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5 Tips on How to Learn Your Partner's Native Language

Steps I took to start learning Portuguese

By Alice Broadbent LeãoPublished 4 years ago 6 min read

At the age of 24, I never thought I would learn another language. I took German throughout high school, and regrettably, I never gave it 100 percent, which left me with just the basics. But now, I have the greatest motivation of all. My husband is Brazilian, and speaks (Brazilian) Portuguese. Only a few of his family members know English, so it is vital that I learn as much as I can to be able to communicate with them effectively. Also, in the future, when my husband teaches our children Portuguese, I want to be involved in their learning process of both English and Portuguese.

Here are my top five tips on getting started:

1. Use FREE apps for beginners

The important thing to remember about language apps is that they will not make you fluent, but they are perfect study aids to help you improve.

Just as a side note, the apps do offer premiums accounts which you can pay for, to access more from than the free lessons provided.

The first obvious choice is Duo Lingo. It has almost every language on there that you need, and is a great way for learning and listening to vocab. Despite exposing you to general vocab that you will need, I have personally found it hard to remember the words that I have learnt through Duo Lingo due to the lack of repetitiveness, something you need when learning a language. You complete a level and go to the next; unless you repeat the same level, you might not see some of those words again.

That's unlike the next app, Memrise, which uses a more scientific approach, showing you the same words repeatedly until they are stored in your long-term memory. This app uses a flashcard approach, which, for those who have studied for exams, will know is a great method for absorbing vocab.

(Almost all apps will teach you pronunciation during your learning.)

When I first starting learning Portuguese, I used Duo Lingo throughout the course of the year. It helped me with the names of foods, colours, and animals. I was finding that I wasn’t enjoying the app so much because of its learning technique, and at this point, I gave up on apps—which takes me to step two.

2. Sticky notes

One day while sitting in my bedroom, I thought, Why don’t I put sticky notes on objects with the Portuguese translation? For example, I wrote the word for "mirror" in Portuguese on a sticky note, and then stuck it onto my mirror. That way, I was learning without really realising it. Taking in the words as I would do my hair or turn on the TV, I was familiarising words with the objects.

You can do this with the fridge, door, bed, or anything you like! Of course, try not to cover your entire house in sticky notes forever, but try it for a week or two and see if you can remember the words afterwards, without the sticky notes being there.

3. Online tutoring

After two years of using my own methods to try learning Portuguese, I realised I wasn’t improving because I was too scared to try to speak the language. I was learning all these words, but I was never putting them into practice, because I was worried I would pronounce things wrong.

But, if I was never going to push myself to start speaking, I would never retain the language, nor would I get any better. So, I decided to try a free trial for an online tutor. The website I used was Here, you will find hundreds of tutors who will offer you a free lesson before you decide the right tutor for you. The tutor’s average price is £20 per hour, which for some of us can be pricey, especially if you want more than one lesson a week. So, after building up enough courage to book a trial lesson, I finally found someone who I thought I would get along well with.

The lesson was a true success. I had fun learning, I enjoyed her methods, and she pushed me out of my comfort zone. I spoke in Portuguese, I responded to her in Portuguese, and whenever my pronunciation was off, she just corrected me until I got it right. What I learnt from this trial lesson was how important it is to speak to someone who knows the language you want to learn. If I didn’t start practicing conversations, I would never escape my beginner status.

4. Use your partner

Although the online tutoring was a great experience for me, I realised that it was quite a lot of money to be paying out. So, I sat with my husband, and we agreed that for one to two hours a week, we would have a professional lesson where he would be my tutor and I would be the student. We realised that we didn’t need to pay someone who could speak Portuguese; I had a 24-hour tutor right next to me!

My husband's biggest worry with this was that he “doesn't know how to teach,” which is understandable. He is not a language teacher. However, we found a great Portuguese learning exercise and activity book which we bought from Amazon, and we are simply working our way through the chapters. The book comes with audio, which still allows me to hear other Portuguese native speakers, and comes with a homework section. My husband also writes a test for me at the end of each chapter to ensure I am taking everything in.

Other than the lesson which we schedule each week, we also try to use Portuguese in our everyday language, to help me get used to common conversation—things like greetings ("good morning," etc.) and basic conversations (such as "how are you," "how was your day," "I love you," etc.).

Your partner wants you to do well. They want you to learn their language, so they are the greatest tool you have. Use them!

5. Set time each day to learn and practice

There is no hiding the fact that learning a language takes time, dedication and commitment. You must work on the language every day, for 15-60 minutes, whether you are having a tutoring lesson or finding something on YouTube to help you learn.

Also, a quick point to make, YouTube is a fantastic tool for learning a language. A lot of people have made channels for languages, and some of them have made fantastic lessons that you can watch as many times as you want!

Back to time management: Getting yourself a diary or using your phone for reminders that you need to do your 15-minute learning are great ways to stay on top of your progression. The more time you put in, the more you are going to retain.

Overall, learning a language as an adult is extremely difficult. The best advice I can give you is that it is okay to make mistakes. You will learn from them, and it will make you better in the language you have chosen. Try to learn from as many methods as possible: apps, books, YouTube, or tutoring. A combination of studying techniques will keep things fun, and help you stay motivated!

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About the Creator

Alice Broadbent Leão

My name is Alice, 24 British girl married to my Brazilian husband, Pedro (25). I write to share my experiences of a long distance relationship and general love and relationship tips.

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