After learning Portuguese this past year, I realized learning a new language is not as hard as it seems at first. I’m now pondering finishing up the Latin languages by learning French and Italian (going to skip Romanian for now), and then possibly moving into German. Already knowing Spanish and Portuguese, I’m confident that French and Italian would be pretty easy to learn.
Since I do not like to learn two language simultaneously, one has to determine when is the right time to start putting all your energy into the new language and not so much into the previous one. Obviously there will never be a point when you’ll know the language perfectly, but there have to be certain benchmarks that prove you’ve accomplished a particular language to the best of your ability.
So here’re some of my mental notes that I make to see how far I’ve progressed in my Portuguese study:
- Being able to communicate with native speakers verbally
You should be able to communicate for long periods of time. For instance, you can spend time with the person for days or weeks and be able to explain yourself perfectly as well as understand the other party. The conversation does not need to be heavy with academic or scientific jargon, informal is fine. Also, it’s important that the party whom you’re speaking to is able to understand you clearly without asking you to repeat yourself too often.
I can effortlessly hold a conversation with a native speaker for any amount of time. I’ve had several friends/girlfriends in Rio with whom I’ve only spoken Portuguese all the time. The other day I toured NYC with two Brazilian girls while speaking only Portuguese the whole day.
- Carry on a written conversation
You should be able to easily carry on a conversation via email or instant messaging. Since the conversation is pretty informal, there should be no need to lookup words. This task should be like having a conversation in English. That means correct grammar and spelling of the words.
I regularly have conversations via MSN with Brazilians, about random events on the same level as my conversations in English.
- Read two good-size books
You should be able to read two good-sized novels and be able to understand about 95% of the vocabulary as well as grammar. You should be able to explain the plot of the novels to someone or perhaps right a paper about the books. Finishing the books is the key, it doesn’t matter if you had look up most of the words, but you must finish them.
I have read one full book, and half way through a longer, more difficult book.
- You should be able to understand television programs.
You should be able to effortless watch TV shows and understand close to 90% and of the conversation, and obviously the main purpose of the show. You should be able to explain to someone what’s going to show if the person doesn’t understand it.
I watch television show called CQC and have no problem understanding almost all of the dialogue and meaning of the show.
My Portuguese is nowhere near native level, but I feel that once I finish the second book, I’m ready to embark on a new language. And that will be either French or Italian.
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