on 13 January 2005
I am bilingual in Portuguese and English and teach both languages. Looking at this course from both angles, English and Portuguese, I have decided not to use it with my students. The reasons below are those explained to them. I hope they can also help other learners by providing a wider awareness of what you get when you use this course.
In this course you will find an artificial, anglicised Portuguese. You are led to expect the waiter to ask you 'Estao prontos a pedir?', a literal translation of English 'Are you ready to order?' but the Portuguese usual question is 'Ja escolheram?' (Have you chosen?)
This anglicised Portuguese includes both unusual sentences and the wrong vocabulary. For 'The phone is not working' you are taught 'O telefone nao trabalha'. 'Trabalhar' means 'to work' in the sense of engaging in an activity, normally applied to people. For a machine, in the sense of being operational, the Portuguese word is 'funcionar'. You may not be understood when you use the wrong word, with the added difficulty in pronouncing Portuguese sound lh.
When you seek clarification using 'Pode falar devagar?' (Can you speak slowly?) as you are taught in this course, you are sounding rather abrupt. You need to add a Portuguese 'please' to make this acceptable.
The distortion of the Portuguese language applies to the way proper names are presented. 'Senhor' is given as a translation for Mr and 'Senhora' for 'Mrs/Miss/Ms. This simplistic solution is far from real practice. A native Portuguese speaker is unlikely to introduce himself as 'Sou o Semhor Reis', 'I am Mr Reis', as in this course. The usual way is to give first and last mane, and no title.
Titles are a source of great confusion in this course. Examples are 'O Senhor Doutor Engenheiro' and 'O Senhor Doutor Advogado'. Either you are Doutor or Engenheiro or Advogado!
In the area of politeness this course is too insensitive. You are told that 'Peco desculpa' means 'I am sorry', but you need to know that it is so only when an apology is meant. You are told that 'De nada' means 'You are welcome' but you need to know when this is the case. If you try to welcome a Portuguese friend with 'De nada' you may cause some hilarity.
Insensitivity also affects more down-to-earth matters. You are told to ask for the toilet with 'Onde e o lavabo?'. 'Lavabos'. not 'lavabo', is one of the ways of signposting the toilets, like Public Conveniences. In English, would you ask 'Where is the public convenience?'!!!!!
There are also mistakes of a different sort. A picture of a batch loaf is shown for a tin loaf (pao de forma) and 'peixe espada' is not swordfish (a comon error) but scabbard-fish.
Some exercises may not test anything, like 'Is Pedro a man's name or a woman's name?' Would you really think Pedro is a woman's name!!! Others are unrealistic. A visitor cannot remember the Portuguese word for wine but remembers this mouthful: 'Como se diz 'wine' em portugues?'(How do you say wine in Portuguese?)
Another shortcoming is that the course is centred in Lisbon. In contrast with the general simplistic approach, great detail is given to different types of coffee and milky coffee in Lisbon slang (bica, garoto, galao) which are not used everywhere in the country. There are other quaint features. Why not use the normal expression for Cheers! (Saude!)but the onomatopoeia Tchim!Tchim!
The taped material reflects the course book problems but the voices are not bad. Sad to say though that the recording is too fast for the absolute beginner.
Things get worse when you go on the Web. In some cases things even go wrong for both Portuguese and English. Take eg 'cheese and buiscuits (bolachas)'. Since when do we eat buiscuits instead of biscuits? By the way, 'bolachas' is only a type of biscuit. The word 'biscoitos' would have been a more direct translation.
Finaly we have the Brazilian afterthought. This course in European Portuguese and Lisbon slang has a last web page on 'Summer in Brazil'. Instead of this token gesture at the end, why not a more universal Portuguese in the whole course?
I wish I could agree with the subtitle to this book (an ideal course for absolute beginners) and its recommendation for a first level qualification, in the introduction. Sorry, I think they are both rather optimistic overstatements.
on 3 March 2005
We used this in a class situation. I found it quite slow and there are almost no grammar explanations. I need that to understand and therefore remember constructions. They don't even tell you how a regular verb is conjugated. You'd need to use this in a class and be able to ask questions of a teacher. Also, get a vocab book to supplement your learning.
It is pretty basic, I would say good for a beginner but won't last you long if you really want to learn more than the basic ordering food/saying hello my name is/booking a hotel/getting directions. It's ok value for the money I suppose.
Why is it every listening exercise on these sorts of things has to be preceded by an annoying little jingle? Unnecessary waste of CD space.
The website is not very good.