Tag Archives: multilingual

Prepositions – So Much Depends Of Them

Nine out of ten times, when a sentence just doesn’t make any flippin’ sense, even though you know all the words, it’s because of the evil workings of a preposition.

Compared to the masses of verbs, nouns and adjectives that exist in a language, the number of prepositions is miniscule.  European languages have, on average, what, maybe thirty…? And yet, using those pesky little words correctly takes longer to learn than anything else. It’s also the first thing that goes when you lose regular contact with a language.

English phrasal verbs (which are, essentially, verbs married to prepositions) are infamous for making students despair. Take the verb “to look” as a random example: Look at, look for, look out for, look about, look over, look after… the preposition completely changes the meaning every time. English has thousands of phrasal verbs, including colloquial and regional variations that don’t appear in any dictionary.

To make matters worse, many have several, often completely different meanings depending on context. “To make out” is a prime example. Adding the preposition “on” to the phrasal verb “to go down”, gives it a completely new dimension… 😉

Other languages also have phrasal verbs, and plenty of them, Spanish being no exception. It took me ages to figure out, for example, that “dar con”, which literally translates as “to give with”, actually means “to find/encounter”. Makes no intuitive sense whatsoever!

SunsetWhen people are taught German as a foreign language, they are told that specific prepositions often correspond to specific cases, e.g. “mit” (with) always takes the dative. So, if you don’t know the correct preposition to start with, chances are you’ll get all the noun and adjective endings wrong as well, resulting in an irreparably screwed up sentence.

Even in fairly closely related languages like English and German, prepositions do not correspond. In German, you give “after”, not “in” and you depend “of” someone or something. Not all prepositions exist in every language, making translations cumbersome and learners tear their hair out.

It is generally drilled into students to learn prepositions in conjunction with a set of common verbs, e.g. “to concentrate on” and “to insist on” are a couple of classic examples, where only one preposition is viable, but in most cases, are just too many different possibilities for all of them to be learnt by rote.

In short, the only way to get your prepositions down to a pat is by knowing what sounds ‘right’ and what doesn’t. And this, as some of you will have found out, takes aeons of exposure. In fact, I’d say, that it’s impossible to achieve unless you’ve actually been living for years and years and years in a country where the language is spoken.

Rise Of The… Oliglot(!?)

A couple of days ago, I got thinking… what do you call people who are more than bilingual but who are not polyglots? (I’m basing this on the arbitrary premise that a polyglot should have a fairly good command of at least five languages.)

That'll give you something to chomp on...

That’ll give you something to chomp on…
I found him outside a shop in Madrid 🙂

It seems to me that there’s something missing between bilingual and polyglot, a gaping chasm of linguistic ability aching for its own moniker.

Methinks “oliglot” fits the bill.

I googled both “oliglot” and “oligoglot”, and… NOTHING came up. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nix. We simply don’t exist.

The search results hop straight to “polyglot”. I am totally baffled. Nobody’s searched for this before?? I mean, you start typing in “rainbow butterfly”, and “rainbow butt monkey” pops up as the third most searched-for term?

I looked up the spelling/construct rules, and it says if the prefix “oligo-” (which is comes from the Greek word for “few”) is to be followed by a vowel, the final “o” can be omitted. Hence, we have “oligarchs”, not “oligogarchs”.

So, technically, then, it should actually be “oligoglot” and not “oliglot”. However, I think that’s waaay too much of a mouthful, and seeing as I’m pioneering the term, I can darn well apply my own rules.

And yet… I have the unsettling feeling that I’m missing something really obvious… surely, I can’t be the first person in the world to be ruminating over this?!

Any insights from the ‘proper’ linguists out there? Or from anyone else who’d care to venture an opinion??

Worth starting my own movement…?

Project Portuguese: Stuttering And Spluttering

I haven’t written a language-themed post for a while because… well…my butt’s slipped off the wobbly cart. Just a bit. It’s all those cakes, you see. What triggered this post was Friday’s encounter with a real live Brazilian guy, duly dispatched to me on a mercy mission by my old language school. He endured my staccato regurgitations and mutilated phrases like a real trooper. Oh my, they could hear me scraping that barrel all the way to SĂŁo Paolo.

A few days ago, I subscribed to Duolingo (it’s free), after coming across another language blogger’s recommendation. It’s a learning programme in the style of a computer game, featuring the requisite you’ve-scored/you-totally-suck sound track. You level up by gaining points and conserving your ‘hearts’. It’s strangely addictive, although I find myself translating  sentences of dubious utility like “I eat apple bread”. Or maybe this is some fabled Brazilian delicacy that I’ve not yet had the pleasure of sampling…?

What really drags Duolingo down, however, is a crappy computer generated voice that sounds like a castrated chipmunk suffering a terminal bout of the hiccups. Hitting the re-play button sixty times does NOT help. On the pronunciation front, Duolingo is about as instructive as consulting the back of cereal box on how to bake a four-tiered wedding cake. I’m still going to work my way through the programme, though, as it’s good for vocab building.

To acquire an intelligible accent, I’m employing bigger guns: I’ve downloaded a Pimsleur audio course from iTunes. As any seasoned language learner knows, opinions on Pimsleur are sharply divided. I’ve had some experience with this method in the past, and, despite its many limitations, I believe that it’s one of the best things out there for getting your tongue around difficult-to-pronounce languages. I count Portuguese among those. (Spanish, not so much.)

Before opting for Pimsleur, I tested out a chapter of Michel Thomas. And although I can see that it has its merits, I found the teacher’s voice unbelievably irritating. She’s got one of those prissy British librarian voices, and you’re only just waiting for her to tell you to sit up straight and keep your knees together.

Adding to this mammoth of a bee in my bonnet, the recording features two token students, one of whom keeps making the same mistakes over and over. About 15 minutes in, I just wanted to wring her neck, rather than concentrating on what was being taught.  Not that I’d do any better in a classroom situation than this hapless student, mind, but I don’t find her repetitive mess-ups very helpful as a lesson component.

Purple flowersAs far as I can gauge from my recent (but sporadic) interactions with my frightfully busy friend Sofia, our planned three-month jaunt to Salvador in Brazil in November is still on. She’s working all the hours God sends right now to save up enough money, which explains why I hardly ever see her! I can’t wait for us to go, but I don’t want to arrive there with my Portuguese in this pitiful state. Friday’s meeting with the aforementioned Brazilian was a bit of a wake-up call. I can’t even get the basics out, dammit! And time’s ticking…

My Last Portuguese Class – A Debrief

Today I had my last Portuguese class. There were only two of us left, which meant that my first excursion into the territory of one the most melodious of Latin-based languages folded due to lack of numbers.

I already fessed up in a previous post that language classes are not exactly my forte. And this time, I had the (for me) novel experience of being taught almost exclusively in the target language from the very beginning, rather than via another language I’ve got at least a reasonable command of.

I can’t say I liked it. Not being able to understand the teacher’s explanations is surely the most frustrating experience on Earth, right after trying to suck water from a bowl of wet sand. I would have gotten way more out of this experience, had the teacher switched more readily to Spanish to drive home the salient points. Instead, she was bent on reiterating the same unintelligible monologues over and over again. She may as well have been harping on at me in Tagalog. Not what I call a satisfying classroom experience.

I realise that a lot of people learn English that way, because TEFL teachers, by and large, rarely speak the languages of the countries where they do their teaching. I’ve often wondered how this works exactly, especially with students who are starting from base camp. Do they all just point at each other and make animal noises? And why isn’t the TEFL teacher murder rate on a par with that of nurses in psychiatric hospitals…? So many questions…

I’ve had Spanish classes in 98% Spanish before, but I was already at intermediate level, so it wasn’t such a struggle. I don’t think that monolingual language classes are an ill-fated concept full-stop, but for total rookie, it’s pants. How do other language learners feel about this? Or, for that matter, TEFL teachers? If any of you with experience at either end of the beast would care put forward an opinion, I’d sure love to hear it.

Despite wanting to bang my head repeatedly against the razor-wired end of the Wailing Wall, it was still worth it. I knew no Portuguese at all when I turned up for my first class at the beginning of March, and now I know *something*. That’s the nice thing about starting from zero, I suppose, you can only stand to gain.

This is by no means the end of Project Portuguese. I’m going to continue studying on my own accord, there’s plenty of material on the interwebs. Any suggestions about good learning materials are very welcome, please drop me a comment.

We've all survived the experience... that calls for a round of cakes!

We’ve all survived the experience… that calls for a round of cakes!

The 18-Month Toledo Review – And Where To Next…?

I’ve been living in Toledo for a year and a half now. From the outset, I thought I might stay here for two or three years, and seeing as I’m half way, it’s time for a review.
The main reasons I chose Toledo as my first place to live in Spain were as follows:

  1. It has (or rather, its inhabitants have) the ‘right’ accent. Considering that I moved to Spain with the firm goal to finally learn the language properly, this was of prime importance. The costas sure are nice, but they either speak barely intelligible aberrations of Castilian Spanish, or different languages altogether.
  2. You can be at Madrid Airport in two hours flat by public transport
  3. It’s a (very pretty) small-ish town almost devoid of foreigners (except for masses of tourists). When you’re struggling with a new language, it’s extremely tempting to get sucked into the expat bubble to spare yourself the initial pain. Had I moved, for example, to Madrid first off, I would probably have ended up speaking English or German most of the time, and learning very little Spanish in the process.
Ah, Toledo... I found out today that it's home to 45 convents. But not a single Cake Order! I won't be signing up.

Ah, Toledo… I found out today that it’s home to 45 convents. But not one of them dedicates itself to eating cakes. I won’t be signing up.

Have I considered staying in Toledo for longer… perhaps even indefinitely? Yes. I’ve made some really nice friends here, and my heart aches at the thought of having to say goodbye, but deep down I know that it just won’t do for me in the long term. I need to be in a place that’s bigger and a little more ‘international’.

More frequently than I’d like, I find myself craving face-to-face contact with least a handful of people of different nationalities, and/or with Spanish people who have lived in other countries for a while. The experience changes you profoundly many ways that are difficult to describe, and I have to have some direct exposure to people who can relate to this. Also, I dream about fresh sushi and a gob-scalding curry… but there’s none of that to be had here. It’s ham and tortilla all the way. In short, I miss variety, and not just the culinary kind.

I’ve been ruminating over whether or not I should move to Madrid. At first glance, this would seem the most convenient option. It’s only 70 miles from Toledo, there’s a fairly decent train connection, so I would be able to see my Toledo friends regularly. They also speak Castilian Spanish in Madrid. Needless to say, it’s international, as you’d expect from a capital city.

Trouble is, every time I go there (which isn’t very often, I must admit), it fails to inspire me. I find the city a bit bland and generic looking. On top of that, it suffers the exact same extremes of temperatures that I find difficult to bear in Toledo – freezing cold in the winter and 45 stifling degrees in July and August.

So, now I’m thinking… Barcelona. I’ve never actually been there (embarrassing or what!), but it looks absolutely glorious. It has both sea and mountains, an airport, and sushi must exist there. It just has to!

The one major drawback, apart from being expensive (but then again, so is Madrid), is the language issue. They speak Catalan, although everybody also speaks Castilian Spanish, which is the second official language. And…I have to concede that living in a bilingual city does appeal to me. It’s very international, and I’m sure I’d even find a bunch of Brazilians before long to help me work on my Portuguese. A virtually impossible feat in Toledo!

As it stands, I’m in no desperate rush to move. I’m still enjoying Toledo, I’ll probably be here for another year or so, especially as I’ve got big travel plans towards the end of the year and don’t want to go through the hassle of a move between now and then.

I know that there are a lot of expat bloggers in Spain, so if anyone has any thoughts on this, I’m open to suggestions…

Why I Don’t Like Language Classes

Sounds like a bit of a shocker coming from me, doesn’t it. But it’s true – language classes make me feel stressed and incompetent.

After last week’s Portuguese lesson, my friend and classmate Sofia remarked that I hadn’t been having a very good time in class that evening. Probably, so she surmised, because of my toothache. (I’m having some dental work done at the moment, but the pain is fairly well controlled by painkillers)

No, Sofia, this is how I am, ALL THE TIME, in language classes.

She’s going to have to get used to it.

My pet hate is having to read aloud. As a teenager studying Russian, I always dreaded the part where we were taking turns to read aloud from the textbook. I would practice for hours at home alone in my room, to the point where knew the text almost by heart, but it was no use. In class, my windpipe would constrict, and my pronunciation was all over the place. It was pretty much the same sweaty-palmed experience in my English class.

It’s not a fear of public speaking per se. Although I don’t particularly relish the first five minutes, I can stand up in front of hundreds of people and give fairly engaging presentation – I even enjoy it, as long as I know what I’m talking about.

When I worked as a Braillist for six years, part of the job was reading aloud to (blind) colleagues who were checking the Braille against the print version. Totally fine – I was in the room with only one other person who I was comfortable with. But as soon as there’s a classroom, an ‘audience’ and an expectant teacher involved, I completely go to pieces.

Do you feel like going in to hiding in your language class? Raquel, my intercambio, clearly does. But I think this was more to do with me taking a picture of her, rather than feeling shy about speaking German...

Do you feel like going into hiding in your language class? Raquel, my intercambio, clearly does. But I think this was more to do with me taking a picture, rather than her feeling shy about speaking German…

It’s not just reading aloud that frazzles me. When it’s my turn to construct a sentence or come up with a basic line of dialogue, more often than not I get stuck, out of pure nervousness. It doesn’t help that I’m a reticent foreign language speaker who hates making mistakes. When I’m not 100% sure, I’d much rather not say anything at all.

I’m not alone in this, I realise. A good friend of mine told me that he didn’t start speaking until he was four years old. Then, one fine day, he pointed at a vehicle parked outside their house, asking, in a perfectly formed sentence in the genitive case, “Wessen Auto ist das?” (“Whose car is this?”). This rather late start, btw, didn’t stop him from becoming multilingual.

It’s obvious that my performance failure has nothing to do with other people’s expectations of me, but is down to my fear of not measuring up to my own.

The upshot of it is, even though I’m generally considered to be “good” at languages, I struggle like hell in certain settings. I’m not like a fish in water as soon as I step into a language class, far from it. I get caught up in boxing against my own shadow. Six years of therapy should sort me out…

Despite this, I evidently still go to language classes and I do get a great deal out of them. So, I guess, it’s more like a love-hate relationship.

As an aside, my Portuguese class is about to fold, due to lack of numbers. We’re down to just three. I may go elsewhere in May if another class can be found, or continue on my own. I have placed an ad on a website looking for speakers of Brazilian Portuguese who want to improve their English or their German. Let’s see what comes of it…

Why Do We Start Learning Languages And Then Abandon Them?

I’m not telling anyone anything new when I say that it takes a momentous effort to learn a foreign language. Most people are forced into taking one up at school, only to ditch it as soon as the curriculum permits. And who can blame them? Poring over grammar exercises and vocabulary lists can be deathly boring, repetitive and time consuming. The much hoped for pay-off, i.e. being able to hold a conversation or read an enjoyable book in that language without having to resort to the dictionary for every fifth word, seems about as close as a functioning Middle East peace agreement.

Much easier just to bake a cake for some instant gratification. Or get a certificate in advanced origami skills to hang up on your bedroom wall to feel proud of for the rest of your life without straining your fingers (never mind your brain cells!) any further in that direction ever again.

The do-it-and-forget-about-it approach doesn’t quite work with languages. I may well be shot down for saying this, but formal qualifications are pretty meaningless where languages are concerned. We’ve all come across people with A-levels and university degrees in a foreign language who, a handful of years later, weren’t able to string an intelligible sentence together, and as for participating in a colloquial native-speaker conversation, forget it.

I remember interviewing someone for a job once in German, and all they were able to do, despite convincing paper qualifications, was to recite a pre-learned speech. When it came to responding to any of my questions…well, let’s just say it was an epic fail.

Anyway, getting back to my original point, even if we’re not obliged by the educational system to knuckle down, and we choose to embark on a language learning project of our own volition, more often than not, we give up before our hard labours have borne any really juicy fruit.

I’m no exception here – I’ve left three languages, in which I’d invested quite heavily, by the wayside.

Why did this happen?

I studied Russian for two years, aged 14-16. It was not part of my school’s curriculum, but offered by a neighbouring school in desperate need to boost numbers to keep the class going. A classmate of mine had suddenly developed a burning interest in Russian (her mother, at that time, was dating someone who spoke Russian, and she was competing for attention), so I went along with her. I enjoyed it and I always did my homework, but one lesson a week didn’t get me very far in terms of competency. I barely reached A2 proficiency by the end of it.

Remember, this was before the internet, at the height of the cold war with 99% of native Russian speakers held captive in their country, so there wasn’t much of a chance to practice outside of the classroom.

Once I left school at 16, I had no access to further teaching, and even though I had found the experience interesting and rewarding, I hadn’t sufficiently fallen in love with the language or the culture to take it up again.

I can still read and write Cyrillic script, which is useful at times. As a teenager, I wrote my diaries in Cyrillic script (see above), safe in the knowledge that nobody in my immediate family would be able to decipher them

My interest in Chinese was first sparked over a decade ago, through a university friend who was learning it at the time. He later went to live in Beijing for a few years. I visited him there in the summer of 2008, and after that visit, I seriously considered moving out there for a bit, and that prompted me to start learning Chinese.

I primarily used a podcast-based course called Chinesepod, which was very entertaining. However, after about six months of working at it, I started to ask myself the question of whether I could REALLY see myself living in China. The honest answer was no, I couldn’t. The pollution, such a profoundly different culture, political repression and inconvenient internet firewalls… my initial excitement over the prospect had waned, little by little, and so I stopped learning Chinese.

Japanese culture and language first started to intrigue me in my early twenties, when I was working for a large travel company in the UK. One of my co-workers was Japanese, and there was also a lovely Japanese-speaking American colleague I made friends with, who had lived in Japan for many years.

Nearly a decade later, in 2003, I had a Japanese flatmate in London, and I actually started dabbling a bit with the language. In 2005, I made a more concerted effort for about six months with books, podcasts and other teaching materials. Plus, I found a Japanese woman to meet up with once a week for language exchange lessons, which I enjoyed greatly. But after she returned to Japan, the whole thing fell flat. I’d have loved to have gone to Japan at that point to do an intensive course for a few months, but it just wasn’t financially feasible.

I do feel sad now when I look at my notebooks and my pages and pages of writing practice from years ago, when I studied Japanese

I do feel a pang of sadness every time I look at my notebooks and my pages and pages of writing practice from years ago, when I studied Japanese

After giving up on a language, I always experience a profound sense of regret, which never seems to fully dissipate. They are achievements never fully realised, like sprouted seeds withering in barren soil. They were once windows to other cultures, people and friendships, but the shutters came crashing down, and there’s barely a ray of light coming through.

Of those three I’ve abandoned, it’s the Japanese I lament the most. I’m determined to get back to it at some point. Right now, though, I’ve got enough on my plate with Spanish and Portuguese.

What about you? Are there any languages you were once into that have since bitten the dust? What attracted you to them in the first place and why did you veer off course? Are you intending to take them back up again…?

[If you’re missed my post on how I almost remained a monoglot, click here.]

Project Multilingual: Two Timing Troubles

I’m worried that it’s too early to be doing this… too soon into a new relationship.

I know that some of you are getting on top of two, three or even four(!) at the same time, and I do wonder how people are managing this.

I moved to Spain primarily to get to grips with Spanish. I’d been studying the language before, for years, on and off, and I knew that I was never going to reach a (for me) satisfactory level of competence without actually going to live in a Spanish-speaking country.

So I did. And I put in a lot of effort to improve. For the first nine months, I took classes to plug the remaining grammar gaps. I listen to teaching podcasts every day, and to the radio, for hours and hours. I engage in 1-2-1 intercambios (language exchange) sessions with a number of people every week. I spend time with Spanish friends. I’ve just started reading novels in Spanish, which, thanks to the integrated dictionary on my Kindle, is going quite well. I’m not yet where I want to be with it – progress is a lot slower than I expected.

I’ve harboured an interest in Portuguese since my teenage years, and it was next up on my list of languages to tackle, but, to be honest, I’d rather have waited another year for my Spanish to solidify a bit more. However, an opportunity arose to go to Brazil for a few months with a friend at the end of this year. I don’t want to miss out, and I also want to get the most out of that experience, so I started learning Brazilian Portuguese a month ago, from zero.

Pronunciation is tricky. To stop it from sounding like Spanish, I figured, after watching a whole slew of podcasts on the matter, you have to speak like a 13-year-old Italian boy with a stonking cold whose voice is breaking. The fact that Portuguese is so close to Spanish is helpful and confusing all at the same time.

Portuguese HuecosBut grammar is grammar is grammar, in any language. Suddenly, I find myself once again filling in endless gaps on photocopied pages, requiring the right articles, pronouns, verb tenses. Because there is no other way, at least in the beginning. I’d only just left this phase behind me. (In Spanish.) It’s like the terrible twos all over again.

At the moment, I’m trying to do a bit of Portuguese each day, spending maybe between 20 minutes to an hour, and, overall, I am enjoying it … but…. I do feel terribly guilty for not investing that time in my Spanish instead. Even before starting on this new language, I felt that I wasn’t giving my Spanish the attention it deserved.That’s because I have to do other important stuff like work for a living, and for that, my head needs to be in English mode.

Any tips from anyone studying multiple languages at the same time…? At some point, I’d quite like to get back to my Japanese, which I abandoned four years ago… but that would be totally crazy, right?!?

Project Portuguese – The Kick Off

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!

 Portuguese Basico

Project Portuguese Is In The Starting Blocks!

Brazilian Portuguese. It’s my next thing. Been thinking about it for a while, but haven’t made a start. At this moment in time, I know ziltch Portuguese. I watched a couple of podcasts and attempted to parrot a few words. I totally crippled them in the process. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my research. I know I that I want to learn is Brazilian Portuguese, rather than Portuguese from Portugal. Initially, I was quite torn over this. After all, Portugal is so close, only a few miles (OK, 300 miles) down the river. The Tagus, which flows through Toledo, spills into the sea at Lisbon. It would be fairly easy for me to spend part of my time in Lisbon, and part in Toledo.

The Tagus (Tajo), shot from Alcantara Bridge, Toledo.

The Tagus (Tajo), shot from Alcantara Bridge, Toledo.

Brazilian and European Portuguese, despite being technically the same language, have diverged significantly since the Portuguese first arrived in South America in 1500 carving out the colony, and the two ‘dialects’ are no longer mutually intelligible. Although, according to what I’ve read, the Portuguese can understand the Brazilians, but not vice versa. I look forward to finding out more about the specific differences in due course.

Why Brazilian Portuguese?
First, there are the simple metrics: Brazil has a population of 194 million, while Portugal’s amounts to just over 10 million. I’m not all that interested in acquiring a ’boutique language’ understood by only a handful of bods, unless I happen to be living in a place where a minority language is spoken. Second, Brazil is a fast-growing economy, and of great interest to me from a work perspective. I frequently write about emerging economies, and being able to access relevant material in the original language and having a basic understanding of local culture affords me a distinct professional advantage.

Another, and not unimportant reason is that my friend Sofia also needs Brazilian Portuguese for her work, and it would be nice for us to be doing this together. She has a tourism company here in Toledo, and she expects that over the next two decades, a significant proportion of her business is going to come from Brazil.

Our plan is to start learning the basics here in Spain, and then go off to Brazil in November for three or four months to do an intensive language course. Well, maybe not that intensive… we’ll be in a town with a lovely beach, called Salvador, which Sofia has been to before 😉

Cold Feet…
Part of me is apprehensive about starting to learn another language so soon, when I’m only just getting to grips with Spanish. I feel like I’m already not spending enough time on that. Then there’s the fact that Portuguese and Spanish are very closely related. On the one hand, this is good; it means that I’ve already got a massive passive vocabulary, but on the other hand, it’s tricky, because it’s likely to cause me a lot of confusion at this stage.

Ideally, I would have liked to have waited for another year or two, until I’d gained a much more solid grasp of Spanish, before embarking on my next linguistic adventure. I’ve written once about the fact that quality is far more important to me than quantity when it comes to acquiring foreign languages. But, seeing as a delectable opportunity to abscond to Brazil with a good friend is presenting itself, I really don’t want to pass it up, just because the timing isn’t absolutely perfect.

Things are moving fast!
Since I wrote the above two days ago, things have been slotting into place rather rapidly. Yesterday, I called a language school I found which is offering Brazilian Portuguese (there isn’t exactly an abundance of those in a small town like Toledo!). It so happened that they had a couple of people on a waiting list, and with me and Sofia on board, they are willing to kick off a beginners’ class. A small class like that would suit me perfectly. We’re starting either this coming Monday or Tuesday, they haven’t confirmed the day yet. Well, now that it’s happening, I’m starting to feel rather excited…!