Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Language

As a native English speaker, learning Portuguese is not easy. One thing we hear from the locals a lot is how easy English is to learn. We had never thought of it that way, of course, but they’re right. Here’s a quick comparison of English to Portuguese:

* Portuguese has masculine and feminine nouns
* There are 5 possible accents (instead of none)
* There are also 5 possible verb conjugations (instead of 2)
* There are both formal and informal means of address

Here’s an example of the variety using the simple sentence, the white dog is old, o branco cão é velho. But if it is a female dog, a branca cadela é velha. And if it is multiple white dogs that are old, os brancos caês são velhos. Lastly, multiple white female dogs that are old, as brancas cadelas são velhas. Now you can begin to see why my brain hurts after class.

Multiply this by all of the nouns we’re learning and it gets confusing. Plus you have to change the adjectives depending on if your noun is masculine or feminine. Then throw in the various verbs, present and past and future tense, unusual pronunciations, and it isn’t easy. In addition, Portuguese is a very situational language. For example, the verb “to be” is “ser” if you’re referring to a permanent situation (like I am American) but it is “estar” if you are referring to a temporary situation (like I am cold). Don’t get us wrong, we’re not complaining, we’re just recognizing the challenge. Having (mostly) learned French when I was younger I have a great advantage because the language structures are very similar, but Katrin has no such advantage. So learning Portuguese as a native English speaker who is learning a romance language for the first time is very difficult. What it all comes down to is learning a little bit, practicing…learning a little, practicing…and repeat. We’re making good progress on understanding what we read and a little bit of what we hear, but speaking is still a ways off.

1 comment:

Alia said...
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