Speaking Brazilian Portuguese

Garota de Ipanema - album coverOne of the great benefits of mastering Brazilian Portuguese is being able to fully appreciate the music by understanding the lyrics. Brazil enjoys the largest recording industry outside of the United States, so the number of brilliant artists and the wide variety of genres (most people have never heard of), is truly staggering. Perhaps the first time I’d ever hear this beautiful language was by recorded music, as my father had an extensive jazz collection, and even before I was born the bossa nova was played in my house and now today the first song I can sing in Portuguese is the Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema).

Legend has it that the Portuguese language was brought to Portugal by the Knights Templar and was the last Romance language created from Vulgar Latin by an order of monks who were language makers, somewhat like today’s software makers, that means that Portuguese was on the cutting-edge of the evolution of Latin, maybe a: Latin 5.0 at that time. Now there are some 800 million total Romance language speakers, worldwide, the largest segment of which would be about 500 million Spanish/Castilian and the French with 250 million are just slightly ahead of the worldwide population of Portuguese speaking people, however Brazil has the largest population of Portuguese speaking citizens and then a slightly lessor number of Italian speaking people. I’ve been told that it’s easier for Portuguese speakers to understand and adopt the other Romance languages, for example many Brazilian’s can understand Spanish but my friends from Costa Rica, for example, found it really difficult time to understand Portuguese.

Once upon a time the Portuguese were a great seafaring nation with a colony spread far and wide over the globe, today it is the fifth most spoken language in the world, the most widely spoken in the southern hemisphere, and the third most spoken in the Western world. In addition to Brazil and Portugal, it is used in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor, as well as in the former territories of Portuguese India (Goa, Daman, Isle of Angediva, Simbor, Gogol, Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli) and in small communities that were part of the Portuguese Empire in Asia as Malacca, Malaysia and East Africa as Zanzibar, Tanzania.

In modern times the language has a home, if you can imagine that? The world’s only museum for a language was opened in 2006 in Sao Paulo, in a refurbished building (see photo) that was once the central train station, Estacao da Luz where 300 thousand passengers arrive and leave the station everyday, in a neighborhood of the same name. The Portuguese language lives and grows in this fabulous refurbished building which was chosen for the museum because of the fact that, it was mainly here that thousands of non-Portuguese speaking immigrants arriving from Europe and Asia via the Port of Santos into São Paulo got acquainted with the language for the first time.


The famous Brazilian singer, songwriter and composer, Gilberto Gil spoke at the opening of Estacao da Luz, with these remarks:

The language speaks for you. The purpose of studying and interacting with a language in a museum, cultural and exchange programs, orthographic agreements, and the development of new words show how important it is. The language is our mother. This museum covers most, if not all, the aspects of the written and spoken language, of the dynamic language, the language of interaction, the language of affection, the language of gestures and of any other aspects that this museum was meant to promote.

Looking around online I found some very good resources, both free and subscription, plus found a large variety of YouTube videos, some making the nearly impossible claim of having you speaking Portuguese in 30 days, The reason I say “nearly” impossible is because if you already speak another Latin language then it is possible to be conversational in a relatively short period of time, depending on your memory, study habits and your latent ability for languages. For myself I will be satisfied to reach the conversational status before the end of 2011 and plan to use this blog to post updates, from time to time, on the best resources I find.

The amount of positive comments from Rosetta Stone was what won-me-over to try their software but I also liked the course offering (especially price) and free downloads, blog and Facebook group associated with the company called Transparent Language and a really cool Blog called Tecla SAP.

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