I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

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I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby Raconteur » Tue Mar 09, 2021 3:06 pm

This is not a new phenomenon. A multitude of published courses, books, blogs, and now influencers peddle the idea of learning a language quickly and effortlessly.

If you’ve been around, it will all sound very familiar:
First, I’ll give you some platitudes about accelerated learning, enjoying the process, mission and how schools and institutions "get it so wrong.” Then, a vague supercut of my 7 days of learning Portuguese from scratch, enjoying it immensely, always a smile on my face. Finally, the big reveal: I will have an effortless conversation with a native, who will be amazed by my accomplishment (you will be too!). Also, remember that I am a very decent person… be so kind as to notice the meek disclaimer about how I still have a lot to learn, etc. (let’s disregard the fact that I will continue to use words like “fluent” and “learned” - past tense - everywhere else).

The title, I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days, comes from a recent video I saw, nearly 1 million views. There’s also one on how the author learned Italian in 7 days (2.8m views). Thus, it is not an exaggeration to say that their narrative of “learning in 7 days” reaches millions of people.

Amongst experienced language learners (LLORG/HTLAL community, for example) these types of narratives are ignored entirely, dismissed with an eye roll. :roll: Sometimes I also see these narratives mildly excused: well obviously this is baloney, but he’s just so enthusiastic! And anyway, what’s wrong with getting people excited about language learning?

I am of a different opinion. I believe this narrative, peddling language miracles, causes serious damage. Real damage to real people. First-time language learners trust these people and their products, and place great hope in them (not to mention, time and money).

I am certain that based on these false promises, many learners give up on learning a foreign language (finding their supposedly “slow” progress as proof that they lack the ability to learn). How do I know this? I was/am one of them.

Many years ago, I came across Benny… I think we all know Benny. I never expected to be “fluent in 3 months” like him, but when I reached month 3 myself and still felt like a struggling beginner, I felt disheartened. By month 6, I felt frustrated with myself and my inability to learn. By month 12, I usually wasn’t trying anymore. Cycle, rinse, repeat. If only I knew back then what a con all of this was, and that my comparatively “slow” progress was actually normal progress. All I had to do was stick with it, and for far longer than 3 months. But heck, today I have learned that all I actually need to speak a language is 7 DAYS (Benny's claims seem quaint by comparison)!

To be honest, to this day I am plagued by the feeling that my progress is “slow” and that I am no good at this… even though I know that, on a rational level at least, I shouldn’t expect to “speak Italian” (like my own language) anytime soon. Now, to be clear, I do not blame Benny or anyone else for my failures. They are my own. I am simply stating that this narrative, sold to me, played its part. Maybe I should have known better, but back then I didn’t.

My point is this. As a community, we shouldn’t ignore (or worse yet, justify) these snake-oil salesmen. We should openly call out, criticize and yes, even ridicule their products. I would go as far as to propose that LLORG has an official “wall of shame” page for these types of online products, books, blogs, videos, etc. Finally, we should have a countermeasure, a page of voluntary testimonials from our own community, on how long it took confirmed first-time learners to reach B2 or C1 in a foreign language. What did it take to become “fluent,” warts and all – the real story, creating real expectations for newbie learners.

Any new learner joining our forums – writing that they want to become fluent in French and Japanese by next year, should be given links to both of these pages pages.

PS. Wouldn’t you know it, the author of the I Learned Portuguese/Italian in 7 Days videos now has his own "how to learn languages" course. Wow, only $89!

(Apologies for the long post, but this is something I feel very strongly about. It affected my learning journey, and I’m sure it is affecting lives of other first-time learners today.)
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Re: I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby Kraut » Tue Mar 09, 2021 3:31 pm

Let's suppose Luca is the most accomplished of them all. I think it was during a talk with Steve Kaufmann when he was asked how long it would take him to gain fluency (B2) in a new language. And his guess was 3 months, but - only under these circumstances:
- studying ten hours a day
- living in the L2 country together with an L2 girl-friend
- L1 and L2 must be related, like to him (being Italian) is Spanish.
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Re: I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby einzelne » Tue Mar 09, 2021 5:31 pm

Well, the same guy also has a video "How to remove toxic people from your life". You don't need to watch it (I didn't) since the answer is clear: just blacklist this con-artist.

But, yes, I agree with you, this culture is pretty toxic. The problem is that even 'well-respected' polyglots make exaggerated claims and, in order to promote themselves, promote half-truths. But fighting against it is doomed to failure:

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Re: I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby Raconteur » Tue Mar 09, 2021 6:20 pm

einzelne wrote:Well, the same guy also has a video "How to remove toxic people from your life". You don't need to watch it (I didn't) since the answer is clear: just blacklist this con-artist.
Agreed. Problem is, if you're already aware that the person (or I'd rather say: the advice) is toxic, you're not the target. I guess it comes down to the age-old question: who is more to blame? The con artist or the duped? Even if they should have known better, I tend to side with the latter.
einzelne wrote:But fighting against it is doomed to failure
Certainly, LLORG cannot compete with trendy influencers. I just think we can do more to discredit their advice (at least here), while also promoting more healthy, and realistic language learning expectations. I gave some quick suggestions in the first post, I'm sure there could be better ideas as well. Would be cool to have some well written and concise resources to link people to, when newbies obviously inspired by this false narrative end up on the forum. Heck, even I could use such advice for reinforcement, when I'm feeling bad about not being "fluent" yet.
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Re: I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby Le Baron » Tue Mar 09, 2021 6:26 pm

Raconteur wrote:Now, to be clear, I do not blame Benny or anyone else for my failures. They are my own. I am simply stating that this narrative, sold to me, played its part. Maybe I should have known better, but back then I didn’t.

Don't be hard on yourself. I do blame him; he's the one who should know better considering he likes to tell the tale about also thinking he was no good at language learning until striking his particular goldmine.

I don't mind saying that I find Benny a bit of a fairground barker to say the least. I may have said already that he rolled up at Lernu (the Esperanto forum, the old version) with that same annoying 'I'm a positive guy' avatar and annoyed the bejesus out of people by pretending he'd totally mastered the language according to his 3-month (his or Hugo's?) methodology. Then rode off into the sunset to become 'fluent' in another language.

I think you're right. These mavericks set people up for disappointment and play a long-established salesman's game - "I too was a 7-stone weakling, until I purchased the Charles Atlas iron-man course...don't have sand kicked in your face!"

The problem is even with psychological research input language learning isn't a science. There are too many variables for each learner where people respond to certain things at certain times. Certain quality rules of thumb have been developed from a pool of long experience, trial and error and people hitting on the same core facts, but that's it. The '7 days', '14 days', 'while you sleep' brigade are just liars. On you tube they are clickbait merchants.
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Re: I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby einzelne » Tue Mar 09, 2021 6:53 pm

I feel you, Raconteur. When I started to learn my first language from scratch with zero experience, it was precisely when people like Benny started to colonize the Internet. It was very hard to find an honest guide for self-leaners. And even if I found their claims ludicrous, they still skewed my expectations. I felt exactly like you after my first year with German.

Generally, when I hear some sensational claims, my first reaction is to find some skeptics. If somebody tells you to throw your grammar textbooks, I would rather throw him into a garbage bin together with 'learning language is fun' 'be positive' bullshit. When, on the other hand somebody claims that in order to reach fluency you need to read at least 10 000 pages, I would immediately prick my ears. The problem is that skeptics and pessimists who actually paint a realistic picture are usually invisible on the Internet.
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Re: I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby lavengro » Tue Mar 09, 2021 7:47 pm

I could see Portuguese taking as long as seven days for slower learners, but I understand that thanks to modern technology, fluency in any of Spanish, Italian or French takes only seven hours.

http://pillow.duolingo.com/
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Re: I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby rdearman » Tue Mar 09, 2021 7:52 pm

I'm going to post an excerpt from the rules before this thread goes pear shaped. :)

Furthermore, please refrain from personal attacks on well-known polyglots, whether or not they have an account here. Especially anything bordering on libelous or defamatory remarks. Yes, some of them may overstate their abilities, but even the most skilled language learners may have trouble responding if they're put on the spot.

Libel and Defamation: Under UK defamation law (Defamation Act 2013), website operators can be pursued by those who claim they have been defamed as a result of comments on their site even if those operators are not the author of those comments. We hate receiving letters from Her Majesty's Government. This means we have a very strict set of rules against the use of libelous or defamatory remarks on this website and posts which are considered to be defamatory will be subject to immediate deletion and the poster will be sanctioned.

Part of the reason for mentioning the rules, is to highlight the problem of a "Wall of Shame" suggested earlier. I'd end up in court defending myself against libel and slander. And we don't want that.

I know how you feel about not learning anything in 3 months, I have been working on Italian for 20 years, and I'm still rubbish! But I am not fooling myself, I'm not willing to put in 10 hours a day of study. However, there are lots of people peddling miracles, not just YouTubers, but companies, apps, websites, etc. Anyone who has the desire and drive to learn a language will realize quickly they have been had, and start to look for more resources.

I feel you pain, but don't have a solution.
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Re: I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby Lisa » Tue Mar 09, 2021 7:55 pm

I have a soft spot for Fluent Forever - I'd always been learning languages, but that book finally showed me effective and enjoyable ways for self-study. I suppose "fluent" is pretty vague, the books implies highly accomplished conversation but the word might include simple A1-A2 conversation. Personally, I was a false beginner in an easy language (and I'm also generally skeptical)... so it was more rewarding than disappointing for me. At that time, I also read fluent in three months and that was just entertainment. Again though -- I was already well aware of the challenges of language learning, so what harm they do to beginners is another story.

My personal pet peeve is when people write as if everyone is starting from the same place and with the same innate abilities. People who have learned a number of languages (such as these authors) don't seem to give space to the idea that they are naturally good at it -- as well, of course, as working very hard and using a good system. They like to credit the hard work and their good system, and believe that anyone who worked hard and used that system should have equal results. But we are all so different, and a whole lot of different innate skills (like memory and vocal control) are required to learn and use a language, as well as habits and inclinations (intensity of focus, and accepting the less pleasant tasks to reach a goal).

einzelne - if I'd started with German I'd have given up, I think! I was a false beginner in both, but it feels like twice as much work to get German to the same place.
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Re: I Learned Portuguese in 7 Days (My Method)

Postby Le Baron » Tue Mar 09, 2021 8:20 pm

rdearman wrote:I'm going to post an excerpt from the rules before this thread goes pear shaped. :)

Whilst I can fully appreciate your position I'd hate to think anyone could bully people out of fair critique via targeted legal threats. I've already said what I said here to the face of the polyglot from Eire and I would say it again. But fair enough, he doesn't know where I live whereas this website has an address. I'll have to save my ire for YouTube where he can't win a legal case.
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