Teach Yourself Portuguese Grammar by Sue Tyson-Ward

Score:
1 2 3 4 5 (6) 7 8 9 10
“Six outta ten!”
Pros:
covers a great deal of grammar up to the later intermediate level; explanations and examples of Portuguese sentences; lots of exercises with variety and relevance to topics; decent balance of both Brazilian and European Portuguese (but not perfect, so proceed cautiously); verb tables and remarks about spelling and pronunciation; will really help later beginners and early intermediate students with Portuguese writing skills

Cons:
sense of progress marred by ambiguous presnetation of material; explanations get dense or problematic at times; too tough for beginners, but many sections just review for intermediate learners; questionable organization of material; a bad course for fresh beginners and students who can’t find their own way without extra guidance


The author of Teach Yourself Brazilian Portuguese flexes her grammatical muscles in this attempt to present Portuguese grammar to self-taught learners pursuing a “complete understanding” of the language.

Teach Yourself Portuguese Grammar begins with a glossary of grammar terms (noun, verb, etc… all in English with English examples). Then, there are some notes about Portuguese spelling, punctuation, accent marks and stress.

Beyond that point, the book is taken up with a thorough presentation of all the basic and intermediate points of Portuguese grammar and sentence structure. It even manages to cover some advanced topics. As a learner, I know your next question without you asking: but how well does the book teach Portuguese grammar?

Over the course of 45 lessons (46 total minus the spelling unit mentioned above), you will read and reread sections that explain a range of grammar topics. Some topics deal with specific words (like por and para), while others focus on general patterns (like the inflected infinitive of verbs).

Within each chapter, topics are explained in the “grammar in focus” section. These explanations can be dry, dense and textbook-like. What’s more, they may leave out crucial material that beginners. Despite the book’s coverage of both Brazilian and European Portuguese, examples of the two aren’t always distinguished carefully, and some of the information (especially about those ever-tricky Portuguese verbs!) should be checked for accuracy against native speakers of each dialect.

Fortunately, the explanations are supported by well-placed Portuguese examples. Every “grammar in focus” topic has plenty of these sample sentences to digest with a Portuguese-English translation of each one. Exercises that follow offer variety and stay focused on the topics just presented. Some chapters offer a “grammar in context” activity after the exercises, which includes real-life Portuguese examples to test your understanding.

The book ends with a short list of Brazilian and European vocabulary differences, a table of regular verb endings, a table of irregular verbs (the same one found in Manuela Cook’s Teach Yourself Portuguese, and answers to the practice exercises. The book has no index, but the table of contents is thorough enough for later look-ups.

The order and choice of Portuguese grammar topics presented in each chapter is the toughest feature to accept. Related topics (such as definite articles, indefinite articles and nouns) are often grouped together, but the progression between chapters is ambiguous. It’s best if you make a separate learning plan for the grammar topics you need to learn or enhance, and refer to those sections in the book.

If you’re a later beginner looking to tighten your knowledge of Portuguese grammar, especially your abilities in the written language, I think you can learn a lot from this book. Its balance between explanations, examples and exercises, its coverage and variety are all commendable, even if the author’s way of organizing and explaining the material fails to impress.

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