April 24, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge

I realised how far I’ve come

I hate making mistakes and I am terrible at taking criticism and being on a year abroad in Brazil, having only studied two years of Portuguese, I make about 300 mistakes a day. Most people are nice about it or don’t try to correct me but my class of 6 year olds take great pleasure in pointing out my mistakes very loudly and it takes a lot of self restraint not to do the same thing to them when they mispronounce words in English. That said, they’ve been the best for my language acquisition, they aren’t shy about correcting me or making me say something ten times until I pronounce it right and they love teaching me words. I think for children, its not often that they get to know more things that ´grown ups´ and knowing more than me makes them very happy! It’s also completely impossible to predict where a conversation with them is going to go so I can’t get complacent or stick to easy topics. Easy topics aren’t exciting when you’re six and a logical train of thought just doesn’t exist.

My parents came for a visit a few weeks ago and we did a little bit of travelling and it was only really then that I realised how far I’ve come. Here, I don’t speak probably as much as I should, my fear of making mistakes is worse with people that I know well and see often and they know me from when I arrived and could barely speak so I think that they often dumb the conversation down for me. But while I was away, I was forced to speak and I have to admit, I did show off a little bit. I wouldn’t say that I’m fluent by any stretch of the imagination but I can more than get by. I can chat with waiters and cab drivers and people in airports and they understand me and I understand them. I understand announcements in airports and on planes and I can watch the news or a TV programme or go on a tour given in Portuguese and understand 90% of what’s being said. It’ll take more than five months for me to be fluent in Portuguese but I’ve improved so much without even realising and I’ve even started using colloquialisms. My biggest victory was when the children started asking me to help them spell, I think that means they consider me competent and that’s probably my biggest victory so far!

Posted in Language acquisition