Instant Brazilian Portuguese Vocabulary Builder by Tom Means

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“Four outta ten!”
good exercises ask you to make word associations in Portuguese rather than in translation; good focus on Brazilian use & examples; phrases for certain words, and meaning hints for trickier words; audio tracks read select vocabulary & exercises out loud; helps students make connections between words endings & basic vocabulary patterns

the book’s main feature is to offer lists of relatively straightforward Portuguese words that are similar to English words – few students need so many pages & exercises to build this simple skill; introduction & pronunciation guide are bare-bones, merely providing a distraction; lengthy vocabulary lists with very little pacing to get you through them; browsing through a Portuguese dictionary teaches most learners the same vocabulary building skills; you must know a good amount of Portuguese for the exercises to be at all useful to you

The Instant Brazilian Portuguese Vocabulary Builder is all about endings. Its 200 pages cover lists of words with similar endings in English and Portuguese, capitalizing on the fact that the former borrowed many words – indeed, an entire word-building system – from Latin for so much of our “formal” or “learned” vocabulary.

In each of 24 chapters, you’ll focus on pages of vocabulary words with one such ending. Chapter titles list the suffix in English then Portuguese, such as -tion/-ção. Then, page after page of vocabulary lists give words in English first, then Portuguese to the right, every word having that chapter’s suffix. The chapter treating -tion/-ção starts off with:

abbreviation . . . . . . . . . . . . . abreviação (meaning “a shortening”)
abdication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . abdicação
aberration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . aberração

And the list goes on. Some words (like “abbreviation” above) offer further meaning help, while others give short example phrases directly beneath them to show the word in context. The book doesn’t delve deep into the semantics of Portuguese words – the focus remains on the 24 derivational suffixes common to Portuguese and English.

Exercises end each chapter, and are among the book’s few truly strong points. You’ll match Portuguese words containing the specific ending you just studied with their Portuguese synonyms, read paragraphs and answer questions using words you learn, and more.

The audio CD included with the book allows you to listen to the paragraph-long readings as you complete the activities. Unfortunately, these exercises require you to have some mastery of the language before undertaking them. An appendix contains answers to the practice exercises.

Since the Instant Brazilian Portuguese Vocabulary Builder focuses entirely on words and word forms that are similar in Brazilian Portuguese and English, it severely limits itself as a resource, while also rendering most of its vocabulary lists redundant. You’ll learn a little and complete worthwhile exercises in this course, but, in the long run, you’re much better off with a good dictionary. To be honest, even a simple travel phrasebook will get you further in your efforts to speak Portuguese.

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