If you’re a regular reader, you already know I’m learning Portuguese. You also know that I’m going about it in an unusual way. Teaching myself like a child. With children’s books and podcasts, TV shows and eavesdropping.
The beauty of this method is that I enjoy it. Which means I’m motivated to learn. It’s not homework. It’s not a chore. It’s that 30 minutes a day when I get to read about Black Beard’s pirating career or find out how our sassy kid hero escapes from where the burglars locked him in a closet. (And it’s worth noting: this works. When I picked up a book I didn’t enjoy, I realized I forgot to do my reading three days in a row. If the fun isn’t in it, it’s so much harder to sustain.)
The other beauty of this method?
My vocabulary is a strange and hilarious thing.
Because I’m not learning how to ask for coffee (though I can do that). I’m not doing worksheets on how to talk about my profession.
I’m reading about piratas (pirates) and roubadores (robbers) and lendas (legends). And so I’ve started joking with my bestie, who is also about to embark on learning a new language (in his case: Italiano), that we are going to embrace our most eccentric selves in our new languages.
After all, some of the words getting stuck in my head, making me fall in love with the language, aren’t words you’d use in everyday conversation.
Tripulação (boat crew)
Diz a lenda (legend has it)
Roubar (to steal)
So when you picture me trying out my new language, picture it full of eccentric language jokes.
Instead of saying my besties are on their way, you’ll hear me say my tripulação are coming. When someone asks if I’m here for the dance event, I might just answer diz a lenda. What am I looking for at the thrift store? Probably tesouro.
So when I answer your Portuguese inquiries with the most eccentric version of an answer, know that it’s because I’m playing with my new language. Learning it with laughter and creativity. Bending it around myself like baby’s first poetry.
And it’s working. I can see the tiny baby steps. My graduation from picture books to chapter books. My ability to explain what I needed fully in Portuguese when the new cleaner came last week. The way I finally understand a whole few minutes of a Portuguese YouTube video without having to pause and re-read or look something up.
The steps are still baby-sized. But the sense of accomplishment, the laughter, the ability to play as I learn – those are monumentally larger.
Diz a lenda.