain the latter, using esposo in a sentence would be like saying in English, “Hello, I would like you to meet my spouse.” It’s not wrong, but it doesn’t sound quite right, either.) We also added practice in dropping the pronoun when responding to a question, which will make you sound a good deal more like a native speaker, when you are out meeting people in Brazil. (And also, you’ll learn not to expect them to say the pronoun every time, because they most certainly won’t!) This really helps with acquiring the flow and rhythm of Brazilian Portuguese.

Go to the beach or the museum, but get out and enjoy the real Brazil!

We also increased vocabulary in these Brazilian Portuguese lessons, to include modern terminology, such as celular (cellphone), common stock phrases and idioms, localized vocabulary (beaches, museums), travel-pertinent vocabulary like mala (suitcase), and, because I think it’s really important, lots of Brazilian foods and beverages (such as caldo de cana – so that when you go to Brazil, you’re ready to get started trying local cuisine, and not being like the stereotypical Americans who want a burger and fries no matter where they go in the world. (The downside of this was that I spent the whole time writing the course suffering cravings for the foods being mentioned, because Brazilian food is so amazing.)

More changes to the third edition of Brazilian Portuguese include increased cueing in the target language (more practice in understanding); increased practice of numbers, pronouns, and challenging concepts, such as estar (“to be”) and ser (also “to be”) (if it’s hard for me, I assume the rest of you learners will also appreciate the extra help!); a great new booklet of Readings which are also expanded and updated to reflect the spelling changes from the Portuguese-Language Orthographic Agreement of 1990; and finally, just an overall better flow to the units, with a more consistent difficulty level. I personally think you’ll find these Portuguese lessons motivating and challenging enough.

A Pimsleur Secret: You can and should re-do units you find difficult!

A note about repeating units: they do explain in the preamble to the course that you CAN go back and redo a unit with which you had trouble. But I like to add, from my own experience of doing courses as a learner, that you really SHOULD. There is no shame in repeating a unit – some days you learn better / faster / more easily than others, and it could be any reason (from stress to lack of sleep, to allergies or coming down with a cold, to just having an “off” day). The rewards of going back and doing the unit again (giving yourself an overall “easy” half-hour of learning after being frustrated the day before, and using that extra “room” in your brain to really focus on the words / phrases / concepts you had the most trouble with) are greater than you would expect to come from “doing it over again.” There have been times when I have gotten most of the responses right, but just felt like they didn’t stick well enough with me, and then I have just done the unit again, to feel more like I “really got it.” It was always more than worth the time spent on it. (Just remember to only do one unit a day – don’t double up! You brain requires the rest-time, away from the new language, to process what you learned. This is one of the most vital parts of learning in a Pimsleur course!)

All that said (all those changes listed, that is!) there are people out there who will have concerns about the Brazilian Portuguese lessons. Say, for example, that you have the 2nd Edition, and you’re halfway done. Well, for all our hard work, the basic vocabulary (“I don’t understand Portuguese.” “But, yes, you do, and you speak it very well!”) is the same, and if you have a time-limitation you should be able to continue, without having to go back. (You should be able to pick up the new vocabulary words along the way.) However, if you have the time, I’d really suggest you go back and start from scratch, just because it will really help you have a solid grasp of the new vocabulary, and you’ll have the benefit of having the even better course gelling the concepts, strengthening what you have already learned. (And there might be some of you for whom the changes might be just a little too much, so then you really should go back and start over from the beginning.) I really think it will be enjoyable and you’ll realize you are learning more as you go!

Yes, you CAN go on to the next level of our Brazilian Portuguese Lessons!

Pimsleur Portuguese Lessons 1 MP3 courseFinally, another concern from the customers has been, “I have the new edition of Level One. Can I now go to Level Two? Will the new edition connect with the old?” I’m happy to say that, yes, you can and should totally go on to Level Two of our Brazilian Portuguese lessons. There will be a little overlap of vocabulary (although that’s not a bad refresher for you) so you may feel the first few units are unusually easy. There will also be a few instances of something like, say, “esposo” being used where you have now learned “marido.” Don’t get thrown for a loop – just respond with the word you learned, and on you go – there are still lots of great new words and aspects of Brazilian Portuguese to learn and explore.

From myself and the whole team who worked on Pimsleur’s Third Edition of Brazilian Portuguese, we really hope you have a wonderful time learning the language – and an even better time when you get to Brazil!

Want to learn to speak Portuguese? Why choose Pimsleur? (Part 1)

So you need to learn to speak Portuguese – for business or for pleasure. Perhaps you’re going to Portugal to meet some potential business partners?  Or maybe you’re going to Brazil – for Carnaval? For the World Cup or the Olympics?  For a vibrant, relaxing, and rejuvenating get-away?

Want to Learn to Speak Portuguese

Want to Learn to Speak Portuguese?

Once you’ve figured out which dialect of Portuguese is right for you to learn, the next big decision is which language course you’re to buy, which method of language learning you think might work best for you.

I’m not just a Pimsleur writer, but I’m also a customer

Now, obviously, this post is on a Pimsleur website, so you can probably guess which course I’m going to recommend. But in a “Remember, I’m not only the Hair Club President, but I’m also a client” kind of way, I’m not just a gal who wrote the new edition of the Brazilian Portuguese course, but I also really love Pimsleur and swear by its underlying methodology. If I were going to another country, there is no way I’d use anything but Pimsleur to get me ready to go there – because I don’t have time to waste on less-effective learning methods. (And I also don’t have an inexhaustible frustration level: learning a new language is hard work, so given my choice, I’ll always go for the easiest way to learn it.)

Most other language courses tend to be the “same old same old” as the type of language instruction you got in school – and you know how that worked! I never get over being excited about Pimsleur because Dr. Paul Pimsleur had such a good idea (one which, in retrospect, is pretty obvious, like so many great ideas), which other language courses just don’t touch:  the best way to learn a language is do it as babies learn their first language (or “milk language,” or “mother tongue”).

Learn a new language the way you learned your first language

And that way involves hearing it – and trying to reproduce the sounds and speak them back – and then feeling the immense satisfaction when you do. That last bit is really important – as part of every Pimsleur course (built in to every unit) is to get you, the “learner,” to feel satisfaction at your progress. We course writers want you to succeed, and we write the courses so that if you put in the effort, you will come away from that “half an hour a day” knowing you’ve made progress. Because frustration doesn’t help you learn – learning can (and should!) be fun.

Babies don’t learn by reading, nor by flashcards, or using software. They learn by hearing those around them talk, and trying to talk back to them, in turn. They make mistakes, and learn from the mistakes. But the main thing is, language-learning is aural/oral, and it’s not built around mindless repetition, but actively trying out words and putting together sentences – listening for replies as confirmation, and learning from them. And that’s how Pimsleur courses work. (Well, there’s a good deal more science to it than that, but it’s where each Pimsleur course starts.)

Spilling Pimsleur Secrets (How do they do it?!)

So, we’re back to you wanting to learn to speak Portuguese.  How does any of the above help you? Because the Pimsleur course is built, from the first unit, to make it as easy as possible for you to succeed – with pleasure – at learning Portuguese.  In Unit One you start by hearing a conversation which you can’t understand … and then, by the end of the unit, you hear it again, and can understand it – and respond!

But it doesn’t stop at just generally helping you to learn to speak Portuguese.  We Pimsleur course writers also know that becoming fluent in another language takes a while (each Pimsleur course takes a month to complete as a learner) and maybe you’ll only have time to do Level I before setting off for Brazil for the sun, food, and culture – or maybe your boss only gave you a month’s lead time before that business trip to Portugal.

So we pack each unit with important words for A.) travel, and appreciation of the country once you get there and B.) building a workable vocabulary so you can best continue learning while your boots are on the ground, and you’re surrounded by Portuguese speakers. (Because, of course, the best way to learn any language is to go to the country, surround yourself with people speaking that language, and just do your best every day to communicate with them. Pimsleur, for as wonderful as it is, comprises only the first steps to real fluency in a language. We give you the boot-straps, as it were, to pull yourself up to getting along in a foreign country in a foreign tongue.  Once you’re there, building a real fluency will happen as you talk to people, learn more vocabulary, and get a more in-depth feel for the rhythms of the language and the more subtle nuances that no language course or class can ever teach you.)

So there is no “La plume de ma tante” (nor “my hovercraft is full of eels”) in Pimsleur – you are taught words you need and can use, and while you are being given those useful vocabulary items, at the same time you are taught the rest of the parts of the sentence to put around them, so that you can talk about yourself, or another person, ask questions – or, if you make a mistake, you can explain and correct that, and learn from it.

The world opens up for you when you open your mind by learning a new language

So that’s why I don’t just work for Pimsleur, I’m a Pimsleur customer. I know that any language I want or need to learn, I can just grab a Pimsleur course, make room for half-an-hour in my day for the guided learning, and I will be able to go to any country – say, Brazil – and communicate with the native speakers of the language. (And, sadly, even if I only have one month to do Level One, they will be surprised and impressed, because, let’s face it, Americans don’t have a very good reputation around the world when it comes to showing up knowing the language.) And that’s why, if you want to learn to speak Portuguese, I would recommend that you, also, grab a Pimsleur course (whether it’s the brand new edition of the Brazilian Portuguese which I just worked on, or the excellent European Portuguese course) – because I can tell you that each course has been built with the express purpose of teaching you the vital language skills you need, in the least amount of time, with the least amount of frustration, so that you can be enjoying a trip to the beach in Portugal, or a museum in Brazil (or watching soccer in either place!) and enjoying new cultures, new friends, and the way the world opens up for you when you open your mind by learning a new language.

So, you want to learn to speak Portuguese?

Well, the first question after that is WHICH Portuguese?  Because you have a choice of the Portuguese they speak in Brazil – and the Portuguese they speak in Portugal (which is from where the language first started).

The reason for this, if you don’t already know, is that back in the age of “Europe exploring the world, and colonizing the landmasses it found,” Portugal was one of the important players of the game. Brazil became a Portuguese colony (and in that way, became the Brazil we know today) on the 22nd of April, 1500. As with Christopher Columbus thinking he’d gotten to India and calling the American Natives “Indians,” the 2nd Portuguese India Armada was headed to India – and landed in Brazil by accident.

so you want to learn to speak Portuguese?

Which Portuguese dialect should you learn?

The Portuguese knew a good thing when they found it, however, and turned that accident into a very lucrative colonization. Brazil was their colony until the 7th of September, 1822, which is now celebrated as Brazil’s Independence Day. (This is skipping a huge amount of fascinating history, of course.)

Which Portuguese Dialect Should You Learn?

All of which leads to – you want to learn to speak Portuguese, but which Portuguese language do you want to learn? Portuguese is spoken in Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Macau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe. The largest of those countries is Brazil, and their form of Portuguese is now going back to Portugal and influencing the language in the home of their former colonists, through Brazil’s catchy music and addictive soap operas.

The Portuguese spoken in Brazil versus the Portuguese spoken in Portugal can be compared to the differences between American and British English: i.e., some differences in vocabulary and grammar, but the phonology and prosody are much more different from each other (even more than the Parisian and Québécois varieties of French).

So, it does matter which Portuguese-speaking country you are going to when you decide you want to learn the language!

Learn to Speak Portuguese with Pimsleur

The reason this is very much on my mind is that I’m the co-writer of the newest version of Pimsleur’s Brazilian Portuguese I (the 3rd Edition!). I’ve had to do all this research in the course of working on the program. I would say that I was happy to get the Brazilian form of the language – because who doesn’t like long walks on perfect beaches, watching sunsets on those beaches with a caipirinha (Brazil’s national cocktail) in hand, and of course, partying the hot Rio nights away during Carnaval! (This is not to neglect their world-class museums, of course, and many people think “Brazil” and then think “football” – or soccer! – as their very next thought.)

Sadly, Pimsleur does not see the necessity of sending their course writers to the countries speaking the languages of the courses upon which they are working! (An obvious oversight, from my humble point of view!) So I have yet to experience that caipirinha on the beach, or dancing in the streets wearing little more than some well-placed sequins. But during the writing of the course, I have developed a true love of, and appreciation for, Brazilian Portuguese. (Of course, as a writer of the course, I don’t really learn to speak Portuguese the way a course learner does! I would have to go back and do the course “as a learner” to really learn the language through the Pimsleur Method. You would think a bonus of the job was learning all these wonderful languages, but instead, us writers often get left remembering only favorite phrases after we move on to writing the next course!)

I jokingly tell friends that it is the “language of cats” because, mostly, of the word for “no” – which is “não” – and which is pronounced very much like the “meow” my family’s cat speaks with some regularity. Unfortunately, learning Portuguese while writing the course has not let me in on the secret communications of felines, but I do wonder if cats don’t understand Portuguese speakers better than they do English speakers. (Not that they won’t ignore either, if the mood suits them.)

But, seriously, Brazilian Portuguese has a flow and a music to it which is a pleasure to hear. It is no wonder that Brazilians create such excellent music, because they are halfway to singing already in just their regular chit-chat. And there is another reason to learn to speak Portuguese!

My Favorite Portuguese Words from the Pimsleur Course

Two of my favorite words from the course include the “-zinho” diminutive ending. The cafezinho is the traditional Brazilian cup of coffee, like the Italian espresso. It literally means “a little coffee”, and it is a small, sweet, and intense shot of caffeine. It used to be offered to guests, at business meetings, and at regular intervals throughout the day. Sadly, the proliferation of the Italian-style cafés have endangered this indigenous tradition, and in the bigger cities of Brazil you have to specifically ask to get the traditional cafezinho. Still, I think it is worth trying, if you are visiting Brazil.

Not unrelated is tchauzinho, which literally means “little goodbye.” It’s a casual, “Bye!” or “Laters!” sort of leave-taking. But I think it is a good word to sort of sum up Brazilian Portuguese, which is a friendly language, and the exuberance of the culture is expressed by all the words which are so much fun to say. It’s a pleasure to listen to – and a pleasure to speak.

So, if you are going to Brazil, make sure to get a Brazilian Portuguese course, so that you learn to speak the right sort of Portuguese. However, if you are going to Portugal, Pimsleur also offers a European Portuguese course. I haven’t worked on that one, myself, but I hear from my co-workers that it’s excellent.

Either way, I hope you have fun as you learn to speak Portuguese!