What I Learned From 72 Hours of Studying Portuguese

Obsessive language learners might know the experience of rattling off their language goals only to be met with a few raised eyebrows. Common sense tells me I’ve got enough to work on between French, Spanish, and Japanese.

But common sense didn’t stand a chance once I stumbled across the #LangJam challenge.

For those who don’t know, the first #LangJam, or Language Jam, was recently hosted by Sandra via Twitter and Instagram. Anyone who chose to participate was given a language that they’d never studied before and challenged to try learning it for 24, 48, or 72 hours.

Of course, I decided to go all in for the 72 hour challenge. I was psyched right up until I was given my language selection: Portuguese.

Ponta Negra Natal Brazil
Photo by Pedro Menezes on Unsplash

Now, Portuguese has always been on my list, but I hadn’t given it any priority. Honestly, I was slightly concerned that I’d

  1. Have a really easy time because I was already learning Spanish
  2. Get a little mixed up because I’m still learning Spanish

But in true #LangJam spirit, I looked at this challenge as an opportunity to get an early start on Portuguese. In fact, I hoped it might give me a new outlook altogether.

Now, where do I start?

In my little suburban neighborhood outside of Boston, there are a surprising number of Brazilian Portuguese speakers. So, naturally, I decided to favor Brazilian Portuguese.

What’s the difference?

So, it’s not different enough to limit your resources and Brazilian Portuguese gets bonus points for not bothering with tu. Luckily, there were a lot of good (and some not so good) free resources available.

I have an easier time with videos, so I hopped on YouTube and began with the Portuguese Pod 101 series.

Right away, you’ll see that Portuguese Pod 101 introduces you to Brazilian Portuguese, which was great for me. However, I didn’t get very far with their content. Most of the introductory material went by too quickly for me to grasp, though I can’t comment on the non-beginner videos.

Instead, I was happy to find the Street Smart Brazil channel. It has a ton of videos, including a series that goes over pronunciation in depth, including this one about the letter r. I have to say that this was one of the most helpful introductions to learning Portuguese.

And some other fun resources…

Hello Rusty (YouTube channel)

Omniglot (website with a long list of additional resources)

Língua da Gente (podcast)

#LangJam Takeaways

You might be wondering:

What’s the point of learning a language for only 3 days?

Honestly, I really enjoyed the brief introduction and I think the time limit helped me dip my toe in without dragging me away from my other language goals. I think I might actually move Portuguese up on my long list of languages I want to learn.

Did I learn a lot of Portuguese?

No. I’m certainly not about to go to the Brazilian bakery across the street and strike up a conversation in Portuguese. Though, I’m a bit more confident in my overall ability to grasp a new language. I can also now say “Tudo bem?” like a boss.

The #LangJam challenge also made me realize a few things about the way I learn best and gave me some insight on how to improve my study tactics with my other target languages. For example, I’m now certain that I don’t like learning new things with just audio input and I seriously need to practice writing more.

As for takeaways related to Portuguese, you should know that it’s super helpful if you already know Spanish first. There are a lot of similarities between Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese in terms of vocabulary and structure. However, if you’re learning both Spanish and Portuguese at the same time, be careful that you don’t mix up the pronunciations.

Knowing a bit of French can also help. Even though they’re both Romance languages, I didn’t expect to find partir in Portuguese. Plus, I was already used to not pronouncing all of the letters in a word.

So, if you’re just thinking about learning Portuguese, don’t be afraid to try it out. It’s super fun. If you’re already learning Portuguese, feel free to share some more helpful tips and resources in the comments!

More than anything, don’t worry about taking a break from your usual language routine, even if it means dabbling in a new language. If #LangJam sounds like something you’d love to take part in, I believe there’s another one coming up later this year. Check out the Language Jam site for more info.

Tchau and happy learning!


Featured Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash

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