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?
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.