Archive for March, 2009

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

Radiohead in Brazil

Radiohead have a huge following in Brazil and are playing a number of shows here as part of their tour for In Rainbows, their latest record. One of my English students from here in Natal got a flight down to Rio to see them on the weekend and he was on cloud 9 when he got back. He said it worth every centavo!

I read this report last week which was quite funny. The address for picking up Radiohead tickets was given out wrong resulting in much confusion for desperate fans. Click here for that.

Here’s a report with links to photos and other stuff about their concert in Rio. Click here for that.

Here’s a video of one of their earlier songs – Fake Plastic Trees – with Portuguese subtitles.

Finally, quite a few international artists have been coming to Brazil recently, including Keane and Iron Maiden. Pictures of these and others are here. For videos of them in Portuguese, just search “legendado” with the name of the band on YouTube.

March 25, 2009 at 12:47 pm Leave a comment

The importance of a comma.

This has been on an email doing the rounds. Allegedly, it’s to draw attention to 100 years of the Brazilian Press Association. Whatever, it’s quite a clever little piece on the importance of using your commas well. If you don’t get all of them I’ve put the “solutions” in English in the Answers section above. NB. Number two only makes sense if you know that in Portuguese numbers – a comma does what a point does in English and vice versa (ie. 3,000,000.00 in English = 3.000.000,00 in Portuguese). Oh, and the word for comma in Portuguese is vírgula.

Sobre a Vírgula Muito
legal a campanha dos 100 anos da ABI(Associação Brasileira de Imprensa).

1. Vírgula pode ser uma pausa… ou não.
Não, espere.
Não espere.

2. Ela pode sumir com seu dinheiro.

3. Pode ser autoritária.
Aceito, obrigado.
Aceito obrigado.

4. Pode criar heróis.
Isso só, ele resolve.
Isso só ele resolve.

5. E vilões.
Esse, juiz, é corrupto.
Esse juiz é corrupto.

6. Ela pode ser a solução.
Vamos perder, nada foi resolvido.
Vamos perder nada, foi resolvido.

7. A vírgula muda uma opinião.
Não queremos saber
Não, queremos saber. 

Uma vírgula muda tudo.

ABI: 100 anos lutando para que ninguém mude uma vírgula da sua informação.


Se você for mulher, certamente colocou a vírgula depois de MULHER. – Se você for homem, colocou a vírgula depois de TEM.

March 18, 2009 at 5:55 pm Leave a comment

CELPE-Bras: what is it?

cabecacelpbrasI have taken the rather bold step of wanting to get an official Brazilian Portuguese qualification before my wife and I and our kids head out of Brazil by the end of August. Basically, I wanted something on my CV which showed I had some competency in the languae. After a bit of work online, and talking to people in the know, I’ve decided to go for the CELPE-Bras test.

CELPE-Bras is the official Brazilian Portuguese test for foreigners. It’s put together by the Brazilian Ministry of Education and can be taken at test centres around Brazil and in many major cities around the world too. I like the test because it’s a modern integrated test. That is to say, its not multiple grammar-heavy, technical, concerned with translation or gap filling. It has quite a lot in common with the English test TOEFL in which the four skills (reading, wrting, speaking, listening) are tested simultaneously which far better reflects the reality of life. For example, when you’re on the phone writing down a message for someone you’re exercising listening, speaking and writing skills at the same time.

So, in part 1 of the test we read an article and write a response (in a certain style and register) about what we read. Likewise, we listen to or watch a piece of news and write about that. In part 2 of the paper we are given a short article and asked to speak about it and answer open questions with an examiner.

Whatever your level of Portuguese, everyone takes the same test and then is graded as being either Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, Advanced or Upper Advanced. In order to obtain an Advanced level, for example, your results for BOTH part 1 and part 2 need to be Advanced or over.

Subscriptions are open for the next round of testing (which will be at the end of April). The test can be taken every six months so the next batch will be in October/November time. The website with more information about it all is here:

There is a cost, but I don’t yet know what it is!

March 14, 2009 at 9:52 am 1 comment

Book Review (part 1): Muito Prazer, Fale O Portugues do Brasil / Speak the Portuguese of Brazil

A new book has been published recently by the Brazilian publishing group DISAL. Its a 400 page textbook, with 2 CDs, for estrangeiros learning Porruguese. I can honestly say its the best manual for learning Brazilian Portuguese I’ve laid my hands on so far…

You can actually browse the first chapter here:

And, tomorrow (Friday 13th!) of March there is an e-lecture on the DISAL website by the authors on how to teach past, present and future to foreigners. Useful. I’m working at that time so I hope it will (and my friends assure me it should) be available for download afterwards.

More info on that event here:

I’ve written a full review of the book here.

March 11, 2009 at 9:46 am 4 comments

They don’t speak Spanish, you know!

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.