About my brief adventures as a Foreign Language Learner during my Summer Holidays.During the sixteen hour trip that takes us to cover the 1,600 kilometers that divide us from our Summer Holidays destination in Brazil, I made the resolution to take advantage of every situation to enhance my zero beginner knowledge of Portuguese. The long trip was rewarded by what this luxurious country always offers, hot sunny days, vast beaches, friendly people and a relaxed atmosphere. Just what we needed. Of all these it has always been the people the factor that drove me this year to have a go at learning the language.
I decided to take a caotic berrybush (as Vance termed) approach and be as relaxed as possible about it. I was the most enthusiastic zero beginner ever! Below is the list of things I did and some comments on each of them.
-I grabbed the daily newspaper. To my surprise, by the end of the week I was able to read all the paper. My family asked: "Are you reading the paper?" Me: "Yes." Family: "It´s in Portuguese." Me: "Yes!" Reading the local paper (which also featured national and international news) added another dimention to the trip, I felt I understood the people and their current issues, which were not so different from the ones in my country.
-I grabbed friendly looking native speakers and surprinsingly I realized I understood more than I had expected. Though there was something like a delay moment when the eureka effect took place after repeating the phrase again in my head, usually two or three minutes after the conversation!
-I strived to understand. I nodded and I smiled and even if I did not understand all the words I knew my interlocutor tried to be polite. I even eavesdropped! I enjoyed filling the gaps of the conversations I did not catch with my own imagination!
.I watched TV. I got trapped by three different soap operas which will problably appear in Argentinian television, but I will fail to look when at home. The Mexican Chavo del 8! What a joy to watch the Portuguese version!
-During 2012 I read "El Imperio Eres Tú", by Javier Moro, this gave me valuable insights about the rich origins of such a vast country, which were somewhat different from my country. I read in the paper of the exhumation of Peter I, the Emperor of Brazil, to be analized by scientists. Before reading the book I did not even know that Brazil had had an emperor! Chico Buarque´s "Leche Derramada" also portrayed the life of a declining Carioca aristocracy in times of change.
-I observed what others did with the language they encountered.
My niece kept repeating: "Viaje de dia. E mais bonito e mais seguro." Why? It was a traffic sign, which we encountered many times during the journey.(Repetition!) It was similar to Spanish. (Transparency!) It sounded nice. (The word "bonito" in Spanish.)
My daughter during the exhausting climbing of a "morro" decided to practice the one year Portuguese instruction she had received at school by chatting to our guide. After receiving several pronounciation corrections from the instructor she said: "I give up!" But Michelle, the guide, said: "Don´t give up! Portuguese is like life. You don´t have to understand it, you have to enjoy it! By the way, she had a tattoo in her ankle that said Alegría (Joy) I thought to myself: I am going to apply this to my teaching practice! And to my Portuguese learning!