I’m rather ashamed to say that, after over three years in the Algarve, I still cannot speak Portuguese particularly well.
Don’t get me wrong, I do get by, but I think the naïve, pre-expat me thought it would be much easier than this.
Well, let me tell you, it’s not. After three years, I don’t really think my Portuguese skills match those I had in French when I took my GCSE. And, on the subject of those French skills, they’ve now left me completely. Whenever I try to speak French now, I just come out with bad Portuguese.
So, what should I have done differently? Well, first and foremost, I should have looked for language trainers before I left. Sure, the books and CDs helped a bit, but they tend to teach you a “Queen’s English” variation of a language, which sounds little like real people actually speak it.
I should also have dedicated a lot more time to learning Portuguese. Yes, you do “absorb” the language once you arrive, but absorbing means that after three years I understand a bit of the news, the occasional radio advert and snippets of people’s conversations. It doesn’t mean I can speak any more than pigeon Portuguese.
I really do wish that I’d spent every spare minute in the run up to our move absorbing Portuguese. I should have typed “where should I take Portuguese classes in London?” into Google back in 2009! Because I didn’t, I’m still playing catch-up.
This is the year I get it sorted. I can’t have the Portuguese version of Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” taunting me from my bedside table any longer. I’ll be fluent one day—just you wait!