This is a follow up to my last post The Story of My Portuguese Fluency .
I’m often asked, “If I had to start over from scratch and learn Portuguese fluently again, what would I do differently?”
And of course, why?
My response is usually ask how much time they have as it could take me a long time to go over the laundry-list of mistakes made during my Portuguese learning process and that I will also be working on fluency, though let me go over what I believe to be the biggest (and most embarrassing) things I should have done differently:
I Should Have Been a Pro-active Learner…
Going out and looking for numerous Portuguese resources to learn to speak Portuguese fluently was a pro-active mind set.
Letting them sit and collect dust and learning in the beginning by hanging out with Brazilians and TV was reactive.
Truth be told, I invested in too many different types of “surface-level” Portuguese courses and it would have been wise of me to spend more time using some of them and the grammar books (no other alternatives).
The consequence of that action was that there were gaping holes in my Portuguese – yeah I could speak and understand fluently but figure out how to differentiate between many simple (and correctable) errors was pretty difficult.
This was a very defensive way of learning, whereby my circumstances were in control of me.
The best thing I could have done was to be on the offense and pro-active in my Portuguese learning, by choosing some method and sticking with it while hanging out with my community of Brazilian friends.
I Should Have Been More Confident in Myself
Here are some instances of thoughts running through my mind during the beginning of my Portuguese journey; I should have been more confident in my speaking abilities:
- “I don’t think I can understand what they are saying anyways”
- “I just can’t figure out how to say X”
- “It’s embarrassing when I make mistakes…”
- “I can’t remember the word for X”
- “Well, they always switch to English anyways…”
And the list goes on… (like the last one?)
This blatant lack of self confidence delayed my ability to speak Portuguese, it kept me from diving 100% in and “swimming” (facepalm).
This “swimming” in the language is that continuos forward determination obliterating any barrier that stands before it.
Think about it, when we learn to swim it’s quite a scene… we generally flap our hands and arms around making so much commotion in the water that it’s molecules keep us afloat for a little while – you know, like letting the air out of a balloon and watching it twirl around the room while making funny noises?
Though fortunately, we usually get over that initial “doggy paddle” slump at warp speeds to avoid being made fun of longer and can start looking and being like a swimmer (it’s amazing how fast we adapt to our surroundings when we allow ourselves).
The same goes for Portuguese, the more we dive in and make them laugh a bit in the beginning, the faster we will speak proficiently – don’t worry, the Brazilians are laughing with you 😉
This scaredy cat nonsense delayed my speaking abilities from flowing and when my mind was up to give it everything 100% and dive in, here’s what happened:
- My learning rate increased amazingly
- I was fluent within 6 months (in the USA)
- It felt like a natural learning process
- I became a part of the Brazilian community (one of them – think about the open doors in Brazil!)
Nowadays, I try to instill confidence in everything while realizing that tripping and falling is a natural part of the process; it’s a matter of time before it happens, so why delay it? .
I should Have Found a Community Faster
It took me almost 3 months to put 2 + 2 together and realize that I needed to be part of a community to open the Portuguese fluency doors.
When I would sit at home watching my “ahem” Brazilian soap operas and trying to look through the different resources laying around, it was tough to find that pro-active motivation and know where to start.
Though, once I started making friends within the community and began being part of it, my breakthrough happened.
Because by having people you are personally connected with, it all of the sudden becomes a pro-active commitment to them rather than some Portuguese course.
Your motivation changes and the focus shifts from being about you learning Portuguese to making sure your friendship thrives. There were days where I woke up and had no desire to study Portuguese, but I had Brazilian friends that couldn’t be let down and needed to learn how to communicate better with them.
It’s the old accountability scenario: alone we are weak, together we are strong!
I Should Have Stuck With 1 Course
When making that decision to put my money where my mouth is and learn Portuguese, I went a bit crazy and got a bit impulsive…
I purchased the following learning materials:
- Admission to Portuguese classes at a local language institute.
- A GIANT book on grammar rules.
- A thin book on grammar rules (from Portugal).
- Pimsluer cd’s
- Rosetta Stone’s course.
- Music CD’s
- And any book in the bookstore bargain bin about Portuguese (had a nice 99c collection going!).
It was very pro-active of me to invest in all that material though unfortunately not a very well thought out way to do it!
To my defense, none of those above resources guaranteed (or do to this day) fluency in any way, so it was hard to know which way to go too.
The truth is that buying so many different materials was a huge roadblock to my fluency as 1 method focused on fluency would have been perfect 😉
The more I became fluent the more it was apparent that these resources are really academic and not so “real world” relevant – I didn’t want to sit on a school bench, I wanted to be out in the world using Portuguese.
I Should Have Made This Video Sooner!
I’ve been fluent in Portuguese for around 8 years now and to this day am metaphorically kicking myself for not allowing others to join me in my learning journey.
During this journey, there has been 1 thing that has stood out above other’s: no-one out there is addressing the pains, frustrations and realities of what it takes to learn Portuguese fluently.
They give you a soccer ball and tell you to just go and kick it…
Let me show you what I mean:
(Watch on YouTube)
So the takeaway here is that as you learn Portuguese, you can either close your eyes and shoot randomly in the dark or you can walk together with a friend who will willingly show you what worked for him to hit the mark.
Consider finding someone who will happily show you the way and let me know if I can help you too.
Yeah, there are many things I regret not doing in my Portuguese fluency journey, so I’m really looking forward to helping you succeed in yours.
To your success!