Learning Portuguese

I started Portuguese again. Well, actually, I started filling out forms, attending orientation and taking those “learning styles” test.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to take the Meyer-Briggs test again. I am an INTP, which means something to people who know about such things. I have Brazil area studies tomorrow morning and finally tomorrow afternoon I get to study some Portuguese. Then I have to get out early to vote and get Chrissy a birthday cake.

Studying at FSI will be fun. One of the best things about the FS is being able to get this kind of training.  My goal is to speak Portuguese well enough that Portuguese speakers don’t feel the need to compliment me on my speaking.  I have noticed that the worse you speak a language, the faster people feel the need to tell you how well you are doing. When you really speak it well, nobody thinks much about it.

My strategy this time is to learn other things through Portuguese rather than the other way around.  What I mean is that I will read or listen to things in Portuguese that I want to learn anyway. This is especially true of information about tropical forests, energy and Brazil itself.  Of course this seems obvious, but it is not the way we usually do it. We usually choose texts and speeches specifically to teach language. These things are sometimes old or not topical. 

I have been watching Brazilians news and reading about the country in Portuguese.  I bought a history of Brazil in Portuguese, a nice Brazilian atlas & a compendium of Brazilian literature. It would be easier to learn  “substantive facts” in English, but I think it is useful to make the connections in Portuguese. I read “The Prince” by Machiavelli in Portuguese. I wanted to reread this for other reasons, so I figured that I may as well do it in Portuguese. Frankly, I don’t think I would have been able to understand it in Portuguese if I had not already been familiar with it in English, but with that qualification it worked out okay. I am also reading a novel, “Caravans” in Portuguese. This is an old book by James Michener, which I read in English more than twenty years ago. It is a bit of a chore to read it in Portuguese, but I think it is good practice, since it features dialogue, conversations and first person discourses.  The news tends not to have this and neither do most textbooks or non-fiction articles.  

It is hard to find books in Portuguese locally. But I got a web-based bookseller in Brazil called Livraria Cultura.  With the Internet and a credit card, you can get whatever you need. The only problem is that they send it registered mail.  Nobody is home during the day and/or Espen won’t answer the door, so I have to pick it up at the post office.

The pictures – On top is FSI. It is a nice place to be.  The other pictures are not much related, but I took them today after work. You see the Segway tour on the Mall. I dislike Segways. It is kind of a lazy man way to get around and they tend to come up quick behind.  Segways are supposed to be foolproof, but just before I took the picture, one of those guys fell off. The company owner of Segways recently died by driving one of those things off a cliff.  Doesn’t sound so safe or foolproof to me. The next picture shows American elms on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the White House. These trees are “Princeton elms”, supposedly resistant to the deadly Dutch elm disease. The picture below that is the White House.