Portuguese: Start Speaking Today! (Language 30series), Charles Berlitz

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“Two outta ten!”
a good many of the basic phrases you’d need to just survive (but not all!); a small dose of exposure to the spoken language
short sections on grammar more of a distraction; very limited in scope; disorganized; learning means repeating along with random phrases; Brazilian-only (only a con for European learners)

This entry in the Language 30 Series will be familiar to anyone who has bought another of their courses. Its hard plastic, book-sized shell houses cassette tapes (do you remember how to use those?) and a thin paper booklet. The audio reads aloud a phrase list found in the accompanying booklet, which covers a couple dozen conversation topics with five or six phrases to each topic.

A pronunciation guide proposes a type of phonetic alphabet listed alongside every phrase throughout the course. This “Berlitz method” means that every entry comes out something like “January zhuh-ney-roo janeiro”. This pronunciation guide sometimes looked chaotic to my eyes, and I’d rather deal with IPA than õõm ?e-free-zhe-r?hn-chee.

The grammar and conversation tips pages are extremely rudimentary, and offer more of a distraction than a learning experience. However, the four pages of English vocabulary that follow serve as a good index to the phrasebook.

I’m open to the idea of learning the absolute basic phrases of a language like Portuguese with a book and CD course like this one. Still, I’d want far more clarity and organization. Students that expect such a course to teach more than the absolute tourist survival basics will be disappointed with this course. Learners looking for an organized approach to Portuguese will also feel that this course is below their expectation. And, at this price, beginner level conversation courses are a better purchase.

My low score doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a terrible course with no redeeming qualities. It means that it has some serious flaws and doesn’t, in my mind, justify the price.

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