Hello world, I’m back on task setting my weekly goals for my quest to become fluent in Brazilian Portuguese. The past 2 months (of my ~6 months in Rio) I’ve had a lot of trouble updating regularly. It’s hard to find the time to sit down and write when I’m working, running all over the city, and oh yeah, actually trying to learn Portuguese. But if I’m going to be serious about this (and I am), I have to look at it as being too lazy.
Why? Because goal setting is such a huge part of learning a language (or really most things). Yeah we’ve known that since the 90’s, but it doesn’t make it too much easier to implement on a daily basis. In this entry though, I’m back to being serious.
First, I wanted to document some progress towards two of my overall meta-goals and what’s been working well as well as my thoughts on what to try next.
Goal #1: Reduce accent
What seems to work: Practicing transitions by studying and repeating rap music and novela conversation. (Note: this works extremely well for both Falar and Entender components– the sounds are getting easier, and I’ve found that my audio “parsing” abilities skyrocket after a listening/speaking session.)
Goal #2: Respond quickly (naturally) in conversation with correct grammar
What seems to work: When I listen to my Pimsleur Portuguese files, if I’m actively engaged I get into a “zone” where I am responding in (usually) correct Portuguese, naturally, without thinking about it. The defining characteristic of this “zone” seems to be: I don’t think about it, I just speak with confidence, and somehow it just works. Speaking like this comes with a feeling I’ve described to people as similar to the feeling of learning how to ice-skate or ride a bike. It’s that same shaky sense of disorientation, it only works if you really go for it, and you’re probably going to fall a few times. The most important lesson here for me though, has been that confidence unlocks language. More on this soon.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the two different ways I have of speaking Portuguese. One is more tedious. I can hear my thoughts in English, slowly crunching a word I want through various grammar rules, conjugation patterns, or vocabulary associations (“espero que vocês–hmm, que signals present subjunctive mood… okay… a-stem verb… wait… third person plural… —possam!“). This method, while often giving me the “right” answer, kills a conversation with a hundred akward little pauses where you can hear the gears straining in my brain. I don’t want to limit myself by speaking Portuguese like this. As much as I have a tendency to dislike errors and want to be picky as usual, I want the rhythm and the “fluid” part of fluency. Então, there is no way around it. I cannot learn to dance by looking at my feet, I cannot learn a language by thinking about grammar rules. I have to just go for it.
So how to emphasize this frame of mind? Well– learn to dance!
More samba! I’m going to get used to turning off the over-analytical/steering part of my brain by keeping up with samba no pé via private lessons, something I’ve wanted to do since I arrived. Call me crazy, but for some reason I know that learning this dance will help me learn this language. I can’t exactly articulate all the reasons why, but there you go. A side effect will be that I continue to pick up some fundamental aspects of body-language, an important part of the social interaction component of language ability.
In terms of goal-setting, a common theme for this blog, here’s some more food for thought, academic style, on setting optimal goals which I recently discovered. I still haven’t read the article thoroughly enough to see if the methodology is adaptable to my current plans here, but I’ll update about it soon if I make it all the way though.
Also, for myself, I’m reposting some personal food for thought here to remind myself of an important insight from my original goal-setting entry:
“Here’s the most important thing, and the thing that I believe I’ll find hardest about this whole mission: to learn to speak, I have to SPEAK.”
I’m still working on finding my voice here. I am being persistent, but it’s challenging to keep getting up to bat when it’s so easy to feel like a child, language-wise. But I’ve stumbled upon something called the 3 second rule: when I have an urge to make a comment in Portuguese to a random stranger but then squash it, I seem to be able to force it back into being by counting “1…2…3.” and then suddenly saying it. Who knew, but it’s been working great, and always boosts my mood, which boosts my speaking ability.
Now, my weekly goals:
- Read my original goal list at least 2 times during the week to remind myself of what I’m working towards (concretely)– I only have 2 months left, yikes!
- Record myself on film speaking Portuguese at least 3 times during the week (it doesn’t need to be correct, it just needs to be fluid)
- Read some Portuguese each night before sleeping (I now have 4 texts on my kindle and 3 physical books!)
- Key into at least 3 conversations at work each day (sneaky sneaky, this means I stare at my computer but focus creepily on my coworker’s phone-call)
- Make a mind-map diagram of the differences I perceive between thinking in Portuguese and thinking in English (this task will be fun, I’ve been thinking about it for a while)
- Schedule my first samba lesson (turn off the brain)
So now I am socially and morally bound to be back here in one week, rsrs.
How does goal-setting usually work out for you, do you have any tips?
beijos from a gringa feliz 🙂