Posted in English

How It Started, How’s It Going

I must admit, when I started my master plan to level up my português proficiency to C1, I wondered if I was being too ambitious and… Well, to be honest, I still think that. It’s going OK so far though, as the optimist said as he fell past the twentieth floor. I’m two days in and I’m keeping it going:

I’ve done two rounds of exercises from A Actualidade em Português and got mainly right answers, plus a couple of things I need to learn from. I’ve also tweeted a few things in my new guise of Pedro Álvares Cabral, discoverer of Brasil, and managed to elicit my first “LOL” with this bad boy.

Still only one follower though, and even that looks like a bot. Early days.

I’ve also written two texts in r/WritestreakPT and read a chapter of a book and about quarter of a banda desenhada called BRK. I’m finding my Portuguese podcasts slightly hard work though. And oh god, I keep doing even more ridiculous things to challenge myself. Since I want to learn poems, i decided to make the first week’s a song, so I started teaching myself Flagrante by Antonio Zambujo on the ukulele but I am hopeless at the ukulele so it’s pretty painful. I’m also thinking of making some sort of politics wallchart that lays out who all the parties and office-holders are so I can understand some of the political tweets better.

Samsung Health in Portuguese - the picture shows the meal tracking screen

The most unexpectedly-helpful thing I’ve done has been tracking my fitness in Portuguese. As I’ve mentioned before, my phone is set to use Portuguese as its system language so most of the apps are in Portuguese too. I started tracking my food and exercise using Samsung Health because I’m too chubby, and I didn’t think I’d learn much because I felt like I knew the names of most foods already but wow, was I ever wrong! I’ve had to look up a ton of foods even in the short time I’ve had it: apricots (damascos), bean sprouts (broto de feijão), soy sauce (molho de soja) and raisins (uvas passas) were just today’s crop of additions to my word-hoard.

Posted in English

C1 Here I Come

I’ve been a bit slack on learning Portuguese lately. I’ve basically been treading water since I did the B2 diploma. In fact, since the pandemic started, I’ve spent as much time on my “hobby” language, Scots Gaelic as I have on my main one. That needs to stop because I am determined to be properly fluent in Portuguese if it kills me.

I’m not very good at abandoning things so I’m allowing myself till the end of this coming week to finish off my remaining Gaelic things, and read any outstanding foreign language books from my TBR and then I am going to commit to portuguese: purge my daily to-do list of distractions, delete Duolingo (It’s too Brazilian) and submerge myself in the language as far as reasonably possible for someone who doesn’t live there. The time for pissing about is over. Go duro or go para casa.

So here’s my list of activities to work on through the autumn

  • Make a new Twitter account, tweet only in Portuguese, pretend to be Portuguese, interact with people, see how long I can get away with it (not long probably, but it’ll be fun to try)
  • Watch one Portuguese movie or series episode per week.
  • Finally finish “A Actualidade em Português*” which is a B2 book meant to finish in 2020 but didn’t
  • Then do one esercise of Português Atual* C1 or one from this course per day
  • Only read Portuguese books (exception for work-related books that I need to read for career development)
  • Listen to mainly portuguese audio. I probably can’t go total on this one but the balance needs to shift towards Portuguese pretty decisively.
  • Memorise one Portuguese poem per week. C-level Portuguese needs you to be able to appreciate literature a bit and I’ve been trying to memorise poems recently, including one by Pessoa and one by Florbela Espanca, which I can still remember weeks later, so this seems like something I can incorporate as part of my language learning.
  • Write something each day on the Portuguese Writestreak subreddit.
  • Follow the Bertrand Portuguese History Course once a fortnight and try to participate as much as possible. It’s starting soon and it’s really good value (only a hundred and forty quid for 20 lessons with current exchange rates and bulk discount) but pretty challenging (see this review of a previous course I did for an idea of how challenging!)

The aim will be to go for C1 or even C2 by about May next year.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “are you crazy?” and you’re right, it does seem pretty ambitious, but I’ve been thinking it through and I reckon I can do it. The key piece is what I wrote at the top there about clearing my daily to do list. Early in the pandemic I started getting up at 5.30 and going through a list of daily chores, including meditation, a big chunk of Duolingo, watering the plants and a load of other bits and pieces. It’s nice because it gives me some free time before my family wake up to do things on my own before work starts and feel productive. If I purge a few things from that and replace with daily items from the list and do some of the larger things like movies in the evening and weekends it should be manageable, time-wise. I just need to keep it interesting: short texts in the writestreak, be ruthless about abandoning boring books so reading doesn’t become a chore, try to be funny on twitter, make sure the films I choose are good… Yeah, I can do this.

Sou capaz!

I have some other things I’d like to fit in, like cooking from Portuguese recipes, following Portuguese exercise videos, finally getting around to reading the bloody Lusíadas, going to a fado concert or two, actually visiting the country itself, and (this is the most ambitious of all) having a conversation with my wife in Portuguese without her running away with her fingers in her ears to escape my horrible accent. But those are probably a bit hard to plan since they either don’t fit easily into my routine or in some cases they’re contingent on the pandemic simmering down. Basically, I don’t want to have something on the plan that I won’t end up doing because then I’ll start to lose motivation. I think the list on its own will do for now. If I manage the others, I’ll consider that icing on the cake.

*=if you’re interested in finding out about textbooks for Portuguese study, I did a page about them recently.