Saturday, January 24, 2009

Learning a Second Language

I have spent more time speaking English in my lifetime than my native language, Portuguese. Although I speak Portuguese fluently, I don't get to use it much, and I really have trouble expressing myself with more in depth conversations (especially written). When I was growing up in Australia, we had a lot of Brazilian friends, so I was familiar with the language, but didn't speak it. At one point, my father decided we would speak to him only in Portuguese, but we would quickly get stuck on a word and he'd let us say it in English. It was quite entertaining hearing us talk to my mum because we (the kids) would speak English, while she would answer in Portuguese. We all understood one another. That consistent exposure was sufficient to help me learn for good once we moved back to Brazil (I was 13 by then).

Some of my friends in Brazil just told me about this website: I haven't joined yet because I already feel I'm spending too much time online, but it may be a good way for me to brush up on my Brazilian Portuguese. (So this isn't an endorsement, it's just an FYI.) If you have ever learned a language with a speaking partner, this website seems to expand that concept. You can even help others learn your language. Several languages are available.

On a related note, I also have two books checked out from the library about bilingualism. I would love for my kids to speak Portuguese, or at least have the same exposure as I did. I initially spoke only Portuguese with my son while I was alone with him, but that idea fell by the wayside by the time he was 2 months old. There are plenty of resources available for Spanish, but hardly anything for Portuguese. So there's no Dora/Diego stuff in this house, but it occurred to me that there is a Portuguese version of Dora in Brazil, where she speaks primarily Portuguese and then says some words in English. So I may get around to looking into that.

1 comment:

  1. Renata, I found your blog when I saw your comment on Claudia Krusch's CK Translations blog. I too have a desire to teach Portuguese to my English speaking 3, 5, and 7 year olds. I am from the U.S., but speak Portuguese as a second language (I try at least). My husband is from Brazil. I want very much for my children to learn the language of their father and grandparents. With my first child, many of her first words were in Portuguese because we spoke the language a lot to her. But then I had to go back to work and she and the other two we had later stayed with their exclusively English speaking grandmother. I finally returned as a full-time mother, and this last summer I began Portuguese classes with my kids. I tried to make it fun by going on field trips, using self-made flashcards, and having small but fun toys or treats as rewards for learning. They actually loved it. They're getting a good vocabulary of nouns but I'm not quite sure how to go about teaching them how to form full sentences. I have a few ideas, but I suppose I should check out a few books like you did about teaching a second language. I had no idea they had Dora in Brazil. That would be a great idea; my little ones love Dora and Diego. We have quite a few books in Portuguese and English/Portugues picture dictionaries that we received from our relatives in Brasil. Anyway I would love to correspond with you about any ideas or resources you have and what has worked best for your children, especially according to their individual ages. My email is