How Best to Learn a Foreign Language? The Case of Brazilian Portuguese

Cobb Hall, Room 201

“It is difficult to enjoy well so much several languages” (Pedro Carolino, 1883). This presentation will briefly walk the audience through the methods used by the Portuguese program at The University of Chicago over the past 25 years to arrive at our current approach: one based on the use, inasmuch as possible, of authentic materials, both in and out of the classroom. Through the use of Blackboard, the university’s learning management system, these activities are housed online. We will also address a persistent student complaint that native speakers are difficult to understand because they speak too fast, use “nonstandard” pronunciation and structures, have regional accents, and so forth. The exercises we have developed address this issue by providing students with a variety of non-scripted native voices, coupled with directive exercises to help them both better understand authentic spoken Brazilian Portuguese, and in turn, to produce similar samples, spoken and written, but which reflect their own lives.