Teach Yourself Beginner’s Portuguese by Sue Tyson-Ward

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“Five outta ten!”
decent pacing; lots of dialogues and activities; vocab lists kept short and relevant to readings/topics; language and grammar points covered are solid for beginners; includes index, glossary & table of contents;

European Portuguese only (but sometimes covers Brazilian use without really explaining what’s going on); organization only so-so, especially study/grammar points; quality of activities and short length of dialogues may put off some learners; explanations often miss the mark, failing to connect the dots or explain grammar as well as they should

Sue Tyson-Ward’s Teach Yourself Beginner’s Portuguese attempts to break down and teach the basics of Portuguese to new students over the course of 19 lessons. The book & CD combo expose you to an array of conversational and grammar topics.

The book’s format is typical of a TY course (or most other conversational language courses). Chapters start with dialogues, then give grammar or language topic explanations over a few pages. You’ll do paragraph-long reading exercises, as well as practice activities. Readings, dialogs, explanations and activities are often interchanged, which adds variety at the expense of consistency.

The course opens with a short crash course in pronunciation, which is enough to get the ball rolling if you’re learning Continental European Portuguese. The CD or cassette tape follows along, pronouncing a few dozen words so you can get an ear for the language.

Each dialogue is fairly short, but believable. Dialogues and readings are quick and disjointed, so expect to use them for repetition practice, not for any engaging immersion to Portuguese. Unfortunately, not all dialogues are covered on the audio CDs.

The explanations of grammar and language topics sometimes throw verb tables or grammar rules your way without proper introduction, other times offer adequate instructions. Mostly, it’s disappointing that they build on each other mildly and bear minimal connection to the chapter topics or overall course organization. What’s worse, they’re sometimes misleading or conflicting.

Exercises give you a chance to do the typical fill-in-the-blanks or translation & repetition more than anything else. At times, you’ll stray from that formula by, say, picking out what’s going on in a cartoon drawing, or filling out a crossword puzzle.

The end of the book has answers to activities, a Portuguese-English vocabulary glossary and short index. The table of contents also lists chapters by title and summarizes the main points in each chapter.

If you’re looking to ease into conversational Portuguese, and can withstand some of the faults I found in this course, Teach Yourself Beginner’s Portuguese is one way of getting through the basics. But, personally, I recommend other of the many courses available to you.

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