I survived my first Portuguese lesson on Tuesday. We are five in our class, soon to be six when my friend Sofia joins us the week after next, so I’m no longer worried that the class will fold within the month due to a lack of numbers. Six is a nice size for a language class.
Oh, but it was a shock to the system. Our teacher, Anna (from Rio De Janeiro), who seems lovely and a good teacher, has (to my ears) quite a strong accent. Half the time I couldn’t work out whether she was speaking to us in Spanish or in Portuguese. I figured that those times when I understood barely anything, it must have been the latter.
Still, considering that I turned up there with zero knowledge of Portuguese, catching something and being able to follow basic instructions is a little miracle in itself. That’s the big bonus of having learnt (sort of) one Latin-based language. Or a drawback, depending on how you see it… when Berlusconi makes some statement in the news, I’ve grasped what he’s saying before the translation kicks in and I’ve had a chance to flick the ‘off’ switch.
Right now, though, Portuguese seems hard. The first lesson was almost entirely spent on pronunciation. Portuguese isn’t nicely phonetic like Spanish. The position of the letters and syllables within a word determine how they are pronounced, and then we have open vowels, closed vowels, myriads of dipthongs… There is a system, so it’s not as horribly random as English pronunciation, but it’ll take a while to master.
I’ve been trawling the web, and I found a set of free podcasts produced by the University of Texas, geared towards learners of Portuguese who speak both English and Spanish. This is just perfect for me. And 26 of their podcast lessons are just on pronunciation. I’ll be working my way through those in the next couple of weeks.
Once we get to the grammar, I’ll really start complaining!