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Introduction to Portuguese

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An Invitation

Learning another language means looking at the world through a new set of eyes, to adopt the rich history of another culture as if it were your own. As you embark on your journey, you will find that you have never heard some of the greatest lyrics ever sung, you can't pronounce the titles of some of the world's greatest works of literature, and that you never even knew how many ways a human could express the idea of being.

This is why Portuguese Online invites you to learn Portuguese, one of the richest, most useful, and most diverse languages on the planet.

It's Just My Style

Unlike many courses I've seen, I won't give you pages of facts and accompany them with textbook definitions of grammatical terms. But I won't make a point of steering clear of the less important terms and ideas, either.

Some courses (including the vast majority of language software and professionally done online courses) offer a conversation-driven approach to languages. I like some of what these offer, but don't appreciate so much of what they leave out. They also lack the style, grace, and wisdom of a good teacher, and leave too many gaping holes in the process.

For my part, it is my intention to sit down with you and talk you through the language, expanding on the concepts I bring up with ideas, stories, and logical thoughts that you can relate to. But I will still challenge you.

Spoken and Written Portuguese

Portuguese, like English, French, and Irish Gaelic, "suffers" from an orthography (or spelling system, from two Greek words for "correct writing/carving") that is often called historical. This means that it is an older written language whose spelling system does not match trends in the current spoken language. In other words, it's the same reason why we say nee and spell knee (believe it or not, that k was once pronounced).

While wonderfully beautiful for the literary language and historical linguists reconstructing the origin of words, it stands as yet another challenge for the beginning student.

Although Portuguese, especially Standard Brazilian, has done a reasonably good job of curbing this trend in the last century, written Portuguese is a far cry from a phonetic (or, really, phonemic, one symbol, one pronunciation) representation of the language.

To make matters more interesting, Portuguese speakers also differentiate between levels of formality, including the spoken and written word, more than speakers of English, especially in the United States. More than contractions ("are not" > "aren't") separates the level of language used, including word choice, verb conjugation, pronouns, and much more.

Choosing a Dialect

The majority of people accessing these lessons want to learn Brazilian Portuguese, a general term used to cover the standard language of Brazil. Many dialects differ within Brazil, and cities as reasonably close as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo on the south coast speak distinct dialects (I can hear a difference within the first few phrases). However, Brazilian dialects on the whole remain more consistent than those of Portugal.

The sheer size and population of Brazil, coupled with the Mercosul trade agreement in South America, make Brazilian Portuguese essential for conducting business in the continent. As Brazil is far and away the world's largest and most populous Lusophone country, this is the dialect of choice for those looking to learn the Portuguese of business, of current events, and the Portuguese moving to the forefront of a changing world.

If, however, your interests lie in Europe, Africa, or the Portuguese crioulos of India and Asia, Standard European Portuguese offers a perfect starting point. This is the Portuguese of saudade, the fado, Vasco da Gama and the Lusiads. In many ways, European Portuguese represents both a more conservative and a more radical set of dialects.

Whichever standard you choose to call your own, you will want to learn something of the other as well. This is particularly true if you speak European Portuguese, since the preeminence and popularity of Brazilian keeps that variety in the limelight.

Using These Lessons

These lessons, immediately called lições to start the process of immersion, are both relatively traditional and somewhat unique in the presentation of the material. They are not as formal as many series, but the format and approach are based on the author's own language-learning experience. The lessons have received welcomed praise from around the world.

You will find new vocabulary scattered throughout the lições. Nouns are given in the form noun (gender) translation. After you learn about gender, it will be marked as a parenthetic abbreviation, masculine as (m.) and feminine as (f.), right along side the noun.

Verbs are cited in the infinitive (to ____) form, e.g. fazer to make, to do. Irregular verbs are marked and discussed in the lessons. Adjectives are given in the masculine singular, e.g. muito much, many. Explanations are typically marked with an asterisk (*). All other words are given in their invariable form, e.g. quando when. The above paragraphs will make more sense to you as you learn the language.

Any differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese are noted in the text, usually in a casual and understandable manner (for example, "Brazilians stick to você, so please do the same when learning Brazilian Portuguese" - from lesson 1).

I have made every effort to use bold blue to indicate either key grammatical terms or words and phrases written in the Portuguese language. Bold should catch your attention, but it represents something secondary (ex: helpful Latin words inherited into Portuguese and borrowed into English that lessen the language gap and the burden on your memory). Italics highlight English translations, as well as some helpful afterthoughts. I underline words for emphasis both in the original Portuguese and the English translations.

Any section marked >in-depth below the title line contains a large amount of useful information, but much of it may be new or tricky.

In a grammar section, >in-depth marks areas where I've noticed learners having trouble. Take pride in your abilities if any of these sections are easy for you.

An >example indicates a useful Portuguese word or phrase that illustrates the surrounding text.

Similarly, a >never fails marks statements that are always true. No exceptions!

All interactive images and animations will be self-explanatory or explained in the text. You will, however, need the Flash Player (download here) to access these.

And, finally, at the bottom of most pages you will find a box with helpful suggestions on where to go next (like the one below).

Contacting the Author

Please send any questions, comments, suggestions, or musings in Portuguese or English my way. This site generates a tremendous volume of mail, so I beg you for a little patience.

In hopes that you enjoy learning the language as much as I do helping you along the way, e adiante! and onward!


Portuguese Online Suggests:

Introduction to the Portuguese Language

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