A couple of posts ago I mentioned that ted.com have videos with subtitles, sometimes in Portuguese. This week I discovered a website that goes one better – yappr.com. It is built for the language learning community and has a selection of videos from many genres and topics that you can watch with two streams of subtitles – English and another language. The subtitles are generated within the community of users on the site and then peer checked and approved. There seems to be a large Brazilian Portuguese presence on the site and I’ve already watched a few videos this way with a Brazilian Portuguese stream of subtitles. Fantastic language resource, check it out here: www.yappr.com.


June 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

Book Review: Ron Martinez – Como se diz chulé em inglês?

Como se diz chulé em inglês? (How do you say “chulé” in English?) is a book written for Brazilians learning English, but in my opinion its just as useful if not more so for English people learning Brazilian Portuguese.

Some time ago, Ron Martinez (who has a background of teaching English in Brazil) started a group on the social network site Orkut for learners of English. Students posted questions about words in Portuguese they couldn’t find an equivelent for in English. This book is Ron’s attempt to answer those queries. Basically, it’s a fascinating study of phrases and words that are common in Portuguese which no English word seems to quite capture.

The best way to illustrate this is through some examples. An oft-cited Portuguese word that has no English translation is “saudades” which roughly translates to “longing” – basically the feeling we have when we miss something. Other useful words which Martinez picks up on – Picanha (the prime cut of meat so popular at Brazilian barbeques/churrascos which butchers in the northern hemisphere don’t use!), caprichar (sort of means “to embellish”, “to treat well”, “to put extra effort in”), cadê (that wonderful word which doesn’t need to be conjugated which means – Where is/are..?) and, from the title, chulé (smelly feet!).

As the book is written in Portuguese you will need at least an intermediate grasp of Portuguese to get everything, but the chapters are short, witty and the examples clearly laid out in boxes. A great way to get under the skin of both English and Portuguese and how the two languages actually work in practice…

Here is a listing for the book on submarino.com.br

June 9, 2009 at 6:31 pm Leave a comment

TED.com with Portuguese subtitles

Some of you may know about the excellent website TED.com already – experts from various fields around the world talk for a short time about their “idea”. A great way to learn something new, fast.

I was happy to discover that TED.com’s own internal video streaming set up now has optional subtitles included, mostly in English. And several videos have subtitles in Brazilian Portuguese. If you read this blog and don’t live in Brazil, and so don’t have access to DVDs with Portuguese subtitles etc. then this site would probably help you a lot. For a real challenge, watch the video with no sound, using only the mute images and subtitles to help you out. If you have time, watch the video again – repetition reinforces new vocabulary.

Here is one such video with Portuguese subtitles about the nature of happiness – very thorught-provoking.

May 28, 2009 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment


I recently checked out this website. It claims to be an almanac of Brazilian popular culture. It certainly has a lot of content on many strange and interesting aspects of Brazilian people and life. For example, I discovered that there are parts of Brazil with their own currency – a measure designed to keep money in the local economy. I also read an article about an incredible British lady called Margaret Mee who spent years cataloguing flowers in the Amazon, and so on…

Anyway, short, pithy, well-written Portugese articles are here.

May 22, 2009 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

Oasis in Brazil

The British stadium rockers Oasis are in Brazil on tour. One of their lesser-known songs has Brazilian subtitles in the video above. Oasis’ lyrics are pretty non-sensical in any language but, hey well… Coverage in the news of Oasis, photos of their concerts etc. can be found here.

May 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Ronaldo dressed as a nun!

If you’re a fan of football, or even if you’re not, you have to watch this video! Ronaldo, now at Corinthians, is once again a hero after he scored 13 goals to help Corinthians to the state championships here in Brazil. Here is Ronaldo singing a number from Sister Act. Someone has helpfully subtitled the song back into Portuguese. Pay attention to the appearance of Brazilian president Lula on piano…

And, if you haven’t seen this already, this is what happened when Corinthians lifted the state championship trophy. Fireworks + streamers + raised platform = potential health and safety hazard. But, in true Brazilian form, once the fire was out everyone just got on with the business of being in a party…

May 12, 2009 at 12:12 pm Leave a comment

40 ways to make the world a better place

To celebrate 40 years of their publication, Veja magazine has invited specialists from different fields to comment on how to make Brazil a better place. The list, with short explanations, is an excellent mini-manifesto on how to make the world a better place. Apart from being very interesting, it’s also packed with loads of essential vocabulary!

You can read it here: http://veja.abril.com.br/100908/p_110.shtml#17

April 19, 2009 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

Festival do minuto

I stumbled across this the other day – a YouTube channel which puts up home made animations and videos that are 1 minute long. Usually, they offer comment or perspective on life in Brazil. See, for example, the one above.

The channel is http://www.youtube.com/user/festivaldominuto

A good way to keep up your listening and comprehension of Portuguese!

April 15, 2009 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

What’s it like learning Brazilian Portuguese?

A friend sent this to me recently. It’s a good listening activity if you’re learning Portuguese. People from different international backgrounds describe their experiences learning Brazilian Portuguese. A script is provided for each short sound clip. Listening to this is a good idea because a) listening to people speak Portuguese with another accent can sometimes be easier b) these guys may have some tips and ideas on learning Brazilian Portuguese.

Click here and scroll down. There are 45 dialogues for you to hear.

March 31, 2009 at 12:47 pm 1 comment

Book Review (part 2): Muito Prazer, Fale O Portugues do Brasil / Speak the Portuguese of Brazil

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned this book and said I would write a review. Here it is.

I guess it’s natural for me to approach Brazilian Portuguese textbooks for English people in a similar way to how I view English textbooks for Brazilians. I do this in my job as an English teacher, and there are many, many poor textbooks but a few excellent ones too. “Muito Prazer” is, fortunately, a Brazilian Portuguese example of the latter, in my opinion. I would have no hesitation recommending this publication to learners of the language. It was certainly the sort of book I’d been hoping to see and use.

I’m going to be quite objective about this and list the many pros and few cons below and then conclude, briefly.

Why I like this book (the pros):
– The book is substantial (400 pages long), nicely presented (something you can’t take for granted in language textbooks) and nicely illustrated.
– The 2 CDs-worth of listenings are short, sharp and generally reflect possible real-life situations well.
– Explanations of new language are clear and simple, don’t rely on linguistic jargon and are rarely given in isolation without examples. New Grammar or vocabulary is introduced in small portions, tested with useful and appropriate exercises and activities and then slowly built on through the book. In other words, it is an integrated approach to learnign the language and this is a good thing.
– Students are not expected to “remember” everything and so helpful hints and reminders with references to pages earlier in the book are given.
– helpfully notes anomalies and irregularities to the principal rules.
– The activities only test what has been presented (which is not always a given in other textbooks).
– Authentic material is used in the readings. Articles are sometimes pulled from real website pieces.
– Each of the 20 units addresses a related theme – sport, health and body etc.
– The book does NOT forget pronunciation and includes some helpful pages on the topic.
– The book uses examples of Brazilian culture, geography and history to teach the language.
– The new language is presented in practical situations – buying tickets, viewing an apartment, meeting people.
– Useful reference sections at the back, scripts, answer pages and so on make it possible for someone (with a reasonable grasp of latin languages or previous exposure to Portuguese) to use this book without outside input and expect to attain an Upper Intermediate level appreciation of the language by the end of the 20 units.

Things that could be improved (or the cons).
– The readings are often far too short. Basically, make sure you are reading widely in addition to the material in the book. But, this is not surprising as the writers probably didn’t want to waste space in the 400 page tome.
– Related to the above, the questions for the readings are often too easy. For example, the reading might ask what the cost of an item is from the menu. Attaining the answer does not really demand comprehension of Portuguese – a child who only knows English would easily work it out.
– Occasionally, vocabulary is presented as a list with no explanation as to meaning. (This is when I have to call my wife to help! – or keep a dictionary handy!)
– Not really a con, but the book is designed for group use. Several activities involve talking to partners and this may not be possible.
– Related to the above, the answer section provides no clues as to what answers may or not be right when it involves the opinion of the reader (or his partner). For example, the book might ask you to write about your favourite colour. You want to check how you did, but the answer pages only say “Answers may vary” instead of giving examples of possible responses.
– Just a small thing. The book relies on Dialogues to introduce or present new language. Generally, they’re quite good and they’re not long but it would have been nice if there was some kind of task to do with these dialogues (fill in gaps / listen for an answer to a question) – otherwise, you may find yourself asking “why am I listening to these people?” or “why am I reading this?” which undermines motivation to learn.

To sum up, the cons are not very weighty if you are self-motivated in your learning, augment your use of the book with authentic reading material and have someone (a teacher? a native speaker?) to talk to and quiz about the tricky bits, and check your writing. I’m already half way through the whole thing and really enjoying it. So, if you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese, put this on your Christmas list.

March 26, 2009 at 5:43 pm 8 comments

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This website has practice activities for people learning Brazilian Portuguese at Intermediate level or higher. Please browse around or click on ABOUT to find out more about how to get the most out of the site.