Something dawned on me and I decided to go for a new linguistic adventure, to try something harder than English. I was 48 then and I thought “it’s time I challenge my brain a bit, put it through some exercise while learning a whole, totally different language from the ones I know already”, namely: English, Spanish and Portuguese.
I chose Arabic.
With no one to speak to, no material readily available on the radio or the TV — you see, when you are in countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay — you just turn on the radio and eight times out of 10 you will hear English music playing. When it comes to Arabic, it’s a totally different story!
It felt like I was going to climb Everest wearing a T-shirt, shorts and sandals. And notice that I avoided Japanese or Mandarin for I knew it would be like going to the moon with the same previously mentioned apparel, so no. (Maybe next time.)
Comparative Reading – a powerful tool
Reading is a great way to acquire vocabulary and internalize grammar (the best kind of grammar actually. I mean, you know it is that way, but not necessarily why it is so.). This grammar knowledge can be acquired by reading and listening to good material.
Get yourself a world classic, let’s say Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, you may have one in Taiwanese/Chinese/English and another in Portuguese, done! You can go turning the pages together and enjoying your practice without the need for tedious work with the dictionary.
You could use the Bible or any other religious book of your liking. With the good book, from my own experience I can tell, you may go to a section and read it; like, let’s say, Paul’s Letter to Philemon – a one page book. You may read it in your own language two or three times, then go to the Portuguese (Spanish, Arabic, you name) version and study it knowing all its meaning verse by verse. Supose your target is Portuguese it may be even easier to practice if you get youself a Bilingual Bible – one that has the target languages side by side.
Portuguese – a nice language to learn – ranks sixth among the world’s languages in terms of the number of native speakers. Portuguese has spread far beyond Europe, and in addition to being the official language of Portugal, it is also the official language in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Sao Tome and Principe, and is spoken in many other countries. For example there is a Portuguese-speaking community in South Africa!
In my life, learning English was a very nice experience. Being part of a Christian community really opened doors, especially because of the abundance of free material that I could read, listen and watch on a regular basis. Not only that but I also benefited from the broad world community of Christians worldwide with whom I could relate educationally.
As a matter of fact, it took me less then six month to be able to speak and grow to the point where I could work as an interpreter for English speaking brothers and sisters that came to visit my church. I had tapes from the Moody Bible Institute from Chicago Illinois, records and tapes from many different groups (with the internet today you can do much more) not to mention the Bible which now I have already read in Portuguese, English, Spanish.
Give it a try and you´ll see.