December 28, 2013, by Guest blog

Background noise and unconscious language learning

Post written by Sophie Gorvett.

Being situated in the Algarve, an area of Portugal typically perceived to be very ‘English’ I was determined not to fall into the trap of simply talking English every day and waste this opportunity to learn and improve my Portuguese. Of course, my colleagues and manager spoke Portuguese but as with most foreigners, they were very keen to practice their English with me as much as I wanted to practice my Portuguese with them! So I decided to have weekly individual portuguese lessons with a tutor to force myself to think, live and breathe in Portuguese-and of course work on a bit of grammar. Anna, my tutor was a typical Portuguese lady. Kind and caring with a big smile on her face at all times. Every Tuesday, we would spend an hour on grammar (yes a whole hour!) and then an hour speaking about an article, a topic or simply chatting!!! Very quickly I found out I was very happy talking about immigration, abortion, asylum seekers and other troubling issues but couldn’t really get by in a colloquial situation as we hadn’t really covered this in University. Talking and practicing with Anna in an informal situation gave me so much more confidence to speak with Portuguese people in general social situations, such as in bars and supermarkets. After a few weeks worth of lessons I was sparking up conversations with clients and found it so much easier to follow and get involved with the conversations over the dinner table which could be very hard work to understand after a long day!

I still try to go through my tenses and irregular verbs once a week to drum them into my brain as when I am tired they are the first thing to go! And of course I know I am not going to come home fluent but I am very happy with my improvement so far and am loving practicing every day and am excited to continue for the rest of the year.

So far I have learnt that for me, simply listening and being immersed in a language is the best way to improve and pick up good new vocabulary. Of course getting more involved in conversations and speaking more helps immensely but I feel it is the constant back ground noise and unconscious learning that has helped in my quest for fluency.

Posted in Language acquisition