Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

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Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby fresh_air » Wed Mar 15, 2017 5:20 pm

I'm going to be visiting Brazil this October, so I've taken it upon myself to learn Portuguese. I've been studying for an hour and a half a day since last November.. This is the first language I've taken seriously, and I have a lot of passion (borderline obsession). I listen to Brazilian music all day at work, and think about what I've been studying for most of the day. I haven't been so excited about a hobby since I discovered weightlifting. Anyways,

If I work on

1) Assimil for a minimum of 35 minutes a day, inputting unfamiliar words I come across in Anki
2) Speak with natives daily
3) Study a grammar book (Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar) and complete the workbook
4) Finish Muito Prazer

will I be able to reach fluency before my trip?
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Re: Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby iguanamon » Wed Mar 15, 2017 7:26 pm

First, welcome to the forum, fresh_air. Portuguese is probably my favorite language. "Fluency" is a term that can mean many things. You can be "fluent" in certain situations and not in others. When I first started learning Spanish many years ago, I got to where I became "fluent" in "travel Spanish" in a relatively short time frame. That meant I could buy a bus/train/plane ticket, ask about schedules, rent a hotel room, ask and follow directions, order in a restaurant, introduce and describe myself... all without using English... but I couldn't read a novel, watch TV or a film or talk about most subjects that I could talk about so easily in English. So, I was fluent in one sense and not fluent in another. "Fluency" is a term we try to avoid using here on the forum because of this reason. It's a moveable target and means many things to many people. C2 does not equal native ability.

"Proficiency" (credit to s_allard) is more pertinent. You must know something about the CEFR levels because you have listed your proficiency in Portuguese as A1/A2. Given the right learning style combined with the right materials and resources, you should be able to reach intermediate level in seven months- B1 and perhaps B2. The "right learning style and materials" is only something that you will be able to determine yourself by what is working for you, confirmed by self (or outside) evaluation. If by "fluency" you mean C1/C2, no, I don't think so. October is seven months from now. This is your first second language. It takes more time and effort than most people think to reach the higher levels. Courses, won't do it alone. You'll have to train all facets of the language to some extent to reach above intermediate. A language takes time to grow in your mind. Working on reading, listening, speaking and writing (to some extent) helps to create those new pathways in the mind.

I never used Assimil. I learned Portuguese after having reached a high level in Spanish and it was still difficult for me even with one second language under my belt. I've also never used Anki. I think it is very helpful for learners but can be detrimental when they start expecting it to do all the heavy lifting for them. I once read or heard somewhere that "after you finish your course(s) that's when you start to really learn the language". I've found this to be very true in my experience.

I wouldn't sweat it. With an intermediate level you should be able to handle most situations you come across with a patient native-speaker. Brazilians are a very friendly, kind and helpful people on the whole. Most will appreciate that you are making the effort to learn their language. B1 level in Portuguese will make your trip very rewarding in comparison to being a monolingual. B1 and B2 are highly useful levels and you can do a heck of a lot with them. You may not be able to do everything you can do in English but what you will be able to do and what you can accomplish with an intermediate level can be quite rewarding.

If you're interested, I've described my learning method in the link below. You may find some of it useful. You should start a log and read others' logs, even when their target language isn't yours. You can get near real time advice and tips and pick up tips from others. I've learned quite a lot from reading others' logs here. Boa sorte e bem-vindo(a) ao fórum!
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Re: Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby Tomás » Wed Mar 15, 2017 7:51 pm

fresh_air wrote:I'm going to be visiting Brazil this October, so I've taken it upon myself to learn Portuguese. I've been studying for an hour and a half a day since last November.. This is the first language I've taken seriously, and I have a lot of passion (borderline obsession). I listen to Brazilian music all day at work, and think about what I've been studying for most of the day. I haven't been so excited about a hobby since I discovered weightlifting. Anyways,

If I work on

1) Assimil for a minimum of 35 minutes a day, inputting unfamiliar words I come across in Anki
2) Speak with natives daily
3) Study a grammar book (Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar) and complete the workbook
4) Finish Muito Prazer

will I be able to reach fluency before my trip?


If you spend an hour or two a day doing those things, in seven months you will not be fluent, but you will be a competent tourist who is able to communicate his needs and understand the gist of the responses.

I would recommend also watching simple tv shows and reading books and news reports. After the first month of your regimen above, you should be able to decipher the news with the help of a popup translator button. Start with tv shows for kids. You won't understand much tv at first, but if you keep watching the same show every day, you'll start to get more and more.
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Re: Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby Serpent » Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:11 pm

It's one of my favourite languages too :D
Assimil and anki are a powerful combination, but don't worry too much about learning "everything". There are lots of important words that aren't in Assimil. You can follow this routine for a couple of months but after that be sure to add native materials - books, tv, gloss. since you like Brazilian music you should try lyricstraining, and in general see this article about using music in your learning. In the long run how much media you consume is much more important than whether you complete Assimil, whether you add every word to Anki, etc.
if you're new to Anki as well, add new words slowly. For now focus on the ones that you can see yourself using while travelling. Assimil is very well structured and you'll learn lots of words just by doing the lessons. if you really want to add the words to Anki, be sure to wait for 5-15 days after compleing the lesson. and if a word becomes too easy, delete or suspend cards. You don't have the time for revising easy words again and again.
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Re: Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby smallwhite » Thu Mar 16, 2017 3:26 am

iguanamon wrote:October is seven months from now.

Tomás wrote:If you spend an hour or two a day doing those things, in seven months you will not be fluent, but...

OP said:
fresh_air wrote:I've been studying for an hour and a half a day since last November.

so OP has 1 year. Of "an hour or two a day" of study plus listening "all day at work".

The first foreign language I taught myself seriously was French, so, Romance and similar to your case except you're native in English and I'm not. I also often had French music or radio on. Also 1 to 2 hours a day, mostly 2, I think. I tested C1 after 500 days.

But you don't need C1 to enjoy a trip. I was text-Skyping in French with customers by month 7. I did fine in Spain checking-in and -out at 6 hostels, solving credit card issues and of course chatting with strangers after 7 months of Spanish (and French). I witnessed a learner at a Spanish meet-up chatting confidently about sight-seeing recommendations and other meet-up topics after 10 months of Instituto Cervantes.

If Portuguese is anything like French and Spanish then I'd say listening would be the only hurdle if you have 1 year.
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Re: Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby blaurebell » Thu Mar 16, 2017 11:45 am

What is generally considered basic fluency - somewhere between B2 and C1 - would take 600h of focused study time for a language of this difficulty level according to FSI estimates. So, at 1 1/2 you will fall short of that estimate. You'd need to study 2h or more for 300 days to get there *under ideal circumstances*. As a self-learner, especially when learning the first foreign language, one also needs to be careful how one spends that time, it's easy to waste time on slow paced courses or a course that focuses on other skills than the ones you actually want to develop. You need to think about your goals and make sure you spend enough time on exactly those skills that are important for you, especially when you're on a deadline.

Some courses are definitely more helpful for developing one skill rather than another. I find Assimil excellent for developing comprehension, but the production side is an afterthought and will leave you struggling if you actually want to speak. For speaking Michel Thomas and other audio heavy courses are better, but they are terrible if you need to read and write. If you need to produce correct grammar and speak/write well rather than just be understood - business or academic reasons -, FSI is the way to go. However, FSI style courses are the worst option for developing good levels of comprehension, since one usually needs to have seen most grammar to understand even children's books. FSI drills every single bit of grammar to the extreme which is painful enough to make most casual learners give up on it before they reach the end of the course, i.e. before they have seen enough grammar to be able to understand. And even if you combine all three course styles - comprehension, audio / production and grammar with anki, you will still lack vocabulary if you don't use any other form of input - TV, reading, etc.

So, a common mistake for learners who have never learned a new language before is to choose only one course that focuses on precisely the wrong skills. The lack of progress on their actual goals then usually leads to giving up the whole enterprise of learning the language. If they return to learning that language eventually, they are likely to repeat the same course again although it's ineffective for their goals, especially if they paid a lot of money for it. They might also choose a course of the exact same style as the course they abandoned because they've become accustomed to that style of language course. So, identifying your goals is really extremely important so that you don't become discouraged! If your main goal is to speak, don't only use Assimil, and if you want to read, don't only use audio courses, interaction based classes or courses that focus primarily on producing correct grammar. Also, some courses lead exactly nowhere in general because they are simply ineffective or so slow-paced that they become a waste of time. It's better to abandon courses that don't seem to work for your goals than to make it a matter of pride to finish them. Ideally pick 2 courses that complement each other and make sure you focus on the skills that are most important for you (audio + grammar for mostly interaction, assimil + grammar for reading comprehension, assimil + audio for listening comprehension). Doing two courses of the same style at the same time is usually a waste of time, unless you are really struggling a lot.

Also, make sure you have fun with the language. I think you're already doing fine on that front with the music, but if you spend most of your study time on a course you hate you'll not retain much of it. The brain resists unpleasant situations and will try to forget anything related to them. So, if you actually dread doing your Anki repetitions, don't use it, it will not work for you. I hate flashcards, so Anki is actually totally ineffective for me. I don't recognise the words in any other context, especially not if they are inflected. For some people anki is magic, but I suppose I just hate flashcards too much. I wasted 50h on it with Russian and could have spent that time much more effectively without torturing myself! I switched my vocabulary work to intensive reading and that works much better for me. I learned French basically without any flashcards whatsoever that way. I suppose other people would hate intensive reading so much, they wouldn't retain anything either. As always, there is more than one way to skin a cat. You need to figure out what works best for *you* and not for some language learning guru or even the majority of people. This is why the first foreign language is always the hardest to learn, it's when you're most likely to make all the mistakes and waste an awful lot of time on activities and courses that don't work for you and your goals.
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Re: Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby Ani » Thu Mar 16, 2017 5:13 pm

blaurebell wrote:What is generally considered basic fluency - somewhere between B2 and C1 - would take 600h of focused study time for a language of this difficulty level according to FSI estimates. So, at 1 1/2 you will fall short of that estimate. You'd need to study 2h or more for 300 days to get there *under ideal circumstances*.



The FSI numbers are for guided study hours. Students are expected to study outside of that on their own for a significant number of hours. Also, the average student at FSI speaks 2.3 languages so they are not really talking about a first foreign language.
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Re: Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby aokoye » Thu Mar 16, 2017 5:35 pm

Not only are the FIS numbers very specific to the Foreign Service Institute, but they also aren't backed up by publicly available studies.
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Re: Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby fresh_air » Thu Mar 16, 2017 5:39 pm

Ani wrote:The FSI numbers are for guided study hours. Students are expected to study outside of that on their own for a significant number of hours. Also, the average student at FSI speaks 2.3 languages so they are not really talking about a first foreign language.


I'm hoping that the 6 weeks I spend in Recife and Belo Horizonte balance out the extra study hours.
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Re: Portuguese learning plan - what level will I be?

Postby blaurebell » Thu Mar 16, 2017 6:28 pm

Ani wrote:The FSI numbers are for guided study hours. Students are expected to study outside of that on their own for a significant number of hours. Also, the average student at FSI speaks 2.3 languages so they are not really talking about a first foreign language.


Yeah, saw that one coming a mile away! Of course you're right *BUT* the OP asked about estimates and these are the only numbers we have. We don't have any numbers for self-learners, because they don't follow one program and might focus on quite different goals than folks following FSI courses. They will come out of their program with different skills and will need more or less time to reach their goals. I believe it actually evens out though: FSI have quite a different estimation of what fluency means because the goal of their programs is to use the language with highly educated people in situations that are quite different from what the average language learner might need on the street. The average language learner also normally won't cause an international incident by expressing themselves poorly. Different goals. Also due to spending the whole day with the language 7h +4h homework or something like that, the learning is even faster due to immersion. So, yes, forget about numbers. One thing is for sure though 1 1/2h a day isn't enough to be fluent even after a year. Another number that keeps flying around here is 1000h for an easy language. That is even less supported by any kind of reliable measurement though.

I wish this discussion wouldn't come up *every single time* someone mentions any kind of numbers. Yeah, we don't really know, but a ballpark guesstimate is still more helpful to the OP than "We don't know, figure it out for yourself!"
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