Thursday, 19 September 2013

Signs of Progress

Language is a part of life we often take for granted. We talk and write, read and comprehend, interact and communicate with others, without giving a thought to the processes involved. It is so natural and instinctive.

However, when we are talking about a second language, it often feels very unnatural; fumbling over nouns and verbs, tenses and word endings. Hoping to somehow communicate and not make a total fool of ourselves in the process. I often wonder how my words come across to a fluent Portuguese speaker. I wonder if it sounds the same as a toddler learning to speak?

I've written before about my progress in learning Portuguese - a journey I've been on for almost ten years already. Granted I really only began a marked effort when we moved here four years ago. It's hard to motivate yourself to learn a new language when you don't really need it yet.

And while I have a long long way to go before I reach fluency (if I ever do) it is nice to see some signs of progress...

Phone calls
I am not a phone person. I would much rather text, email or message someone than pick up the phone and call. And this is in English. So you can imagine that I like to delegate as much of the necessary phone calling to my hubby as I can get away with. I find it much easier to understand Portuguese when I can see the person; I'm no lip reader but it does help. These days, however, I've found I can manage quite a few basic calls; setting up doctors appointments, calling for water or cooking gas to be delivered, and of course, mastering the pizza delivery dialogue.

Yes, I do dream sometimes in Portuguese, and I take it as a good sign that the language is infiltrating subconscious parts of my brain!

Shopping Lists
Making meal plans and a shopping list is essential in keeping our family well fed. Unfortunately, I usually find myself on the morning of my proposed shopping run scribbling out my meal plan and groceries list. Whatever word is shorter usually ends up on the list. Cucumber - too long, pepino - much better.

Word Games
I've recently found myself sucked into two word games that I play online with my hubby and other friends. Letterpress and Words with Friends. Imagine my chagrin when my Portuguese words just don't work. It's nice to see my growing vocabulary though.

There are a lot of expressions that you hear everyday; those idiomatic phrases that just come naturally to express surprise, delight, anger, or just to fill in the pauses in conversation. As I began my language learning, I wondered if those colloquial sayings would ever enter naturally into my conversations. Now, I find that they do, most of the time, seem to flow seamlessly. Of course, I think it took me about two years before I uttered more than a few words in Portuguese.

I have a lot more Portuguese speaking friends on Facebook now, and it's becoming easier and easier to understand the status updates, and even read articles that are linked up there. I enjoy reading a few Portuguese blogs as well. (Thanks Aline and Ariane :))

Now my days are filled with a lot more of the local language, and with Lucas and Elena attending a Portuguese-only school, we are speaking it more frequently at home as well. I still have a long way to go, but I am encouraged to see some small signs of progress along the way.

Have you learned a second language as an adult? What did you find most challenging? 


  1. Woohoo! I always relied on my Brazilian family (and genius Brenden) while I was there, and while its nice to have that cushion, I know it didn't push me to learn as much as I could have. But I'm glad you can see progress and feel that you are able to be pushed in your language skills a little more. Its never easy to go out of our comfort zone, but it is usually good for us! Keep up the good work!

  2. Good on ya, Taara, it seems like such a long journey but you can do it! I'm sure the kids' books help too?

  3. Way to go! This encourages me. I gotta keep/start working on my Spanish skillz!


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