It is probable that you have some preconceived notions about what it takes to learn a language. Maybe you have tried before and didn’t see the success you were hoping for, or maybe you have always wanted to but never felt like you would be able to. Well, regardless of whatever it is you may have felt up until this point, I want to dispel those mental blocks and get you thinking about this the right way.
A lot of people say things like…
• Learning another language is too hard. I should have learned while I was a kid, it is too late now.
• You have to be super smart to be able to learn another language. I’m not smart enough for that.
• What is the point of learning another language? I’ll never use it anyway.
• Etc. etc. etc.
The truth is that there are a million reasons to talk yourself out of learning. But you only need one reason to keep going. So, search inside of yourself and ask what that one reason is for you. I guarantee that anyone can learn Portuguese no matter how old you are, where you’re from, how you did in school, what your job is, or whatever.
None of that matters.
There is only one thing that will decide whether or not you learn, and that one thing is your desire to do so.
The wonderful thing about being human is that we can decide to learn anything. It doesn’t matter how hard it is or how far out there it may seem. If we take the foundational steps and tackle anything piece by piece, we will inevitably get better at it. Something I want you to put in your mind right now is a phrase I say all the time:
“Nobody ever got worse at something by practicing it.”
Regardless of anything you have been told (or that you have told yourself,) learning Portuguese is completely doable. You just have to want it and put in the time that it takes to get it. And you are here now, so I assume that you do want it.
I have talked a lot about what it means to learn Portuguese and how I believe that you can do it no matter what your situation. But there will inevitably come times in your studies where you hit roadblocks, or some concepts just don’t click or make sense.
I certainly had my fair share of these hurdles when first I started out, and I often found myself saying, “never mind, this is impossible.” I would give up for days or sometimes weeks at a time.
Looking back, it is easy to see that what I was really struggling with was just information overload. I was trying to learn the whole language at once. I was trying to understand every concept, every word tense, every variation of verb; past, present, future and so on.
I had a really hard time moving on from mistakes that I would make, and I couldn’t stand knowing that I wasn’t “getting it.” It just felt like I wasn’t making progress.
Eventually I learned to let all of this go and began to look for ways on how I could use my struggles to my advantage. And I want to give you these tips now.
The number 1 best thing to do whenever you feel like a concept is not clicking is to simply write out what you are not understanding, and be specific about it.
Write it down. Either on a piece of paper or in a word document or wherever you like, and then move on from it. Check back on it now and again, sure, but stop focusing on it. I know it sounds a little silly, but the best thing to do for our brains sometimes is to just give them time to process information.
As you continue along in your studies, you will eventually find that you have circled back to the very thing you were not understanding and, more often than not, it will make more sense to you the second time around. I cannot tell you how many times I found myself re-learning something later that I had originally wasted so much time on trying to figure out. Language is like that because it is all connected.
You will always find yourself re-learning words and concepts because each one leads to another one, and back and forth, and so on. So, to stay stuck obsessing on one little thing is not a good use of your time because you will always see it again later, and it will almost always make more sense as you continue along.
The 2nd thing I will say is that one of the best ways to get past any roadblocks you have hit and continue learning effectively, is to accept, right now as you are reading this, that you will ALWAYS make mistakes.
And I mean that, always.
You will open your mouth to say one thing, but you will say something else. You will pronounce words wrong, your accent will be off, your tongue will move in a way you did not intend, and so on. You get the idea.
If you spend all of your time trying to sound perfect and pronounce every word perfectly, you will hinder your learning progress. It is simply too time consuming and will take valuable time away from growing your vocabulary and perfecting your grammatical abilities.
The accents, the tricks of the tongue and such, will come naturally as you go along. It is good to learn how to speak like a native Brazilian, but your focus should be on just that; “how to do it.” Not necessarily doing it. Because as you go along speaking and practicing, let me tell you, it will happen naturally. So do not obsess over it.
The last thing I will say on this topic is that measuring your progress is a tough thing to do. Most people are quite critical of themselves and judge themselves very harshly. I will suggest here that you try your very best to not be like most people.
The very fact that you are attempting to learn another language automatically sets you apart from the crowd and there is no reason that you should feel any additional pressure from anyone. The best thing to do is to go into this journey with the understanding that you will learn. No matter what. If you study, you will learn.
There is no way not to. If you are studying, you are making progress, period. Let that be enough to encourage you to continue. When you think that you are not doing a good job, or that people may be judging you or what have you, just keep going.
Because again, “Nobody ever got worse at something by practicing it.”
Please remember that what I am saying here is not just a bunch of hypothetical clichés. It is literally my experience firsthand from actually being in Brazil and learning Portuguese all on my own and struggling immensely in the process. So, yes, I totally know what you are going through. It is hard, and can even be a bit scary sometimes, but… it is doable.
To further support your language-learning journey, check out my comprehensive Portuguese Resources Page for a curated list of tools and programs that will accelerate your progress.