I still can’t understand the language I’m learning after 5 years
I just returned from my 16th trip to Brasil and I still can’t converse or understand what people are saying except for an occasional word. I can’t read either. I’ve finished the Portuguese tree. I have 55,000XP. I study every day and practice speaking and writing every day with my Brasilian girlfriend. I’ve always been able to learn things very quickly until now. I have to translate almost everything in my head even if I know the words. I can understand “good morning, hello, please, thank you, good bye” and things like that but with spoken words I usually can’t tell when one word ends and the next begins. I watch movies and videos. I try to read books. I use different apps. I’ve read 130 Duolingo stories but since I couldn’t understand any I have read the same one well over 1000 times to see if it would help but none of the words are automatic like when I read English. I have to translate each one. Every teacher I’ve had said “Don’t worry, you’ll get it!” but at this rate I’ll die of old age before I can converse. I can’t order food yet because I can’t understand what the waiters say. When learning a second language don’t the new words become automatic like a first language or do you still have to translate everything in your head? I’m hoping it eventually becomes automatic. It’s like my brain isn’t allowing my second language to take hold. I see people that have studied for 1 month that can converse in Brasil and I can’t understand how they do it with my experience. I’ve stayed in Brasil up to 5 weeks and it doesn’t seem to help because I can’t understand anything. I’ve had my hearing tested and it’s ok. Any ideas?
In my opinion, try to force yourself to speak Portuguese as often as possible, especially with your girlfriend. Even if you make mistakes, it's fine. Also, it sounds crazy, but talk to yourself. Explain things that are going on around you the best you can in Portuguese, try to use as many words as possible.
Language learning is best done by immersion, so the more you force yourself to use it and the more you're around it, it should gradually get easier.
I know its frustrating, it took me years to be able to have a fluid conversation in Spanish and now I talk so well that people think I'm actually from Argentina
I agree. Speaking more is the key. Think about how you learned English without all those other studies by just listening and imitating sounds.
Maybe you are trying too hard. Release all those expectations and just have fun! ♡
Exactly. My mother tongue is Hindi, so I had to learn English at primary school. I was only little then, but now I am frequently correcting people’s English mistakes! You don’t have to think about it really, your stress may be because you’re trying too hard. Just copy what your girlfriend says and you’ll soon get the hang of it. Good luck, Pat!
To me, it is not just speaking that is the key. Many people hear a sentence and attempt to convert it to their native language before internalising what is being said. Try understand what is being said by simply appreciating the words in this new language. You have to live it and try not to simply use it as a gateway to your native language. Hope this helps? Good luck and well done for the persistence!
Yeah overcome your frustration of not speaking, if you can't understand something ask for them to repeat it more slowly. Besides you didn't tell us but can they understand you? if yes that's a big step, you can start with small conversations until you can fully immerse with the language
Thanks for the help! I can handle greetings and telling them my name and where I live. My pronunciation is very good but I don’t know how to say much and I can’t understand people so that stops conversations. I expected things to improve the last few years but it hasn’t changed much. I have taken a few LingQ vocabulary tests that say I know 6700 words and 22700 words which I think is too high. Knowing words on tests is different than being able to think of them while trying to converse or write. The jump from saying hello and a few things to conversing has been frustrating but I’m not going to quit now. Thanks again!
I would also say get Netflix, and watch programs in Portuguese with Portuguese subtitles for the hearing impaired, so you can read the language while you're hearing it. That really helps me.
Thanks! I have been speaking it every day for 2 years now with my girlfriend. My ex girlfriend of 4 years that lived in Brasil only spoke English with me because I couldn’t understand her so I’d go to Brasil and speak English. I try to speak with people in the street. I enjoy it but I just can’t understand much yet. I say “Hello, my name is Patrick. I can’t understand that” but at least they know I’m quiet because I can’t understand them and not because I am unfriendly. Your advice is exactly right about it getting easier the more a person uses it and is around it but it hasn’t happened yet so I’ll keep working on it. I just don’t want to find out later that I should have done something differently and wish I had asked someone for advice. Thanks!
Maybe if you can, ask them to speak slower. If they're okay with it then you'll be able to understand them :)
Ask your girlfriend that too as practice and she can slowly speak up. Until you get the hang of it.
Eventually it will come, it just takes time. Maybe listen to the news (or something like that) and the grammar and the way they speak will get into your brain and make it easier to think of what you have to say, and eventually you won’t have to think about whether a cupboard is feminine or masculine, it will just be habitual. The variety of different thing you do will help and you will understand everything soon.
I think you and I are alike. I have studied different languages in different ways and can only feel good about understanding what is said and responding quickly in German. That's because I lived and worked there for about 9 months in the 70's. However movies and books in German are too fast and complex for me to keep up with. Like you , if it's sophisticated speech or has slang I only catch some words ( which was what happened to me when visiting London ). My other 3 languages vary according to how I learned them. French from grade school through HS; Chinese in college and now Spanish on Duo for 2 years ( which I use at a school where I substitute at). The Spanish is probably the hardest to hear and distinguish words and then French. Chinese ( Mandarin) and German have more hard consonant sounds separated by vowels which may resemble American English, Lastly, being a musician who could read music easily from the start but finds it very difficult to play by ear, I can't help think that my brain just doesn't process what it hears as good as some others do. It may be that we have to accept what comes naturally and work harder at what doesn't. But I did find that insisting on actually speaking in German while living there made a huge difference and that the suggestions of others to just keep doing that will greatly improve all your skills. Let's both keep at it!
Perhaps you have started to persuade yourself to be negative before you even begin. Big smile, loosen up, don't worry about errors or whether you are living up to expectations. Relax and use all the words you can remember. You can do it.
Stop translating in your head. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s a necessary step and one you seem to be stuck on.
The easiest way to start is with simple, concrete, everyday objects.
Learn the words for things you interact with daily as names for those things, not as translations of the English words for them.
When I think of “Milch” I think of a glass of milk or a carton of milk. I don’t think of the word “milk.” When I think “Ich trinke Milch” I think of drinking milk. I don’t think “that means ‘I drink milk.’”
You get to that point by associating words and phrases with the real world rather than with a translated sentence. Walk around pointing things out to yourself and naming them in your language. Describe what you are doing to yourself in your language.
Get familiar with the words and sentences that describe the things you see and do the most and get used to thinking and saying those things to yourself without an intermediate English sentence.
Once you start developing that habit, it gives you something to build on, so you’re adding new words into phrases and sentences you’re already used to thinking on their own, rather than trying to construct complex thoughts completely from scratch and having to reference your mental dictionary for every word.
How do you learn to think in the language you are learning? I have tried what you suggest - learning "milk" as itself, rather than its English translation - but it feels impossible to actually make myself see it that way. It only happens on its own after enough exposure to the word. I can't seem to have any control over it.
This may change from person to person, but the basic way to begin to burn a language into your brain is by doing this (at least, this is what I do): Start making sentences, and throwing them around in real life (even if you're alone in your room, or on the street). Begin with one word sentences, then two word sentences, slowly adding more complexity as you feel more comfortable. This eventually gets to the point where words flow naturally - they are connected to the meaning, rather than the English word.
It is much easier to achieve a high level in speaking once you have heard a lot of the target language, and when you start just instantly understanding phrases without analyzing them (they don't have to be very big phrases, just a few words). In addition, practicing speech makes the grammar of the language, and the pronunciation become automatic - but lots of input makes this even better.
You don’t really have conscious control over it. You have to burn it in by repetition. But you have some control over your ability to consistently repeat things until it does become ingrained.
You don’t control it by forcing it through sheer will. You control it by controlling your exposure and continuing to try to think in your target language even though it feels clumsy and awkward until it stops feeling clumsy and awkward.
There’s no trick except practice and repetition and consciously removing or limiting your use of any crutches you notice yourself falling back on. Feeling uncomfortable means you’re learning something new. Seek out the discomfort and eventually it will become comfortable.
Don't think about it and eat a piece of pie. The answer to your question will appear.
Dude I like how you think, what do you think a scoop of ice cream would do? The French call it à la mode, I think the Brazilians call it à moda (that's your word of the day).
What kind of pie do you suggest? I like Apple myself, but being Americano I would, right?
Talking to myself got me to a conversable level without ever talking to anyone in German (except for one awkward super fast "conversation")
Maybe it sounds weird to talk to yourself, but I do it pretty often, in English. It sorta helps keep your thoughts together and keeps you a bit less lonely. But I figured, why not try it for German?
It worked a ton. I talk in German to myself and I don't translate at this point, I just automatically know what the words mean. For instance "wissenschaft" means "wissenschaft" and not "science". Obviously it will take time, but I think talking to yourself (not loud, obviously just a whisper or really quiet so nobody thinks you're a psychopath) will really help you understand spoken Portuguese, and it will make you know the language for what it is when you see it, and not just English in disguise.
And even sometimes, my brain automatically switches to German in awkward or nervous situations. It's like it's trying to hide so it switches. I'll be thinking (actually thinking, I don't talk out loud in public) and suddenly all the words will just be in German. I sometimes don't notice it for a while either.
I am completely the same with French! This is great advice - talking to yourself gets you used to using grammar instantly and naturally, getting your mouth used to making certain sounds, and also connects vocabulary to the concept, rather than the English word. After lots of practice, you can start to get confused about what language you're thinking in... because you keep switching automatically, or you mix them together.
I agree! This is exactly what toddlers do- a lot of them will narrate everything they do, like "Here is a green block. I am building a tower. I put it on top." Yay, it's big!"
Firstly, so sorry to hear about your frustration. I've been learning German for about 3 years now, and I can understand how you feel. When it comes to learning a second language I do find that once you practice things enough it starts to become an automatic translation rather than having to translate it back to English in your head, but I find myself doing that often still. From the way you're describing it, it seems as though just words themselves aren't clicking. Have you tried the Portuguese tinycards? They help a lot when it comes to memorizing certain words. I know you've said that you have watched videos, have you watched like beginner courses on Portuguese? I find that if you try to jump into something big without knowing lots of words it doesn't serve much of a purpose. Children's books may work even? They provide simplier words and it could help you be more proficient. I signed up for the email newsletter which is a 'word of the day' sort of thing but in German. I'm sure there are things like that but in Portuguese that you could use! Anyways, I wish you good luck :)
Excellent question! Thanks. I have watched several beginning Portuguese audio and video series. Semântica, had a nice video series which they said was for beginners but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I thought they had something too advanced but then I tried another one. PortuguesePod101 and I couldn’t make out what they were saying and I began to be concerned because I hadn’t been able to make out what anyone said in Brasil either. That was at least 2 years ago and it hasn’t gotten better as far as I know. All the teachers I’ve contacted assumed that they could help me and they just gave me normal classes. So I’ll keep trying different things to see if I can find a way to learn to understand without translating. Thanks a lot!
You're welcome! I know that you will pick up on it eventually, learning a language isn't easy! I have confidence in you and I can tell that you are determined to learn it as you have tried so hard, I really wish you the best of luck!
Thanks a lot! The positive comments really do help. I just don’t want to keep doing the same things that weren’t working. Seeing my son converse without ever studying Portuguese made me think I was doing something wrong because I’ve been to Brasil eleven more times than he has and I study many different things every day so I thought there could be other issues with my language learning. I feel like an airplane trying to take off from the runway but that can’t get enough speed and air flowing under the wings to become airborne. Thanks!
Hearing and speaking are very different from reading, imho, because you can't take time to parse things out. The grammar is probably all there in your head; it's probably just a matter of listening practice and learning vocabulary. They say that one of the best ways to learn spoken language is to watch tv (without subtitles!). The visuals provide clues about what an unknown word or phrase might mean. It helps not only with listening speed, but also with colloquialisms that formal language courses may not cover. It may be disheartening at first when you get only 1% of the words, but with steady, regular practice I'm sure you get where you want to be. As for speaking, there's no alternative to just diving in there and doing it, mistakes and all. It's really impressive how much work you've put into this language and how much you've achieved. Don't give up!!
Thanks for the advice! It’s terrifying because of the time I’ve spent learning and I can’t understand what people say and I can’t read but my son can converse after 5 trips to Brasil without studying at all. It made me wonder what I’m doing wrong or if my brain is rotten or something! I hope not. I’m curious as to what the issue is so I often stay up all night trying to figure it out. I’m learning a lot about how language learning is supposed to go so that’s good. I help a lot of people learn English which is fun. Thanks again!
I hope this doesn't sound rude at all, because I certainly don't mean to be rude, but, reading this, I find myself wondering if part of your problem may be trying too hard. The thought crossed my mind when I read what you said about staying up all night trying to figure it out. I mean, of course, we have to try to learn a new language, or we'd never learn it, but...but there's another side to it, I think, which is, argh, this really hard to describe, but it's like, okay, we sit down, we learn, study, listen, speak, and, for all of that, we need to try - try to memorize, try to learn, try try try! But there's another side of it, which involves relaxing, trusting ourselves, not over-thinking, soaking in the language in whatever way we can, and just sort of relaxing and trusting the process - trusting that we'll slowly learn, trusting that we don't need to overthink everything, trusting that our memory works, trusting that it's okay to make errors, and just relaxing and trusting the whole process of learning.
I hope that makes sense!
Exactly. State of mind plays a part in language learning. Whether it's motivation, anxiety, depression, or anything that could prevent you from focusing, it could be seriously blocking you. You need to relax, and have fun while learning, otherwise you can't absorb anything.
Frustrating. As others have said, keep trying. It's a total guess, but I think you have two issues:
Vocab - You can't get all the vocab unless you are immersed in the language for an extended period of time. You listen and your head gets stuck on a word that you don't know, and miss the rest of the sentence.
Speed - Listening and Speaking are the hardest pieces due to speed. You can read, and re-read a sentence. Or in German, I can look to the end of a sentence to find the "real" verb when a modal verb is used and put the words in "English order" in my head. But listening doesn't allow that. The listening exercises on Duo, including the stories, are read quite slowly and distinctly. Of course, this is so the non-native ear can hear it. Real life is completely different.
Immerse yourself. Watch programs in your language, change your phone language and talk to yourself. You can even put post-it notes on things around the house so you can practice sentences as you do things: I am showering. I am closing the window. The cat is sleeping. I need a knife. I will drive the car to the store. etc.
I would also simply ask the person with which you are conversing, to speak more slowly. Learn how to say it.
Most others will appreciate the effort and speak more slowly with simpler words.
You will get there!
Hi Pat! I know we've corresponded in some of your other posts on this topic. I'm sorry to hear you are still feeling frustrated. At this point, I think it's well worth asking your primary care physician for a referral to a Speech Language Pathologist, who should be able to evaluate you for more than just basic hearing. It could be, for example, that you process language differently than most people and a speech language pathologist should be able to help identify the issue and help you with strategies to work around it. Strangers in an internet forum can only do so much!
I remember you well! Thanks for the advice. I have heard a lot of people tell me to “think in Portuguese” and then I realized that I don’t think in any language. There is no voice in my head. I think in ideas and images. Maybe that explains things. My English has always been at a high level and I would correct the grammar mistakes of people at work. My spelling and reading are excellent. I was wondering if my brain has an operating system that doesn’t allow a second language. It seems to filter out anything that isn’t English like it’s noise or not important. I have always been able to learn very quickly until now. I don’t want to keep doing the same things and discover in another 5 years that it’s not working. It’s worth a check to see a specialist for sure. Thanks a lot!
How interesting! I don't know enough about neuroscience and language processing to make much of this, but I wonder if your ability to think primarily in images is related to your difficulty with learning a new language. As we've seen in this thread alone, many people (including me) go through the day with a running "monologue" in their heads, so we are able to use that monologue as practice time in our target language. I understand that you probably can't do the same. In fact, it's probably like translating twice for you--once from thoughts (images) to words (in English), then again from English to Portuguese! I'm not sure how to work around this, but I'm sure a speech language pathologist would.
Temple Grandin has a wonderful essay about being a visual thinker. She writes quite a bit about how she processes language and learns words. You might find some of your own experience reflected in some of hers: https://www.grandin.com/inc/visual.thinking.html
Wow! Fantastic! Great idea. I remember how to spell in a visual way and don’t make spelling mistakes. I can see if a word is spelled correctly or not by how it looks. After seeing a Portuguêse word once or twice I can remember how often it’s used and how to spell it usually. But not what it means. I just recognize them. When I’m reading English I see the ideas that the words create. Technical writing is slower. I recognize people at Disneyland that I’ve seen in newspaper articles. I recognized a guy at an Iceland airport that I had only seen in our local paper. But I still have to translate everything I read in Portuguese into English. I’m going to read the link you sent me. Thanks a lot!
Well, there you have it: an amazing visual ability! That is something to cherish and build upon.
Does this ability keep foreign language words in isolation, or do you also recognize chunks and sequences of words easily?
Have you ever tried, maybe just for a change and out of curiosity, a more analytic/isolating language with a more visual script like Chinese?
The brain might just need to take a detour to get out of a rut, and maybe even to break out of a phenomenon called "target fixation".
Apart from getting more in line with your personal mode of visual thinking, some people like to use
- song lyrics
- movie scripts
- travel phrases
- duolingo stories
to remember sequences of words and sentences. Would that work for you? Draw, sketch, write, sing, act, play, recite, learn by heart... Can you learn to recite or play out a story by heart, or would that be difficult?
It is wonderful to see a lot of people being helpful and sympathetic to your cause. You've obviously put a lot of effort into learning Portuguese. Great. Go on, don't give up.
Apparently you really need to find a way to get the fundamentals and your approach to language learning right in order to move on.
In Duolingo terms this might actually mean that you'll have turn your tree golden, starting from the very top. Less is more. Since Duolingo collects a lot of data on language acquisition, their research team could even be helpful in giving a more qualified assessment... I don't know, it's just an idea.
Keep us posted. I wish you all the best in your endeavors.
Pat, This all makes so much sense! Very cool that you have such a great memory for people/faces--I am terrible at that! Definitely talk to a speech-language pathologist about being a visual learner and how you process things when you read. That will give them a lot of clues.
Because of how you learn, Duo is not going to be very useful to you, I'm afraid. It is based on translation--which means verbal (not visual) learning. You likely need in-person, image-based/situational instruction (eg items in your kitchen labeled with their Portuguese names).
Thanks! I am able to remember the names of nouns much easier than things that I can’t visualize. I can point and name things all day. But remembering verbs is very difficult because there are so many different words for each verb and remembering a way to keep them straight has been a struggle. We never learned “subjunctive”or the other names for verb conjugation so when trying to remember them I have no idea how they work or why I’m trying to remember “subjunctive” or the others. Do I need to think about it before forming sentences? In English everything seems automatic when speaking so switching to Portuguese is very difficult so far. Translating doesn’t teach me Portuguese it only allows me to understand what was said or written. I’d be happy to be able to converse a little. Ola, tudo bem, bom dia, meu nome é Patrick and eu nao entendi is usually as far as I get. How did learning go for you?
Wow, that is super interesting indeed! I was wondering if there was something like this as I made my way down this thread, and here you are! It has been almost 20 years since I actively studied cognitive linguistics, but I am pretty sure that there is something to this. I don't think there is any inhibition to second language learning as such, but it may make common and popular techniques pretty useless for you. I'm not sure if anybody has asked this yet, or if I just skipped over that particular part of the conversation, but have you ever tried learning a second language before or is Portuguese your first? What was it like when you were a child/teenager/younger person and you learned new (English) words, like specialised on-the-job vocabulary? I presume you don't translate those into "simple English" in your head? So that should mean you are able to pick up words as such just fine (even if becoming conversant is a different matter again, but it might at least make you feel better. :)) Your comment about being a little slower at reading technical literature below is very interesting in this regard. I wonder how that works in detail. Anyway; I'll have a think about your questions and keep and eye on this thread so I can get back to you if I have a brainwave about your particular learning style.
Pat, can I ask you how you learn new words in English? Do they start out as visual forms (and, following from that, what do you do when you first hear a new word but cannot see it in writing)? Do you ask people to spell that for you, or, in this day and age, maybe you look it up on your phone? Do you use mnemonics to commit those new lexemes to memory?
It is a surprise for many people in our very "literate" Western cultures to realize that letters and sounds do not have an automatic 1-to-1 relationship; we knew that as children of course when we acquired our first language, but tend to very swiftly forget as spelling and writing become second nature to us, and then, second language learning automatically comes mediated through our writing systems.
With your strong talent for visual pattern recognition but problems with auditory forms, I think this is more or less the point we need to tackle in some way or another. Maybe we can somehow strengthen the link between visual und auditory forms, or else forget about that link for the moment because it hasn't been helping you up to now.
Pat-- according to your previous threads on this subject, you've been having this issue for an extended period of time and received a lot of helpful advice from many users about it.
Have you taken and applied any of the advice you've been given, both in this and past threads? What happened? What worked and what didn't?
Hello! Yes I’ve applied some of the advice. Nothing has worked yet. I’ve been practicing every day and watching movies and videos, reading, having classes, using different apps and going to Brasil and almost everything still seems like it has to be translated to English instead of it becoming a second language. I wonder if getting old has anything to do with it. The people saying that old age has nothing to do with it are usually the people selling something so I wonder. Thanks for asking!
Getting old has nothing to do with your ability to learn. In my experience, it's always down to frame of mind. You've convinced yourself that you're never going to understand, therefore you don't.
I wonder if it might be to your benefit to just start over completely from scratch, as if you're learning it for the first time. Start from the beginning, start slowly, and stop trying to do everything at once. Finish the program completely and entirely before moving on to anything else.
Also do try the reverse tree, "learning" English from Portuguese. It will force you to translate in reverse, which does appear to be the crux of your problem.
Hello! I haven’t convinced myself that I’m not going to learn, actually it’s the opposite. I have always wanted to learn a second language and I noticed that I wasn’t making any progress that I could notice so I didn’t want to pretend that everything was going to be ok if I kept doing the same things that weren’t working so I thought that asking others on Duolingo that have learned or are learning languages would be a good place to start. I’ve put in quite a bit of time and used different resources and I noticed that many people were learning very quickly and being able to understand and converse when in Brasil so I thought I had better research what they were doing. They seem to do the same things that I do but with different results. So I thought “I’m doing something wrong” like thinking about the process in the wrong way or something. Like when I wondered how I was supposed to know whether to use “do” or “make” when I saw “Fazer” and I finally realized that it was only in translating it to English that it is confusing. In Portuguese “Fazer” means both. It’s more simple. So maybe I’m thinking of something else totally wrong. I’m working on trying not to translate everything word for word into English like I was. It was too slow and I would be translating instead of listening to everything. Your idea of starting over is a good one because I never have advanced past a beginner level. My teachers would assume that I knew more than I did and move to a more advanced level and I never improved. So here I am. My son conversed today at a Brasilian restaurant with a waiter. He’s never studied it. Just been with me about 5 times to Brasil. Him being able to do that made me realize that I had a problem. Thanks a lot and good luck to you with your Portuguese learning.
Honestly, you're overthinking it.
Also, your son is able to learn without studying precisely because he isn't. He's not studying the language, he's using it. You should do the same.
Fascinating. You probably do know more than you think. It's good that you ask in the forum. Many helpful souls have already provided valuable input.
Regardless of whether you decide to start from scratch or revisit your previous lessons, you should probably shed some misconceptions about the translation process before you continue.
One of the readers here already suggested that you might want to have a closer look at linguistics in general. Concerning the translation process in particular, the adventures and history of machine translation may be especially interesting.
Some would argue that human-made word-for-word translations can be a valuable study tool to uncover the structure and grammar of a foreign language. But this is the stuff you do at home. And don't keep the words isolated: find the patterns and the glue between them. Those language courses use word-for-word translations or annotations in brackets as only one step in the process:
- Kauderwelsch (mostly in German), and
Other steps in the process are usually listening, speaking, and a final (useful) translation. Eventually, you will first drop the word-for-word, and then the final translations.
With the Duolingo translation exercises the choices, means, and degree of variation are mostly up to you:
- learn more intuitively,
- or learn more analytically.
Maybe the owl should have given you some feedback at around 30,000 XP.
Actually, I really like the idea of "reversing" your Duolingo course to English from Portuguese. It's easily done, you can always switch back, and it could just be a fun "break" from doing your regular course over and over.
Do you study vocabulary? Do you memorize the words you learn in Duolingo and elsewhere? Do you review the words and lessons you do? How often to you review them?
Some tips on here say to repeat the sentence you hear out loud after you here it, and then at the end write down everything you remeber from the lesson (I don't do it because it's annoying XD but if you're not learning I think it's a good idea)
I probably know a lot of the vocabulary but I can’t make it out except for an occasional word.
If you can’t make it out except for an occasional word then you don’t know a lot of the vocabulary. You need to study, learn and review basic vocabulary before you try anything more difficult.
It still seems like you don’t know a lot of the vocabulary because even when you finally discover what they said you “often understand what many of the words mean” which means you don’t recognize words immediately and when you do it is often but not all of the times that you recognize many but not all of the words.
You also wrote in the OP that you can’t read which you should be able to do at a basic level if you know a lot of the vocabulary and, as you have written elsewhere on the thread, been on Duolingo for five years and finished the Portuguese tree, practiced reading and writing everyday, read all of the Duolingo stories, and read one of the stories over 1000 times.
Studying vocabulary will help your listening skills because you will be able to recognize the words yo do know among the ones you don’t and will have no need to translate them. That makes making sense of speech easier. You need to be able to associate the sounds of Portuguese with the words you are learning. The thing is, the Portuguese course and stories come with audio so listen to the sentences over and over while looking and not looking at the text, until you you recognize the words among the sounds.
You shou also use the official Duolingo flashcard deck on TinyCards for the Portuguese course. Not only doesn’t reinforce the words learned on the tree it forces you to recall the words ( English to Portuguese) more than the Duolingo tree does and at frequent intervels which strengthens your knowledge which means less need to translate in your head.
However, at this point you should see a speech patholigist or a learning speacialist because I am sorry but at this point it sounds like a very specific problem that you have and not a problem with Duolingo.
Here's the thing, you can have difficulty hearing without it being bad enough to be technically diagnosed with a disability. You may have certain frequencies that are hard to pick up causing difficulties hearing with background noise. You may have not noticed it before because with English, your brain autofills if you don't catch something in a conversation. For example if someone says "My __rret was digging in the dirt." I would be able to use context clues to tell you that they said "ferret" opposed to "parrot". But with a foreign language you're so busy translating in your head that these context clues don't come naturally. I realized I had this issue when I had a hard time understanding foreign accents even if they were speaking English.
Additionally, I find that the way you learn a language vs the way its spoken in the real world is quite different. Native speaking is more hurried and lazy. Which is another added challenge. I think the best shot you've got at speeding up the process is that if your girlfriend is slowing down so you can understand her easier... ask her to stop and speak as if she was talking to a native so you get used to hearing the way you'd actually hear it in a real life situation. Also it helps to write stories instead of reading them. If you don't know a word ask your girlfriend, its great to have a native speaker at hand, its better than having to resort to the internet! Trying to force yourself to talk to yourself outloud in Portuguese helps. Be a narrator for your day. Rosetta Stone is good if you're a visual learner.
Other than that it really sounds like youre doing everything. I know it's difficult to learn fast when you can hear, but not understand what people are saying. If that's your issue I sympathize because I'm the same way! Consonants are hard to differenciate for me. Where other people might be able to go:
learn basics -> listen/comprehend -> speak -> read/write -> converse -> expand vocab
you might just have to go
learn basics -> read/write -> speak -> expand vocab -> listen/comprehend -> converse
Don't be discouraged by those people who start speaking in a month, their situation is different. It's okay to switch around the order. At some point it will click and you'll be able to autofill with context clues and it'll be fine. Until then just immerse yourself as much as possible, even in your own mind, and you'll get there. Stay determined!
Thanks a lot! I have high frequency hearing loss and they said that it isn’t terrible but maybe you are on to something as far as it making learning a second language more difficult. I understand about how people listening to their native languages can understand without hearing all of the words because they can figure out the missing words but without the same clues understanding a second language would be tough. I’ll have to use my hearing aids to see if they help. I didn’t notice a huge difference when I them for a few weeks but I wasn’t listening to Portuguese either. Excellent idea! Thanks!
Well... I'm not a specialist, but my guess is that high frequency hearing loss could be a serious challenge when trying to understand a foreign language! You might experience trouble distinguishing high pitched, hushed sounds like s, t, f and others. You're used to it in your native language, but it might make things more difficult in a second language. I'm curious to hear if using your hearing aids makes any difference!
In my opinion, one of the problems are that you try to translate Portuguese into your main language. Translating a sentence takes too long and it would make hard to communicate with other people. You should try to think in Portuguese. I know it sounds kinda weird and all, but i do that all the time. English isn't my native language but a lot of times i just think in English.
The other thing i would like to mention is how learning new things works. There are 2 learning methods: Active learning and diffused learning. Active learning is as the name suggests - you try to learn something. Diffused learning is when you take a break and don't actively think about your lesson. In that time, your brain tries to create new neuron paths/form new idea at the back of your brain. <- This information about learning is from coursera's learning how to learn. If you want a better explanation than mine, you should watch it.
He said he has no inner voice in English, and that he struggled to understand English speakers with thick accents in the past, so I am thinking he really needs some special method.
Congratulations on sticking to it.
Which means to me, you will get it one day.
Here are my suggestions.
Relearn the alphabet. Make sure you are pronouncing each and every letter correctly. Paying very close attention to the vowel sounds. Also any strange sounds that are different from English sounds you normally make.
Learn how to count in your target language, pay attention to the pronunciations of the numbers.
Learn the names of places in Brasil, as many as you can and how to pronounce them correctly as Brazilians do.
Learn the names of famous Brazilians, politicians, movie stars, sports figures, who ever you want to learn about. Make sure you can pronounce their names the same way Brazilians do. (your girlfriend can help you with these first three items.)
(OK don't laugh at this step) Get a set of work books, start with a pre-school one, move up to a kindergarten one. Use these books until you know and understand ever bit of information that is being presented.
Move up to the elementary school level. Make sure you are finishing these work books completely. Do not move forward until you have mastered all the information that is being presented.
Practice going to a restaurant with your girlfriend when you eat a meal. She can play the part of the waiter sometimes and you can play that part at other times.
Write out a script, put on your script all the things that a waiter would say. Make sure you include the things that you have problems understanding.
Make scripts for different task that you perform, like going to the post office, or having the oil changed in your car. And practice them with your girlfriend or someone who can speak the language.
Keep buying school work books at grade level and do not move to the next level until you have completely mastered the level that came before.
Check in with us and let us know when you have reached the Graduate School Level. But you will be well on your way a long time prior to that.
Kelvin: Excellent advice...are you an ESL teacher because this is stuff we do.
Let me add a few items to Kelvin's list:
1. What type of learner are you, visual, audio, oral, kinetic (meaning you need to do it to learn it)...knowing this will help you to adjust your learning to be more efficient.
you can go here to test and see what style of learning suits you.
2. I have many years teaching English in China and I can tell you most of my students have no issue with reading or listening to English but they struggle with speaking and writing. I emphasize to them to spend more time on the speaking and the writing aspects.
3. Think in context and concept. What is the context of the conversation and then you can use assumptions to fill in blanks. Try not to allow English to come into your head...easier said than done. Let the language you are learning take over. Use that language when you are thinking...do this until you are not even aware you are doing it. 4. stop memorizing vocab, instead, put new words into a context, make a sentence then practice it until it becomes a part of your normal speech. It takes time but it's so worth it. 5. Keep at it. I have lived in China for 12 years and I still speak poorly. I can hold a short conversation with my pre-school students LOL But it doesn't stop me, I go shopping on my own, go out to eat (haven't starved yet), and so much more...I'm older so it's taking longer (nice excuse), but don't give up!
One day when you are not stressing it, you will begin to find it's natural to use the other language. It just happens. Let it happen.
Thanks for your kind words. No I am not an ESL, but I hang out here on the forums often enough.
I hope Pat gives your suggestions a try.
Thanks for the great ideas! My pronunciation is very good I’m told. Understanding spoken words and reading are very difficult. I have some kid’s comic books but with words having multiple meanings it’s been difficult to choose which meaning to use for each word because I don’t understand the context yet. I’ll keep trying. Making scripts sounds like a great idea because I can’t understand waiters yet so we can practice things that they might say. Being able to only understand “Ola” is frustrating when ordering food. I’m also trying to understand spoken words without translating each word. That’s been slowing everything down. I’ll get my hearing tested again because after studying for 5 years I should be able to converse and understand spoken words I think. When I first started I was expecting to be able to converse in a few months. I’m glad I didn’t quit my job and expect to get another in Brasil right away! Thanks!
When speaking your target language, pretend that you are very emotional. Get mad or passionate about a topic you want to talk about. My friend and I practice Portuguese this way. We pretend fight about a topic such as food or weather. I say this because when you are mad or very passionate when you are are speaking, you are not translating or thinking, it just comes out of your mouth. If you practice this it will help stop you from translating in your head. This method worked for my friend and I and it was very fun acting like you´re in a novela. haha
Wonderful tip, DocBran! I loved it and will try to practice with some friends. Thanks.
I love this idea and need to try it myself! (Now all I need is an equally silly friend or sparring partner... ;D)
Watch movies and listen to music in Portuguese as much as possible. Use subtitles and look up the lyrics if you need to. Speak in Portuguese both to yourself (like in the car, in the shower, etc) and to your girlfriend (if she already does you get bonus practice, if she's learning, then you can be a bit more at ease because you're both practicing). Just expose yourself to the language and use it as much as possible.
Listen A LOT (the best would be comprehensible input) to the radio, youtube, etc and write a diary for a while. This helped me to think in English. Try hard to stop translating and just understand. When you hear ''gato'' don't think ''hmm I think that means cat'', just picture a ''cat'' or nothing at all and just understand the message. Relax
Some people think in language; some people think in ideas/images. I am one of the latter. However, I can still "think in a language" by having conversations in my head with people. Perhaps you do this too.
Just a thought, but try to FEEL the language, not LEARN it. It's difficult to describe, but most languages have a "feel" to them - the way words are formed, the way they hang together, the way they sound. Once you've got a basic vocabulary in your head, even if you're trying to translate from English each time, concentrate on grouping words that have similar sounds then consider if they have similar meanings - if not, why not? what's different about them that gives them a completely separate meaning? Is the meaning completely separate or does it come from the same base? I can't help specifically with Portuguese - I've only just started looking at it - but, for example, in English take "Port" "Portable" "Porter" "Important" "Portent" - at first glance unconnected, but consider: "Port" - somewhere that things are carried in and out, "Portable" - something that can be carried, "Porter" - someone who carries things, ""Important" - carrying great significance, "Portent" - a sign carrying great meaning of future events. And so on.
IF you can do this with your target language, and it only needs to be on a very small scale at first, suddenly things may start to come together.
It seems to me like you're doing everything right. You're trying. You're using a variety of tools at your disposal and you're consistent in your studying habits.
I found my comprehension jumped when I started using Memrise and forvo.com. Memrise uses recordings of native speakers, instead of Duolingo's text-to-speech. It's a flashcard-style spaced-repetition website (or app). forvo.com is a pronunciation dictionary. It's a great resource.
Do you know how you learn? Are you mostly visual, or tactile? Use those strengths. My husband is a very visual learner, so I made cue cards for him in blue and pink for gendered nouns in French. I also found a kids Encyclopedia of Machines in French that he could peruse (that's his job/passion).
Someone else mentioned conversational input. Here's a video by a multilingual professor that shares what he does. https://youtu.be/W7Xj3rGu1T0 Would your girlfriend be willing to follow a similar format?
Speaking of professors, do you have a teacher and/or a class you can attend? It can be really helpful to learn alongside others.
I can’t order food yet because I can’t understand what the waiters say
If I were you, I'd stop "trying" and just focus on listening. Put the radio onto a Portugese station (one can be streamed on the Internet) and just have it there as background noise. Over time, you'll start to pick out phrases.
This guide (https://www.fluentin3months.com/language-basics-for-travel/) can help you create a framework to work through some common travelling phrases. It won't really help with general conversation around the kitchen table when you visit your girlfriend's family, but it's a good start with being independent while being out on the street. Learn the phrase "Please speak more slowly".
When learning a second language don’t the new words become automatic like a first language or do you still have to translate everything in your head?
This is a excellent question that doesn't really have an easy answer. It is possible to converse in a new language while still translating in your head. It is what Duolingo teaches, since it takes one sentence and asks you to translate it. This, in my view, is Duo's greatest weakness. Conversation never happens with one sentence out of context.
It is also possible to learn to converse and understand in the acquired language without translation.
Finally, I want to encourage you to keep going. You are doing great, even if it doesn't feel like it.
It could be that you're not learning as much because you don't have to. You are probably able to put food on the table without knowing Portuguese and it might not be vital in your relationship.
If you remove the language that you and your girlfriend use to speak to each other now and force yourself to only use Portuguese, maybe you'll have to learn more out of necessity. You'll put things to memory because it's important for you to be able to communicate.
You could have a certain amount of hours or days per week that would be Portuguese only.
Thanks for the reply, my girlfriend only speaks Portuguese. I either write with her or speak and write with her every day and have for 2 years now. I just returned from visiting her for 24 days. It’s the third time I’ve visited her. I’d like to find a way to converse because then I would be using the words that I’ve been studying and would remember them and learn how to form sentences. It’s frustrating because I’ve been trying for so long with not much to show for it. I decided to ask questions instead of learning for another 5 years and not change anything.
I had no idea that your gf doesn't speak English until now. You're just like Paul and Karine from 90 Day Fiance :O
Hello Pat! I arrived here by chance and was impressed by both your difficulties and all the comments and advices you received. Duolingo is a great community, isn't it? I am Brazilian, and I live in Brazil. I know for certain that most of us have problems "slowin down" or simplifying our speaking. Also, the different accents can be a serious problem: sometimes we call them dialects, because the pronunciation and vocab is very particular. So, I can understand your problem with hearing and understanding brazilian portuguese. When you come to Brazil, you are always in the same city, exposed to the same accent? If it changes all the time, it can also be a problem for your understanding. I always heard foreigners saying that São Luiz and Belo Horizonte are the cities were the accent is easier to understand. Do you have a favorite city, region or accent? in terms of being easier to understand, I mean. Good luck!
Take heart, Pat. I've lived in Germany more than two years now and still don't understand everything people say. You could try doing the reverse tree, meaning learning English from Portuguese. I find the reverse German tree different in many respects. The other thing that has been helpful to me is music videos in German with a printout of the German words. That helps with pronunciation too, as you can see how the mouth forms the words. At some point, you have to stop translating and just listen. Focus on verbs and nouns. Above all, don't be hard on yourself. Second and third languages seem to come easily for some folks and much harder for others.
I read some, but there are too many comments to read to see if anyone said this yet. There are three things: 1) Make sure you're not confusing yourself with Brasilian Portuguese versus Portuguese from Portugal. They sound mighty different, especially if you're being very strict with whether you allow a sound you hear to match with a sound you're "supposed" to hear. Remind yourself and practice matching sounds that are similar rather than exact and have the same pattern of similar sounds, the same way that you can recognize English words even though everyone pronounces them differently. As an English example, instead of listening only for po-tay-toe, you would also listen for po-tay-ta and pa-tay-toe, etc. 2) STOP pushing yourself through the lessons when you obviously don't understand. If you can't hear what people are saying and you can't even read, you shouldn't be at 55,000XP. You are cheating and that's why you aren't actually learning the language. When you're doing your lessons, don't skate through them with logic or guessing or photographic memory like you might on trying to pass a school multiple choice exam in history class. Actually utilize your knowledge of the language and if you don't actually know, then learn it before you put in the right answer. 3) It sounds like you're dealing with a psychological block, wherein you ignore things you don't understand or deem unimportant and give up mentally (not to be confused with giving up altogether). You also seem to try to get around them by other means, a sort if pathological form of survival. You think you got through the lessons so you should know the language, but that's not how it works. You need to retrain your concept of learning to involve and aim for actual skill rather than a pass/grade and at the same time retrain your tolerance for the unknown to allow yourself to really pay attention to and absorb what you are hearing and seeing instead of tuning it out as garbled gibberish. Listen to it like learning the notes of a song: the sounds and patterns and tones and length etc. are important, not just the glyphs and basic rudimentary sounds. You need to pay real attention instead of trying to simplify things into very basic facts (which, ironically, actually makes things more complicated and difficult to understand). You need to allow for variation and note which variations aren't passable. As is the case in language, there is rarely (if ever) only one "right". With languages, "my way or the highway" is the absolute worst approach to take. There's really a thousand different routes and you have to learn to recognize and accept them. Instead of listening or reading and thinking "that isn't _, well, I don't know what it is" you have to think about what is IS first. If someone says toodoobay, you have to think about what that sounds similar to according to what you know and match it up (tudo bem) the same way someone else is going to have to try discern what you're saying if you accidentally pronounce it "thoodo bum" or something. Try not to be mechanical about your learning. Like I once had a girlfriend who I was teaching to drive and she would shoulder check without actually paying attention, because it was just what you're "supposed" to do, like the action was more important than the goal/reason, and I had to really explain and get her to see that she needs to actually look, for safety, not just turn around and look to go through the motions and satisfy a criterion. So don't cheat yourself on your language lessons by just trying to pass by satisfying criteria that you've removed from its context.
Hope this helps.
Fantastic! I totally understand everything you said and you are correct. I can get the correct answers in the Duolingo lessons without actually understanding. The capitalized words go first in the sentence for example. I finish most lessons and realize I didn’t actually understand anything which doesn’t help. Even though I might be able to easily answer the questions I wouldn’t be able to use any of the sentences in actual conversations. I am very good at taking tests but I am here to learn and not get a good score on the tests. Excellent points! Thanks
Yes, that's exactly the kind of thing you want to avoid doing, relying on multiple choice and extraneous information to figure out what's supposed to be there. Set up some rules for yourself to counteract your tendency to fudge your way through things. Don't let yourself get away with it. Context is everything in life. If you want to be able to understand anything in life, you always need to think about context. In the case of language, the aim is not to be a good detective Sherlock and solve a puzzle with little blocks that go here or there, the aim is to garner the material and skills you need to understand other people's thoughts and compose your own thoughts for someone else to understand. What you're doing right now is equivalent to painting by numbers; you need to actually start thinking about the real subject instead of thinking about matching a number to a colour and putting it inside the lines to make a flat basic image with no idea how you got there or why any of it was required. Practice your own idea creation, colour picking and blending, and painting technique instead of just following a prefabricated outline with numbers that give no context or reason. As soon as you start prioritizing meaning above appearance, and start to expand your knowledge base rather than your problem solving, you'll start seeing progress. Learn the meaning and function, not the result. Don't approach a phrase like memorizing a string of numbers. You will understand and remember and be able to use things only when your brain has formed a context, a literal web of neural pathways, in which the language can exist. If you keep approaching the language removed from context, you will never be able to retain and manipulate it. In the end you want to be able to paint your own face from memory, not just recognize it as a random face when you see it in the mirror. You need to get beyond the superficial aspects of Portuguese in the same way as you need to go beyond someone's hair colour to get to know who they are inside.
I've been using Pimsleur to improve my listening comprehension and speaking skills. So far, I have been very impressed with their course and it has helped me significantly with listening, speaking and pronunciation. Here is a YouTube video for Portuguese Lesson 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCAFB_uqwYM
When learning a second language don’t the new words become automatic like a first language or do you still have to translate everything in your head?
For me, it's a bit of a mix. Some phrases I know well because I have heard them so many times the translation is almost instantaneous. For new or complex phrases, I have to translate in my head. As I progress, I'm still translating most things in my head, but I do it faster.
Exercise after studying. Getting active within a few hours of learning something new helps you to retain what you've learned because it stimulates your brain and body; especially the Hippocampus which helps with memory. Do this before sleeping. Sleeping also helps retain memory.
Dude, you again?? Seriously?? You've posted that same story to the forums maybe 10 or 15 times already? Probably once every couple of weeks?
Assuming you are not doing it because you want the attention, you probably have some kind of psychological/mental block related to Brazil or the Portuguese language. Go look for a therapist.
It makes no sense to me that somebody would post here, with many follow-ups, about getting helpful advice on dealing with a nonexistent learning problem, just for the fun of trolling. It also makes no sense to me that somebody who believes that's the case would waste their time starting a discussion about somebody they think is a troll instead of just ignoring him.
I seriously doubt that he is a troll, but I can definitely see that he's having troubles. He has responded to lots of replies, and is taking an active roll in this thread, so it looks genuine.
I doubt that he's not a troll, and looks can be deceiving. Just because he has responded to a lot of comments doesn't mean that he isn't seeking attention. In one of his posts I've found, he wrote that he has (or had) a Brazilian girlfriend who doesn't speak English. How is that remotely possible when he supposedly can't understand Portuguese?
In the beginning of his post, he states that he can't read Portuguese, but then later contradicts himself by writing that he has read 130 Duolingo stories in his target language. All his stories just don't add up.
Not just posts started by the OP, but there are also many comments made by him in response to other threads with the same repetitive story.
Until you notice significant improvement, I suggest you should try focusing on learning methods that use a lot of visual aids to help reinforce the meanings of words. Movies and TV shows aimed at young children are very good for this, since the speech is relatively easy to understand and is usually closely linked with what is happening on screen.
Speaking and understanding languages is also something I struggle with, more than reading and writing at least. However, I did manage to improve my speaking and understanding of spoken German significantly in the 11 months I lived in Germany, and I think watching German children's TV channels did more to improve my understanding of the spoken language than anything else.
Haha, you've been duolingoed!
As for constructive advice, I think you should change your outlook on language learning. It sounds like you intend to hang in until you reach the goal of "fluency" and then stop practising. I suggest you, instead, resign yourself to practising forever, the same way you might do physical exercise forever. Once you have done so, you can relax and appreciate the gains you make, year after year. There is no amount of study anyone ever attains in any language, including their own, where there is no room for improvement.
Back to the pessimistic advice: yes, you've been duolingoed. Consider switching to a platform that optimizes for learning, as opposed to Duolingo, which prioritizes fun. Random case in point: they put in all the work for their little animated icons... and show them before you complete a lesson? Way to reward learning /s
I’ve read 130 Duolingo stories but since I couldn’t understand any I have read the same one well over 1000 times to see ifit would help but none of the words are automatic like when I read English.
This is very strange. If you have read all 130 stories and have read the same one well over 1000 times you should be able to understand them and know the words.
Basic vocabulary reapeats itself. Every word and phrase has a translation if you click on it. All the stories have audio which slows down if you repeat it more than once.If you have read ( and listened) to all of the stories and read ( and listened) to the same one well over 1000 times and you have used Duolingo for 5 years and completed the tree and practice reading and writing every day with your Brazilian girlfriend and you still can’t read (as you wrote above) and understand basic things then something is very wrong. That is not normal and it means you either have a learning disability or something else is going on.
That’s the same conclusion that I arrived at. It would be ok if I was not doing quite as well as most other people or if I had to work harder at learning but after putting in exactly 5 years as of today I am still at a beginning level and can’t converse or read except for an occasional word. That’s why I thought it was time to ask people that use Duolingo and see if they had ideas. Thanks a lot for the great advice!
It sounds like you need listening practice specifically. The Foreign Service Institute language learning program is focused on listening, and unlike Pimsleur they never slow anything down even at the beginner level as they consider that distortion of the language. It is designed for diplomats who actually do need to understand and speak the language effectively within a short period.
It is not as hard as it sounds, in fact it is not really hard at all, but you have to focus completely on it instead of doing it in the car or while you are ironing. I am definitely going to do their Spanish Program after I finish with Pimsleur. (After a few lessons with FSI, Pimsleur seems RIDICULOUSLY slow.) But of course, if you haven't done Pimsleur yet, that is also good listening practice, but that is more for beginners than people with five years of study.
Thanks a lot! I’m a beginner with 5 years of experience. I recently had an 8 week course with a teacher and a new student in Portland Oregon which is across the Columbia River from me but the closest teacher. The new student had caught up to me in several different aspects of the language after 8 weeks. Listening was the main one. It prevents me from conversing which keeps me from using the words I’m learning and I’m not putting phrases together that way because I’m not able to communicate. I’ll keep trying different ways to learn to listen. I have an old set of Pimsleur CD’s I can try. Thanks for the advice!
First, I think it takes about 3 months of REALLY FOCUSSED ATTENTION to get fluent in a language. Secondly, try speaking Portuguese in English. I don't speak any so I can't give an example, but speaking Spanish in English I would say: "It pleases me greatly to speak Spanish." If you can switch your brain into the logic of their grammar, it makes things much easier.
Also BE BRASH! Don't worry too much about saying it correctly. Just try to communicate your meaning. Use gestures and body language and GO FOR IT!!! People enjoy and appreciate that and will speak slowly and simply in return!
Have long involved conversations IN PORTUGUESE with your imaginary friends
Have fun.. You are unravelling a puzzle!!!
Excellent advice! I have a lot of fun while in Brasil and make a lot of friends. I just can’t verbally communicate with them. I remind myself of a mime! It’s like when I see a phrase in Portuguese I translate it into English and then instantly forget about the Portuguese phrase and read the English phrase which is terrible so I’ll keep trying to find a way to understand Portuguese without translating. While in Brasil this week it didn’t feel like I made any progress and couldn’t understand what people were saying so I thought I would ask people here for ideas. Thanks a lot
Hi, Pat. I have a lot of sympathy for your struggle. I have known other people like you, and many eventually were diagnosed with specific learning disabilities. (I'm using "learning disabilities" here in the US sense, not the UK sense!)
A school I once attended had special classes that were designed to teach foreign languages to students who had learning disabilities, and I'm wondering whether you may be able to find such a class in your community. Even if you can't find a class nearby, perhaps you could find a teacher online who has experience teaching students with language-related learning disabilities and seek guidance from them regarding the best language-learning techniques for you to use.
Disclaimer: I am not qualified to diagnose learning disabilities, and cannot say with certainty that you have one. All I know is that your struggle sounds familiar to me from hearing people with learning disabilities describing identical struggles.
That’s a great idea! I score very high on tests including English tests which might explain the problem. My brain seems to only operate on English. It acts like any other language is noise and ignores it. I remember when I was a kid and I couldn’t understand the neighbor lady who was from China when she spoke with an accent. My Mom could understand her easily. So it’s like anything other than “normal” English is ignored. Thanks for the help!
Knowing that you can't understand English when it's spoken with a foreign accent makes me think even more that you may have a language-related learning disability (although, again, I'm not qualified to diagnose such a condition).
It troubles me that you're receiving a lot of advice that boils down to, "Spend more time studying or being exposed to Portuguese," when you may need learning techniques that work specifically for YOUR brain.
Let me tell you about my own language-learning experiences. I'm deaf, and my disability means that many of the learning techniques that benefit other people WILL NOT HELP ME. I learn nothing whatsoever from being exposed to the sound of people talking in my target languages. I also learn very, very little from conventional classrooms. For me, Duolingo was a godsend (at least once I learned that I needed to go into settings and tell Duolingo the lie that my computer lacks speakers and a microphone). I get results from Duolingo in a way that I could never have gotten results from other techniques, no matter how much effort I put in.
Duolingo has been ideal for my particular disability, but that doesn't make it ideal for people with every possible disability. I don't know what learning method would work best for you, but there are a number of resources on the web that might be a useful starting point in your research. For example, go to http://www.ldonline.org/article/22725/ and scroll down to "Which instructional methods are beneficial for at-risk foreign language learners?" or see http://www.ldonline.org/article/6065/ which covers a lot of information and includes this paragraph:
"The first and most researched approach is a response to Ganschow and Spark's findings that many, if not most, students having trouble with foreign language acquisition have phonological deficits in their first language. Ganschow and Sparks theorized further that to help these students, the sound system of the target language must be very explicitly taught. In order to test this theory, Ganschow and Sparks collaborated with a high school Spanish teacher who had learned about the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching phonology, reading and spelling to very significantly learning disabled students. In this method, sounds are presented in a highly structured fashion with a great deal of visual, kinesthetic and tactile practice and input. The Spanish teacher, Karen Miller, has tested the effectiveness of teaching Spanish to learning disabled students using the Orton-Gillingham approach. The research on her students has shown quite conclusively that LD students taught Spanish in this way have been able to learn and retain it. Another collaborator, Elke Schneider, has had similar results teaching German to LD students."
Again, I'm not qualified to tell you what will work best for you. However, I do urge you to consider that whatever methods work for "normal" people may not be ideal for you, and that an evaluation by a specialist may help you find a learning technique that's better suited for your brain.
Brazilians usually are less able to understand people with thick European Portuguese accents than we are able to understand people speaking very clear Andean, Colombian or Mexican Spanish, until we expose ourselves to the way they speak. We also struggle with this for some people from hinterland Brazil, particularly older men from rural parts of the state of Minas Gerais and the part where all of those Northeastern states come together and form triple borders.
I have been learning French for 2-3 years. I found this problem very frustrating - I just couldn't understand people, and speaking was really mechanical, even though I spent so much time studying the language. Here is the problem in a nutshell: Studying a language gives you the knowledge, then you need to actually apply it for the results. I find it so weird how everyone wants to focus on the writing side of languages when starting - this is a somewhat ineffective method, in my opinion - especially if you want to speak the language. Of course, it's probably easier to do the basics of a language with writing and reading, I will admit. I know for a fact I could have gained this level of French in 1-2 years if I had prioritized better.
Constant Contact with the Language - Immerse yourself in the language, make your girlfriend speak to you almost only in Portuguese. Listen to music, watch TV shows, etc. Duolingo cannot give you this, and simply being in a Portuguese speaking country is not enough - you need to constantly speak with people, listen to the TV, and avoid English. This type of commitment needs to be EVERY DAY - but it shouldn't be a chore, it should just be part of your life, something that you enjoy.
Prioritize and Scale Difficulty - You have probably been reading and writing Portuguese, instead of focusing on speaking and listening. This is OK for the basics, but if you want to speak and listen, this is probably going in the wrong direction. I did the same with French for about a year, leading to me trying to think of how the words are written in my head when speaking - it goes away after a bit of practice, and now I make mistakes that native speakers make when writing (you can fix this too, but you should focus on speaking first). Also, don't jump into lengthy political debates lasting 3 hours - this should be just simple shows that are still interesting, e.g. Adventure Time, and Sponge bob (they can be surprisingly hard to understand). I highly recommend YouTube videos, just because of how engaging they are, and how many topics they can cover - some are easier to understand than others (accents, pronunciation, speed, etc. play roles). If you really want to understand what people are saying, I suggest at the very least starting off with kids shows (it shouldn't be boring, but still slowly spoken, and with a small vocabulary). I guess the main idea is to have content with a visual aid, to provide context and still be entertaining if you don't understand.
Mistakes are Important - They are part of the process, one that improves itself over time. Babies don't come home and start speaking perfect Shakespearean English, they make errors, and they mimic things, often saying nonsense. If you can communicate effectively, even with a few small errors, you have succeeded and you should be proud. What you say at first will be a little bit strange, but constantly hearing what people say (and then copying them) will actually force you to speak like them, and slowly remove your mistakes.
In my case, I binge-watch French videos (and I do it every day for at least 30 mins). That's how I got my listening comprehension to actually work, without having to reflect upon grammar and each individual word. Even if you don't understand it, it's REALLY important to do this from the very beginning - you can hear the sounds of the language, and they stop feeling so foreign. In the beginning, I understood so little, but since I already knew a lot about French, phrases eventually came through, and I started to understand - the knowledge builds upon itself, and all you have to do is sit there and watch a video (and I guess focusing a bit accelerates the process, too). At a point, it slows down a bit, and you can hear the words, pace, and patterns. I don't know what I would be on the CEFR (it doesn't matter if you can communicate), but I can tell you that I understand around 80% of French videos with native speakers effectively mumbling in front of a camera - 6 months ago, this would have just been noise to me. This really just shows you can make a LOT of progress in so little time.
When it comes to speaking, I'm okay at it (more or less fluent - depends on the subject, of course - but sadly I haven't had many friends to talk to - although I recently went to France and found a friend :D), but I have a lot of tips that you'll be able to use very effectively.
First of all, you have a girlfriend that speaks Portuguese. Wow. This is a huge advantage. Once you have a good listening comprehension, speaking just comes along naturally. You can just go the entire day speaking Portuguese with her, and do this every day (or, since you probably have a busy life, you can just speak for like an hour every day, which is still amazing). In France, I only got a few opportunities to have deep conversations with people, but let me tell you that each time I improved greatly - just think what an hour a day could do.
Also, instead of translating everything I think of in my head, I just think directly into French - it's tricky at first, but you just need to learn. Start with basic sentences, put in different vocabulary (pretend the Portuguese word is tied to the concept, instead of the English word), and slowly make them more complex. At this point in time, I have successfully removed the link from French to English to the idea, and replaced it with French to the concept - it really just needs practice, and you have a native speaker who is close to you.
And... This may sound weird, but if you can't find someone to speak to, then speak to yourself. That's what I had to do, and it's really just like thinking out loud (and in another language). This is like the last point, except you get to really get your mouth around the language.
I hope this helped (like, a lot, since I spent like an hour on this in total, but I'm happy to spend so much time for such a good cause). I really feel passionate about language learning, and I love sharing my knowledge because I know how fun, yet frustrating it can be. I am currently working on a project to become (more or less) fluent in Norwegian in 6-9 months, and I know I can do it because of everything I have learned over the past few years with French. They say the first language is the hardest. Keep trying, and I know you will succeed.
Edit: I found this helpful link on learning Norwegian, but it's applicable to any language: https://www.lifeinnorway.net/learn-norwegian-fluently/
Bonne chance et bon courage !
Thanks for the help! I often hear people talk about mistakes and how they are a good thing. I don’t make many mistakes because I don’t know enough Portuguêse yet to be able to make mistakes. I just don’t say much yet. My ex girlfriend spoke Portuguese and French as first languages in Brasil and English as a third language that she learned in school. I went with her to France to visit her father. It was amazing sitting at the dinner table speaking 3 different languages. Her father speaks English but his girlfriend doesn’t so we had French to English with a translator and English to French with some Portuguese tossed in and a few mistakes when someone would forget who they were speaking to! It was great.
Quando eu aprendo uma nova língua, eu dedico mais tempo para ler e ouvir do que para escrever e falar. Mesmo assim, eu escrevo e falo, porque são as duas habilidades que desenvolvo primeiro. Só começo a entender o que eu leio depois de começar a falar e ler. Como consequência, falo e escrevo muita coisa errada. Só depois de bastante tempo começo a entender o que ouço.
Mesmo assim, as palavras não são automáticas, é preciso muito mais tempo de escuta para isso, e continuo por muito tempo tendo que prestar muita atenção. Mas o que acho mais importante é tentar pensar na língua que estou aprendendo, tentar desenvolver formas de dizer certas coisas, mesmo que não tenha sucesso.
Eu tenho problemas parecidos para aprender alemão, mas não posso desistir. Para tentar me motivar de novo, comecei a estudar italiano, e meu desempenho está bem melhor com italiano do que com alemão. Não ajudou no aprendizado, mas melhorou a auto estima.
A melhor ajuda que tu podes ter é de alguém que fale contigo na língua, e que tenha paciência para aceitar teus erros. Felizmente tu pareces ter esse alguém. Aproveite e insista em falar português.
De qualquer modo, te desejo sucesso e boa sorte!
P.S.: if you wish, I could translate this for you in a reply.
It's weird. After 5 years you should be at least able to understand more but don't let that discourage you. Maybe the problem is that you're just focused on duolingo too much. Try watching portuguese news, game shows etc. Try to think in portuguese, text with your gf in portuguese and so on. Immerse your self max to the language don't just stick to the app. My advice is 1hr on duolingo and 1hr watching videos. Try to search: Easy portuguese on yt and watch a couple of videos. You'll hear the words and automatically get portuguese and eng transcript. Fantastic channel. Good luck
I suggest taking a break from Duolingo exercises (you can still do the stories, but not if they stress you out). Try it out for a month or so. I think this is a great learning program but at some point it might actually make the problem worse. Translation exercises are like training wheels and ar some point you need to take off the training wheels. You want to get out of the habit of constant translation to English, stop doing translation based exercise. Find a good podcast or watch some Sesame Street (without subtitles) instead, or a cooking show (anything very visual) so you can get out of the translation zone into the comprehension zone. You might also want to try a more immersive method like Bliubliu or even Drops for vocab which you can set to only pictures and no english. It does take time, but I also think if what you are doing is not working try different methods. Everyone learns differently.. there are no shortcuts but you can find methods that work better for you.
Apply yourself in learning Portuguese as much as possible.
BUT at the end of the day the MOST IMPORTANT thing in learning a language is speaking it with someone that is native to the language. So speak with native speakers as much as you can PLEASE or else you are just wasting your time!
Hope that helps :)
I speak every day with my girlfriend who only speaks Portuguese and have for 2 years now. I just returned from visiting her for 24 days in Brasil. It seems that with the exposure I’ve had that I should be able to understand and converse. My son can converse and he hasn’t ever studied it. He’s been with me to Brasil 5 times. It’s frustrating. I hope I find a way to understand. Thanks a lot!
If you are willing and able to invest a nontrivial amount of money in the effort; I would be interested in finding out whether you would have better luck with Rosetta Stone. They don't have any translation practice at all. It is all pictures with text and audio in the target language. About as close as you can get to full immersion in an app. It is supposed to engage the same mechanisms that you used to learn your first language as a child.
It sounds like maybe you need to train your Portuguese ear. When I started French, I listened to the news at 50% it's normal speed, and now up to up 75%. I hope to one day be able to listen at 150% speed like I do the Nightly Business Report in English. The key is to listen a lot at very slow speed and work up from there.
Best of Luck!
My secret is speaking with myself :) and of course do as many as possible listening practice like 7/24. And enjoy it!
Pat, I have noticed that none of your crowns are at level 5, most are at level 1 or 2. Maybe at one time they were all at level 5? If not, my suggestion would be to go back to the basics, drill with the very first crown, and polish it up to level 5. When you really know you've got this is when those drills become repetitive and almost boring because you know the answers so well. Stay on the very first crown until you reach level 5, and you'll easily converse in the most basic way in your target language. Only then move on the second crown, and do the same thing. The drills helped me more than anything else, because by level 5 I ended up "playing with" the target language and trying to make it fun because it had become so repetitive.
Again, if you've already had 5 crowns in all your skills before, this advice wouldn't be very helpful...
Woah. You have a serious problem. I wish you told us how you learn in more detail so we could help identify the problem. I've been able to understand a lot of language after only a few weeks of study. I'll tell you what I do, but I can't promise it'll help because everyone is different. It seems your main issue is comprehension, so I'll skip speaking stuff for the sake of not giving you a long post.
Hear to recordings/videos of native speakers. Don't listen, just hear. Take in the flow and pace of the language, don't worry about listening for words or comprehension yet.
Learn the first 100, or more if you want, most common words in Portuguese. You can find this on Decks/Memrise.
Now, go listen to recordings and pick out words. It's okay if you don't understand a lot of it. It just matters that you can manage to get yourself to hear and recognize words you've learned.
Learn about the grammar structure. Learning even a little grammar will help you understand something important in just a moment. As a Romance language, we know it's a subject-verb-object structure. Start learning the verb tenses, starting with the normal present tense.
Try Easy Portuguese in the Easy Languages channel on YouTube to listen to native speech and follow along with the Portuguese subtitles so your mind can pair sounds together. Keep listening to the same one until you can understand some of it without subtitles.
Keep yourself updated of your CEFR level to know how far along you are. Not all Duolingo courses are created equal, so I don't know how far the Portuguese one will get you. I only know for sure the French and Spanish courses get you through A1, the lowest level. You can Google CEFR if you're not familiar with it.
Some of these can be done in any order. This is how I was able to start playing Pokemon in French after 2 or 3 weeks of study and understand a lot of it.
someone once said "Its the not the Destination, It's the journey". I admire your perseverance, but I think you are trying too hard. Try to slow down, enjoy the sounds without trying to understand, listen to songs just for the fun of it. One day, you will find your aha moment.
I am concerned in case you starve when you go over there. I have been told that if you take a photo of a menu with Bixby, it translates it for you. Cool!
My first thought reading this is that maybe you need more listening practice at a level that's comprehensible. You clearly have lots of listening experience between your teachers, girlfriend, and visits to the country, but perhaps not so much at an appropriate level. It takes hundreds of hours of listening to a large amount of content to be able to understand everyday speech. If you can understand simple things, its just a matter of slowly adding complexity. If its the speed maybe have someone speak to you slowly then repeat faster and faster until its normal speed. Perhaps another learning tool that has a large audio focus would help, such as Pimsleur for lower levels or LingQ for any level.
I would also suggest finding an experienced tutor to help. They may be able to identify specifically why you are having difficulty, instead of just saying 'Don't worry, you'll get it." Ask each potential tutor before you book if they think they can help given your situation and experience.
It seems you learned enough that you undoubtedly have much of the language in your brain somewhere, it just needs a way. I think when it happens, it will be like a flood.
i speak both portuguese and english and to answer your question, no, one doesn't translate everything in their head, it just comes naturally. then again, i have been exposed to english from a very early age, so it's more like a "second native language" than a second language if that makes sense. the bottom line is, you should be able to think in the other language.
i suggest trying to read as much as possible and gradually increasing the difficulty of the material you read. from my experience, talking to people is important, but overrated when it comes to learning. both me and my sister have no problem speaking in english and we never really had anyone to talk to in english when we were younger. but we did read a lot and watched stuff in english.
I thought in Portuguese and translated to English in my head from ages 15-20, starting from when I began to be seriously compelled about learning the language.
First of all, to answer your question vis-a-vis how it works in your brain, or rather should work: Your brain is always functioning in a specific language-mode. I know this because I speak a number of languages and I'm always in a specific language mode. If I'm approached in another language, my first reaction is to translate my responses/thoughts into that language, however -- if I continue to have a conversation in that language, then my brain switches into that language mode and the same would happen if I have to switch back to the previous language. Translating everything in your head is too slow of a process, but it still happens sometimes, because your life experiences are different in every language, you will never know the exact amount of words and phrases in every given language.
Secondly, you mentioned having a Brazilian girlfriend, just have her speak Portuguese with you from morning till dawn, you'll have to explain to her what you want, need, she'll have to do the same back and a challenge accompanied with necessity is typically the optimal motivator to learn something quickly.
Fascinating! I wondered how that works. My girlfriend only speaks Portuguese so that’s all I try to speak with her. After 2 years of practicing speaking with her every night I still can’t understand her except for occasional words. So it seems like my brain isn’t switching from English to the Portuguese that I’ve been studying all these years. I did notice that when I haven’t slept at all that I can suddenly understand a lot more than I normally can and that there are a lot more Portuguese words available to use for speaking than there normally are. As soon as I sleep it’s back to normal. Thanks a lot!
Hello friend, you already got a lot of suggestions... I don't have much to add but, if you are really desperate, maybe trying to look for a phonoaudiologist or any related kind of doctor. Other than that, I'm a Brazilian myself and i'm going to recommend you some national stuff: Download the Google Podcasts app on you phone and search for Jovem Nerd, it's the most heard podcast in Brazil, it has more than 680 episodes with more than 1 hour each. I listen to this podcast for years, it's very good, about geek stuff In Brazil we have the youtube channel Porta dos Fundos that makes short comedy videos that, in my humble opinion, are the best in the world. I know you don't understand it very well, but maybe try to linsten to a podcast every day, for 15 minutes, on the bus, or walking, maybe after 1 month you'll be already understanding 10% more, it doesn't sound much, but at leats its something (Sorry for any bad grammar or spelling)
Firstly, kudos for putting so much effort into learning your partner's language. My husband of 11 years can count only to 10 and knows a few fruits and vegetables in my native German.
A LOT has been said already. I just want to comfort you that even after 12 years in Australia I still prefer to watch American movies with English subtitles as I find the background noise often too irritating and I am not used to the American accent. I love it as a backup. Similarly, I don't think I understand every single word in a conversation either - a huge part is knowing the context and filling in the gaps. We do this in our native language as well, but we don't notice it as much, because we do it with a higher success rate, but also because we don't have that anxious expectation to understand every. single. word.
Good luck on your journey!
Keep at it Pat. I have problems with Spanish after several years. I speak it quite well and get complimented on my visits to South America. People always compliment me. But, understanding what they say, is like being a novice with the language. Give yourself a big pat on the back for your tireless efforts, it will help you feel better.
Do you by chance study Spanish as well? If so, there is an excellent teacher, Juan Fernandez (1001 Reasons to Learn Spanish). On one of his podcasts he explains perfectly what you're experiencing. I can try to copy the link for you if you're interested. His entire method is based on teaching the language by using the language, so the podcast I'm referring to is in Spanish, and that's why I asked.
Get a Brazilian-Portuguese phrase book, and memorize the phrases commonly used in various situations. Don't worry about the meaning of the individual words, just say and memorize the sound of the complete phrase, and associate the sound with the situation. Also learn the sound of phrases that may come in response to that phrase. So learn categories such as Restaurant Portuguese, Airport Portuguese, Shopping Portuguese, etc.
You will find that when listening you will hear and understand the commonly used phrases, and the accompanying words, numbers, adjectives, etc, will make sense to you in the context.
When in Brazil, use the Portuguese phrases you do know to get through situations you are in. You will learn new words and phases in context, and they will stick with you. For example, I learned that "efectivo" is the Spanish word for cash money in a transaction in Mexico, not in Duolingo, and I have no trouble recognizing it or using it.
I think if you make your objective "getting by in Brazil without using English", you will find yourself learning Portuguese will be the end result.
Thanks! That’s a good idea. I haven’t been able to learn phrases yet because I try to understand every word in the phrase and many times the words have multiple meanings so I never know which meanings to use. I need to try to learn the phrases without breaking them down into individual words. The longest phrases I know are a few 4 word phrases and maybe one with five words so I need to try to remember some with more words. Remembering phrases has been very difficult for some reason. Remembering 12 words that I don’t know in the proper order was very difficult when I tried it for a teacher. I remember asking her when she wanted me to do it. She said “now!”. I said “It usually takes me a couple of hours to remember something like that”. I did it in an hour. I forgot it right after the class.So maybe my memory is bad or I need to discover a way to remember words and phrases. Thanks!!
Most phrase books I've seen use short phrases. Browse your local bookstore, and/or Amazon and look for ones that make sense to you.
Since you are visually oriented, picture the scene as you say the phrase. Use a highlighter to mark the phrases you commit to memory. You might even use different colors for different situations.
Work with your Brazilian girlfriend to nail down the pronunciation of the phrases. Work to get the rhythm and melody of the whole phrase, not just individual words.
Maybe you really don't have interest in the language, your motivation to learn is not strong enough, perhaps take some time to think why do you really want to learn the language, is your motives strong enough? Are you trying hard enough? Do you really want to learn the language? is your motives to actually learn for yourself or to just to please your girlfriend? Think of these questions, perhaps since you both can easily talk in English, you might convinced yourself, why do I have to learn since my partner can already understand me in English, it seems there is no real need for you to learn, find a real need, tell your brain stop discouraging me, I need to learn this language, and be serious about it and it will work for you. Teachers assume you are trying hard when you are not, so I will tell you, you will get there if really want to get there, otherwise nothing will change. Good luck, it is between your brain and you. don't let your brain tell you, you don't need to learn. Push it and make the effort.
Thanks for the help! I’ve wanted to learn a second language for a long time and now that I haven’t been able to learn it makes me more curious as to why, so it keeps me motivated. I won’t ever quit and want to discover something that works so I can finally understand people and be able to read.
My girlfriend can’t speak English, only Portuguese so that’s all we use when we practice speaking every day. You had excellent ideas and I appreciate them very much. I was studying for 4 years before she became my girlfriend. I have wanted to learn a second language for a long time. It amazes me that people can learn a second language. My brother and his family speak several languages and it is incredible to watch them use different languages. Thanks a lot for the advice!
Have you tried an online test? Maybe you have better level than you think: https://www.cactuslanguage.com/language-level-tests/
I’ve taken that test and others. Sometimes I get a beginner level and sometimes an intermediate level but it’s only because I am good at taking tests and getting the correct answers without really understanding the material. I scored well on the LingQ vocabulary test. They said I knew 6700 words twice and 22700 words twice but I don’t think I actually know that many. Thanks a lot for the help!
I actually tried out that test, and felt like it placed my skills way too high. I took it for French, and it placed me at an advanced level (37/40 was my score). In addition, it only focuses on reading and writing, which may cause problems as test-takers can sit and think about their answers.
This tests European Portuguese. I gave correct Brazilian Portuguese responses and scored 36/40. :P
I hope you are right! I hope that all of the knowledge is hiding somewhere and just needs to be released. I have discovered that when I haven’t had any sleep that understanding becomes easier. Words I need to use are suddenly available to me. Then when I get some sleep everything is back to normal. Thanks a lot!
I don't believe that after five years you can't speak or you don't understand at all. Imagine that you don't have a choice - have you ever been in this kind of situation that you had have to respond and you had have to understand ? Remember that you can always ask addictional questions; people are usually kind and keen on helping. Maybe it's the classic language barrier tha you struggle ? You can overcome it only by exposing to language; forget about the mistakes you make and try to converse as often as you could. You can also repeat sentences for yourself so you might memorise it easier. Practise and don't give up !
Don't worry you'll get there! Keep trying to push yourself and you'll get there!
I used to view languages that it is either you speak/understand the language or you do not. With this view, it was very hard to loosen up and utilize my obtained knowledge.
It reminds me of what my karate teacher taught me back in the day. It used to be only two belts, white and black. But it's hard to maintain motivation when it's "either you can fight or you can't." So they introduced other belts, to help achieve your goals piece by piece.
And thus I told myself the same thing with language learning. If I can understand one more word, sentence or paragraph that brings me a step closer to fluency.
Try to make your goals smaller. Instead of your goals being fluent in a certain amount of time, perhaps make it that you have a conversation this week. Understand afew words this week. Develope an opinion in your target language (speaking to yourself in the shower helps.)
Good luck! Happy learning ;-)
Thanks for the help! The main problem is that I don’t understand what people are saying so I can’t converse yet. It’s not that I don’t know the meanings of the words but it’s that I don’t know which words they are saying. It sounds like noise. It’s worse in a crowded building like a restaurant. I’m going to try the hearing aids again to see if they help me understand the words better. I’m not deaf but my upper frequency hearing isn’t perfect. I’d love to be able to converse. It’s my dream.
Pat, maybe next time you are in Brazil, you could talk to a speech therapist. It is not so expensive and a local specialist can identify if there is something in your hearing that is impacting your learning of the language. Just another suggestion... Good Luck following so many advices!
I studied Mandarin in college, then went to Taiwan and I didn't understand anything. I had American friends with the same problem. One friend learned to sing Chinese songs and went dancing with Chinese older married women often. He got better in Chinese, but did not become fluent and he enjoyed his time there. I chose a stupid young persons path and I took up serious drinking. That helped me relax and I could listen to the Chinese people near me talk - this is not something I recommend. For me many years passed without drinking, and without foreign languages, but that first 'immersion' in Chinese gave me the confidence that it is possible for me to learn a language. I retired three years ago and Duolingo gives me the opportunity to soberly approach the task of learning languages. Some languages are more difficult than others, but the first foreign language is almost always the hardest. Keep on keeping on and try to relax - frustration seems to be your biggest enemy.
You might try listening to Portuguese with your eyes closed. Your brain may be busy trying to associate images with the words and the sounds of the words may be escaping your attention. I had a teacher who had a very thick accent in her native language, but with my eyes closed I discovered that she suddenly became more understandable. Also, my sister used to be a typing teacher who sometimes taught immigrants how to type English. Typing really helped those immigrants get better at understanding English. An audio and tactile approach might help your Portuguese.
I found that I don’t think in English. I think in images and ideas. There isn’t a voice in my head that is speaking English. Maybe that could explain the problem. It’s like the operating system in my brain doesn’t allow a second language. Understanding Portuguese is like deciphering a secret code instead of learning a second language. I’m going to try to learn without translating if that’s possible. Thanks a lot!
That's why I decided to learn German. Because I can hear all the letters.
We've been saying things around the house all the time in German for years -- Selbst Bedienung, and Danke and little stuff like that. I try and talk to the dogs in German. Anything which will get me to the point that I mentally say it in German before I say it in English.
brazilians actually have the same complaint about other languages, english for example. they complain that it doesn't use "every letter".
My brother learned it in high school, college and then moved to Austria and now 42 years later he’s very good at it and his kids can speak several languages including Indonesian, German, French, English, Norwegian and my brother and his wife speak Japanese and Russian. I’d be happy with Portuguese.
If it makes you feel any better, I started German in college back in 1970. I then spent my Junior year in Vienna, but actually didn't learn much because of the Wienerisch dialect. Dated a Wiener, but couldn't understand much of what he said to his friends. Came home, continued studying it my Senior year. Went back to Austria five times over the years, studying each time before I left for the trip. Even hired a tutor for a while. Went again for a month in 2012, ended up in the hospital in a non-tourist area. Only one nurse and one doctor spoke English. Great fun. Came back determined to be ready for the next trip. Have been doing Duolingo daily for over four years, also did some Memrise but abandoned it. Currently doing Duolingo (both directions of the tree), Clozemaster, Drops, and Lingvist. I also have Austrian friends on Facebook whose posts I try to read in German. My German is getting good enough that I can tell that Google Translate has really screwed up. But my listening is still iffy. I can absorb one sentence at a time, but please don't start the next one yet. I can usually make myself understood and according to the tutor on Speechling, my accent is good, there were no corrections most of the time (to the point I stopped doing it). But.... I'm still largely lost if locals are speaking to each other or a newspaper article is too complicated. This is after forty odd years. If I lived there for longer it would be better, but watching movies is just irritating to me. Especially when the caption does not match the words being said (frequent). (I need captions for English at my age.)
I imagine that Portuguese is one of the hardest languages to learn, it is comparable to German. I can only imagine because the Portuguese-Br is my native language.
My humble suggestions:
Read daily news, articles on topics you like, and small books like Animal Farm and the like.
I have to say that there are great news sites in Portugal, as a very rich language. Sometimes I read it, I bewilder some expression or another, but it's usually an excellent writing. Few Brazilian journalists can write this way.
Portuguese has far more cognates with English than German, and our grammar is much more simple. If Brazilians truly wrote and spoke with perfect grammar, maybe that would be the case, but we just take the quickest route, almost like we partially creolize our language. With that said, our accent is very complex.
I love girlcatloves idea of children's books. I have an Australian accent and wrestling with French, I'm definitely going to give kids books a go
I have to translate almost everything in my head even if I know the words.
When I learn with Duolingo, I try to actively address that by trying to practice rather actively.
When asked to translate a sentence from the language I am learning (French), I tend to read it aloud until I can say it in French fully knowing what it means. Only then do I actually solve the Duolingo task at hand (e.g., clicking the words in English to form the translation, or typing it). With practice like that I feel that I meanwhile can read various things in French also in daily lives (we recently moved to a partly French speaking country), and I don't feel like I have to explicitly translate them.
Also, I commonly close my eyes so that initially I only hear the French Duolingo sentence, because for me understanding it in writing is more easy due to the way Duolingo works.
Further, when Duolingo asks me to translate a sentence into French, I first try to do this without the help it offers (e.g., the words given in the interface). I basically just try to say the French sentence myself. Then I use the standard Duolingo way -- and often get corrected that way :)
I still only understand very little spoken French in daily live, but primarily because it is too fast for me. With reading I can read in my own pace, that works better so far.
Anyway, I know that when I learnt English before that was the same, and it is likely only a question of time...
Thanks a lot for the advice. Understanding what people say and understanding without translating are the most difficult things for me after studying 4 years 364 days. I didn’t want to keep doing the same things in case I was doing something wrong. I want to find something that works. Even when in Brasil with people that only speak Portuguese it doesn’t seem to help because I can’t understand much. Just basic greetings and words. I still have to translate them in my head except for a few things.
How many consecutive hours have you spent listening only to Portuguese and forced to speak only Portuguese (because no translator is available, nor any person is able to understand English at all.)
It is impossible to spend days, weeks, months with no connection to English and not pick something up.
If you had been doing it right, the times you've been to Brasil, you'd have been dreaming in Portuguese.
I agree with d-hissle, perhaps there are sounds you cannot pick up. Nothing like hard of hearing or getting a hearing aid.
I have the same problem with not understanding a new language but one day some years ago, listening to a language tape while following the same text in the textbook I noticed something strange - why did he skip a letter here and there so the word became incomprehensible. A split-second total silence which I only noticed because I followed the textbook word by word. I simply couldn't recognize what he was saying, too much had disappeared
I got tested and found out I have a hole in the frequency range. Probably born like that. Otherwise normal hearing. In my native language I suppose I automatically filled in and since I learned the right spelling at school I didn't know I had a probleme until I started learning foreign languages. And never understood why it took me so long to understand what people were saying.
Forgetting how to speak could be a consequence of not being able to understand. You waste a lot of mental energy translating 'strange sounds' into words. To solve that kind of 'sound puzzle' I guess we 'think' in our native language and then it's more difficult to find the forign words when speaking.
For me it's a total loss of hearing in those split seconds and only at that frequency but it's enough to scramble the word. A hearing aid or asking people to speak louder won't help but I am happy I finally got an explanation.
It helps to listen and learn the sounds and rhythm. Read loud, speak to yourself as someone suggested. You can also record it on your mobile to get used to hearing the words spoken with your own voice.
It was my story and there could also be a perfectly natural explanation for your problem.
Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. There are four aspects of language: reading, listening, speaking, and writing, and these areas overlap very little. So, it's really simple: you will be progressing in in those areas where you are practicing. That is, if you want to talk better, you have to practice talking, and if you want to better comprehend what others are saying, you have to listen as much as possible. Go out of your comfort zone! And if you only do DuoLingo exercises day after day, you will only excel in those, and nothing else. Of course, you will reach a certain level of language, but it's not very advanced.
Why would he study the hardest languages for an English speaker if he struggles with a close neighbor?
Yes, what Steve said: Trying a writing system that has no obvious correspondence with the pronunciation, we could put to test the hypothesis that Pat is a great visual learner but struggles with auditory input. It may not help him to acquire Portuguese immediately, but I'm sure it would shed a lot of light on his induvidual learning strategies. (Note: The Korean script actually has a strong correspondence between visuals and sound. In hangul, the letters are arranged into syllable blocks, which to "Westerners" may look like logograms (but most likely only by association with Chinese).)
If Pat manages to easily identify thousands of individual Portuguese words visually, he might have absolutely no problem handling complex scripts. Furthermore, he told us that he has problems with verbs and verb conjugations, and seems to translate word-for-word. That is why I thought that especially written Chinese (+ pinyin) could be worth a try, and possibly even a lot of fun. Then there is still the problem of remembering more than 4 words in their right order in a sentence. This might also be easier in a very visual script.
I must say that I admire your tenacity. It’s one of the most important qualities to have when learning a foreign language. So bravo on your stick-to-it-iveness!
I, like you, tried to learn a language and had the very same problems you are having with Portuguese. I tried to learn French, but nothing would stick. I don't think this has anything to do with a language learning deficiency on my part. I actually know a good bit of both Spanish and Esperanto. I can read these languages, watch YouTube videos, listen to audio books, etc. With French, I had a really hard time hearing the individual words in the language. It seems to me they are all crammed together. When I listen to Portuguese, it sort of seems the same way. One day, I may pick up French again because I like watching movies in French even though I understand next to nothing. I know that language learning has a lot to do with finding enjoyable content that one understands. I also learned Latin and Ancient Greek and I know with these languages enjoyable and easy to understand content made all the difference.
I see many people have offered up lots of advice. Well, I'd like to offer a few videos instead. The first two seem especially applicable to your case. The others are by Stephen Krashen. He has done lots of research on language acquisition and is well worth listening to.
And here is a video by Lydia Machova. I've watched many of her videos and found much of what she has had to say helpful and inspirational.
Here’s a Brasilian Portuguese book by Assimil. Many language learners like their books. You can find reviews about their books online. Maybe you will find it helpful.
Good luck and happy language learning.
Hi! You already have a ton of answers to your question and I guess the reason to it is that you seem really really close to your goal and we all want to give you that small extra boost to achieve it.
So.. you've already been through the tough work (learning grammar, vocab etc..). Take a step away from it and realize you already know the language, it is already in your brain, trust me! Now you just need to take it out. It's not hard, you will see, you will even have fun. And I think this is the key: have fun!
Whenever you are talking with your girlfriend (I mean every single time) throw in there as much portuguese as you can: start by replacing random nouns in the middle of the sentence with their portuguese translation. Take risks and make mistakes, she will correct you and you will gradually start getting used to everyday-life phrases.
When she says something you don't understand, try to immediately repeat it out loud a few times and probably you will distinguish the words on your own :D
As everybody else said, immerse yourself in the language. Talk to yourself in portuguese, stick on every object in your house a note with its portuguese name on...
Also, don't forget that for a native English speaker who doesn't speak any romance language it is no joke to learn portuguese! You are doing way better than most people!
And don't forget that a language is a means of communication. Probably most people who speak portuguese also do speak english. So just relax and don't stress over grammar and sentence structure. Just use what to know to "get closer" to people by showing the effort to speak their native language. Even though we rarely achieve perfection in a foreign language, we certainly do make the difference in interaction.
Don't give up!! As someone who has been through that in the past, I can clearly see that you are VERY close to your goal, much closer than you think :D
Have your girlfriend speak partial Portuguese with English, if she can. This isn't an easy task itself for the other person if they aren't used to doing it already.
If she can and is willing to do so - have her progressively use one random word in Portuguese with English, and after a week or two add another word per sentence. Ideally nouns (including compound nouns) which work the best at first. Eventually add in propositions and then pronouns. Once you are doing 2-3 words per sentence for 2-3 months, add in verbs but still keep it 2-3 words per sentence unless you can naturally handle more than 3 words (if you can, you are almost there). Once you've been doing verbs for about 3 months (this is the key), have her go full in sentences randomly. Some sentences full and others with 3 words (increasing it to 4 words if you can handle it at this point). These sentences that she does fully, should be known as "safe" sentences which are commonly used and essential sentences for everyday usage. Basically sentenes you use daily and are comfortable with because you have common relationship of comprehension with them. Once you get used to hearing the same phases/sentences over and over included with the 3-4 words per sentence scheme, it'll be easy to go full in when you're feeling comfortable (which at some point you naturally will). And you'll just learn from your mistakes at this point.
Note, keep away from idiots and other common but complex phases as this will redirect your perspective of learning each word individually within a sentence.
Note, it helps at some point to speak back with what you can. At first it's okay to talk back in English, but after some months putting in the effort to use words you understand "will" to help create better confidence and create faster bridges (connections) between words and structural thinking goes a long way.
@travis.font: Darn autocorrect -- although I think that "keep away from idiots" is always good advice (if unfortunately hard to follow ;)).
I have the same problem with French and am about to develop a similar one with Spanish - I have decided one possible solution is to begin listening to online cartoons/stories etc for fives and under and go from there - however, the weird thing is that although my German grammar is still at the awful stage I can hear the language almost perfectly despite not being able to understand it - I think that must be because French, Spanish (and Portuguese) are romantic languages whilst German and English are Germanic
You should listen to the news every morning and night. Also listen to Portuguese music. This way you should be able to pick up new words every week. some people say you should also play portuguese common phases while you sleep every night to get them in your head while you dream.
I just returned from 24 days in Brasil and it doesn’t seem like I picked up any words which has made me wonder how going to a country that speaks the language you are learning is supposed to help. I don’t understand what they are saying so I don’t learn much. I’ve been there 16 times now and still only understand an occasional word when I hear people speaking. I want to discover why that is or else it might be like that in another 5 years. That’s why I thought I would ask the people on Duolingo. I have a great time in Brasil and make a lot of friends. Thanks a lot!
Did you only read, write, speak, and listen in Portuguese?
If you are spending even a little bit of that time using English, you interfere with the immersion.
Everything counts. Using your phone in English, reading in English, translating, etc. )
Just a week of immersion, with zero English exposure, would have you conversational.
My girlfriend only speaks Portuguese. Her 10 year old daughter is learning English so I helped her with it. I had 24 days with Portuguese and only a few times when someone tried to use their English. My ex girlfriend in Brasil would only speak English with me because I couldn’t understand Portuguese so that didn’t help. But hearing Portuguese that I can’t understand doesn’t seem to help much. I need to learn how to understand what people say. Thanks!
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (currently running for president) has a learning disability by which he cannot recognize faces. Just can't do it. (A problem for a politician!) He works around it with voices--and help from aides. You may have something similar with foreign languages. Maybe bring a translator around with you (your girlfriend?).
My suggestion would be to try watching Brasilian/Portuguese movies WITH Portuguese subtitles. That way you know exactly what people are saying and you can start building the bridge from reading to listening.
That said, that's an experimental idea I intend to implement myself for learning Spanish, so come back after and let me know if it helps!
Thanks for the help! I practice every day for 1-2 hours with my girlfriend on WhatsApp and I study every day too. I do different things than just Duolingo. Some people here think that’s all I use but I try to do different things too. I am a member of quite a few WhatsApp language groups and use HelloTalk and Italki and a few other apps. I have tried Rosetta Stone, Semântica, LingQ and others too.
Watch lots of TV! Television has subtitles (don't use English) and real conversations! Write stories and poems! Poetry is free form so you can experiment. Talk to your girlfriend. Speaking with those you love is the best. Just the best! Edit: you can watch English movies with Portuguese subtitles!
Thanks for the help! I watch movies on Netflix but I can watch a lot more. I probably should. Not understanding what people are saying is the biggest problem because I can’t converse because of this. If I could converse I could learn a lot more because I would be using the words I’m learning instead of forgetting them.
You story doesn't make any sense. If have no idea why poeple here are giving you advice as it were real. I am 100 % sure it is just made up.
Ok First of all I'm a native Portuguese speaker from Brazil. And secondly in my opinion Portuguese is really difficult. for most people around the world to Learn. But I think I can really help you. I am assuming you know a lot of words With that said lets get to the business:... 1- You have to make sure you know at least the 3000 most common words on that language. And when I say 'know' I mean both speaking and writing and of course understanding. (all of this I took from Pareto's law, so defy your self to really learn all that words. Also when a child say its firsts word it understand at least 100 times more words. Think about that)...
2-Train both your passive skills and your active skills and keep the practice balanced. The passive skills are the abilities to read, listen and understand. The active skills are the abilities to write, speak and create sentences. (this last one is more activated when you start to THINK in that language. and progress to create some journal writing the events of your day entirely with the words you know at that moment)...
3- Practice conversations and interactions in Portuguese as much as you can. Make it part of your daily life. Label your stuffs in Portuguese for example. Change the language of your phone / browser / computer. Enter a Portuguese speakers community of some subject you like... Listen to music, watch a TV show or movie or something of your interest. For me was Video Courses about all kinds of stuffs and YouTube channels too.
4-If you have mastered the steps above you won't need this 3rd one for conversation purposes. But here it goes: Study And learn the Portuguese grammar in Portuguese. The difficult of that is huge but can really improve your skill on that language.
Basically I recommend you to learn the words, learn how to use the words, understand the language and worry about grammar later. Good Luck!
Please let us know specifically how some of this new advice works for you. I'm afraid I don't have any but I have seen your many posts to the same effect and I definitely think you need to try something quite different. I also wonder about hearing or language processing, as mentioned by yourself and others.
I can understand where you are coming from. I have been learning the guitar for seven years (anyone can play guitar if you put in enough effort) I practise for hours every day, and still do, but can't play a single tune well. Now I am putting the same effort into learning French, I hope I get a result this time, I'm running out of life. My sister who speaks fluent Spanish said she made major improvements when linking up with a local women with the same ambitions for a chat in Spanish every week, forcing themselves to only use Spanish.
Au revoir et bonne chance. Gottaneiffel
Go to a school and pay for an actual course with an actual teacher. Duolingo or movies don't seem to work for you, so do it old school. Get a licensed teacher and study with him for 2 years, for example.
I feel you. Except I have been learning Korean for almost 2 years and I still feel like a newbie XD.
Don't worry, brasilians speak very very fast!! Sometimes they don't understand each other! :D :D
Speak with your brasilian girlfriend for a full day, or better for a full week and you are going to improve dramatically.
I began to study English seriously at age 15 and began to be able to think in straight English at 20, only began to understand SOME spoken English sentences at 21, and cartoons with very clear accents made for children at age 22, but it was limited to only some forms of media until 23. It is only now at age 24 that I am able to understand any YouTube video, but not some movies or series yet. Some accents like Avril Lavigne I could always perceive straight away even before I started to learn English, but most people have way more connected speech than that. My suggestion is to listen to music from Brazilian artists who speak in a less connected way like Ludov and Alice Caymmi, and to try to watch Brazilian dubs of Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon cartoons as well as anime.
Try to play games on portuguese, rpg or visual novell, where very many conversations, read books, watch films without subtitles, listen and repeat all words, which you know. Your ears must catch how sounds this word or another and hold it in your brain. On Duolingo you can learn how built sentences and how sounds words by default. It's only my opinion, no more :)
I think yohu're making a mistake in your learning: you're concentrating on what most courses tell you it's important, whereas you're leaving aside the main component of learning. You need to build your vocabulary, there's no way around that. Duolingo may introduce to the language and trying to talk with your girlfriend will help you with pronunciation but if your vocabulary is not large enough (and that means very large) you'll never understand. How do you build your vocabulary? Read and listen to Pmortuguese everyday. Watch videos, read novels. Get real content and expose yourself to it everyday. Reading (in particular may be your missing ingredient, there's no better way to build vocabulary but you still need to listen to get used to the spoken language. There are apps that help you with that. I happen to use one that I'm very happy with but I don't want to publicize anything here. Good luck!
I personally find YouTube travel vlogs helpful these days.
Seriously the quality of the generated subtitles these days has vastly improved. I'd maybe look up something you're interested in on YouTube in your target language. It's much more immersive than simply going on holiday and trying to understand what people are saying in my opinion.
It is like when you learned english the first time, ypu could understand it before you could speak it. Just duolingo will not work, you need it from many different angles. Try the fsi portugese, it is avail online free. Also pimsleur is excellent. Use all three but you will still not be fluent, as that will only come if you are where you speak it regularly. Duolingo is awesome, its an aid, not an end. Anytime you have 2 min you can do a lesson. Pimsleur is audio only, about a half hour per lesson, listen and repeat, full conversations, use when driving, or doing something routine, fsi works best with full concentration book open and play the audio, drill, drill, drill, burn it in.
Practice thinking in Portuguese. While you are sitting, driving around, whatever. Try to do it with minimum "translating" in your head. Its not gonna be easy but that makes a difference between acquired language and knowing words. Feel free to fill the gaps with English words, few words don't matter, what matters is building those wires in your brain.
Write journal in Portuguese, that will make you think in that language. Write about everything, complain how hard it is, what you wanted to say to a waiter, what you saw today, etc.
I try to think in spanish. (though that's only because that's my main secondary language.) good luck!
I agree w others who say you need to SPEAK more.
Have you tried memorizing a personal script?
A personal script is a set of questions & answers that have to do with you personally-- your background, family, where you live, hobbies/interests, travel, etc-- as opposed to generic sentences you learn from a text book. They are basically little mini conversations that you would have in normal everyday situations.
You create a bunch of Q&As re: yourself & then you MEMORIZE them. This way you always have something to say about yourself, & since you've also memorized the Qs, you'll recognize them when ppl ask them in a real life convo.
You shld memorize these Q&As until they come out fluidly w/o you having to translate in your head.
There are many good ideas in the comments, but it sounds like you have tried many of them already with little benefit. To me, it sounds like time for something radical. I suggest stopping studying Portuguese entirely for a month or two. Use Portuguese with your girlfriend when you have to, but otherwise use only your native language. After a while, start using Portuguese again, and you should find that you recognize many words and phrases and can express many ideas. This approach to learning was in the book The Zen of Tennis. The author recommended not practicing your tennis strokes until you are tired and making mistakes, but quitting after a good stroke and meditating on it for a couple of week to reinforce the positive muscle memory. Obviously, learning a language is different in many ways from learning tennis. However, giving your brain to time to incorporate what you are learning seems like it is worth trying. Furthermore, when you start using Portuguese again, even if you are not as fluent as you want to be, you will see that you have learned a lot, which should be encouraging.
If you want my opinion my friend I offer you to THINK in your second language,or try to do that slowly step by step,dont push yourself so hard and dont rush,if you can learn thinking in one language you can do anything with that and you will not need to translate anything and be confused. High hopes for you my friend
My opinion is to study linguistics seriously. I look at languages i study from a linguistics standpoint and I tend to do well.
You have grown beyond duo man. It’s time to use other sources. Don’t get me wrong, duo is great; but, it isn’t meant to be, nor will it allow for, fluent language abilities. It’s the first step.
It’s time you start focusing on speech. Check out Pimsleur online, check out glossika. These and other apps and resources like Assimil will help you for where you are now. These all have LOTS of native voices and material. You start to hear those voices in normal speech and speed.
Don’t be discouraged. Just realize you’re focusing on the wrong things by using duo for most of your learning for so long. Even with some other apps you may be focusing too much on vocabulary and grammar and not enough on natural speech. You’ve got this man, I’m sure you know more than you realize.
Initially, I had the exact same problem with Russian. I knew the grammar and a fair few words but I just couldn't pick out what people were saying because all the words seemed to mix together.
What eventually helped me was listening to music and watching videos and deliberately trying to pick out particular words. I'd turn on the subtitles until I found a word I knew and replay the section over and over until I heard it. Then from there I'd translate other words and figure out how they're pronounced and listen for them, building off of the first word until I heard and understood the entire sentence or verse.
With colloquial speech, it's really helped me to keep a phrase dictionary. Colloquial speech in English rarely overtly makes sense; a lot of it is idioms and phrases strung together with filler words. I figured that other languages are the same way and started looking in the comments of all the duolingo questions and writing down all the phrases, alternative translations, and nuances I could find. I don't really refer to the dictionary, but writing things down and translating them on paper helps me remember to use them.
I also don’t learn new languages quickly, but I nevertheless have an idea for you to try. Choose several phrases that can be varied by changing one or two words: For example, “I like _.” “I don’t like” “I can _” “I can’t_.” “Do you like?” “Can you__?” Maybe choose just one the first day and translate it to Portuguese. Possibly you could use a set of real object to go with the sentences, but if you are like me, you need practice with verbs, so get a set of action verb pictures (or possibly a children’s book with lots of action verb pictures.) You might want to write the Infinitive form of the verb on the back of each picture. (To swim, to walk, to dance, etc.) For some pictures you will want to add a noun. (To play basketball, to eat chicken, to play piano). The idea is that you will imagine yourself doing each action as you look at each picture and say in Portuguese, I like to swim, I like to fly, I like to cook dinner, etc. So you would have lots of repetition but with variations. Would your girlfriend be willing to practice the action verbs with you using phrases like “Do you like....?” or “Can you....?” Maybe make it a kind of game?
If you go to a restaurant that is familiar to you, could you decide what you want to eat ahead of time and ask your girlfriend how to say the word before you go in. Have you memorized how to say, “Please, I want (would like) ____”
Keep working at it and I will too.
I try to immerse myself in spoken Spanish and music. The more time I spend even with it just rattling in the background the more phrases and words and the realization ‘oh....that is how you phrase that’ jumps out. I listen to Spanish radio and podcasts on my hour commute. If I go to Walmart I will try to ask a Spanish speaker questions, even where something is, or what you call a product in Spanish just so that I get more comfortable with talking. I deliberately learned some commonly used vocabulary and phrases for my job in Spanish. Even when I mangle things, people are gentle to correct me, and touched that I am making the effort to communicate with them in their native language. I deliberately try to self narrate what I am doing at home aloud and to talk aloud in Spanish about what I need to do etc. I now find I opten dream in Spanish.
Pat when I posted my reply I didn't realize the response you already had. I have been reading them and am sure to get some positive advice from all the posts. Who knows I might get to play the guitar yet. Good Luck.
I have this exact same problem with the language I'm learning (Korean). I've been learning it for a while but I'm horrible at conversing and listening. So you're not alone!
My suggestion would actually be to learn Esperanto. Spanish is just as hard as Portuguese and has a lot of false cognates and grammatical constructs that do not work on the other one. It is hard even on native speakers to be able to properly switch from one to the other. It would be decent if we had a Catalan from English course, as I feel like Catalan is distant enough from Portuguese so that it is not the case like that. Or a Galician from English course, as the distance is much more easy to bridge, like American to Scottish English.
My suggestion to learn Spanish is because I learned Portuguese on Duolingo to improve my Spanish, and it actually seems to have worked.
Apparently European Portuguese is very different from Brazilian Portuguese which may be confusing you.
I'm genuinely surprised your girlfriend hasn't dumped you by now. (no offence, but a girlfriend is supposed to be the fastest route)
I wonder how he manages a relationship where he can't talk to the girl at all (she speaks only Portuguese).
Edit: Maybe hand signs?
That may be part of the issue - using google translate means you don't have to use the language as much. Part of learning a new language is learning to paraphrase your ideas, to explain a concept for a word you don't know. If you use google translate when you get stuck, then this may not develop as well as it could.
I use Google translate because I can’t understand what things mean but it doesn’t help me learn Portuguese much. It just allows me to understand the meaning in English. I instantly forget the Portuguese phrase while I’m reading the translation in English. But without the translator I can’t understand the meaning so I wonder what I should be doing? Thanks a lot for the help!
You may need to start the process of understanding by speaking. This isn't always the case for all language learners, but I think you may have a very unique learning style. Try forming really basic phrases in the language, slowly adding more complexity. This could be: One word sentence -> Two word sentence -> Three word sentence, etc. After a while, you should start associating the Portuguese with the concept, and then understanding can come with no translations. Try doing this exercise whenever you remember to do it, the more the better.
I use to tell people that you shouldn't read a language you cannot speak but now I've told by a moderator, little twat, that that is objectionable.
But it is still true.
Hang on a second. You demanded an apology for "publicly humiliating" you from the moderator, but you feel that it's okay to call her names?
And your premise is incorrect. I studied latin in university, but don't really speak it because it's not an active language. I can read the language and gasp understand it. One of my profs knew 20 languages. He could speak maybe 12 of them, the others were on paper only (reading and writing). Someone else gave the example that people who "speak" a sign language can still know English, even though they just read and write it.
they should add latin to DL. that would help a lot in my study, since I'm learning French, Spanish, and Dutch. (maybe they should add greek too.)