Learning the Languages of the New World Powers

According to a much discussed report by Goldman Sachs, the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China or what they collectively call the BRICs are rapidly growing and could overshadow today's major economic powers (including the US) by 2050. What does that mean for you? One thing is for sure: To stay competitive in our globalized world, you'll need to know more than English. And you'll be particularly well served if you can speak the languages of the BRICs.

Over the coming week, we'll point you to podcasts that will teach you some Portuguese, Russian, Hindi and Chinese. The podcasts are all free, and they make learning convenient and fun. Our coverage will start with Brazil and work its way through the acronym.

If you need an iPod to listen to our podcasts, check out our new store on Amazon.

Part 1: Brazilian Portuguese

brazilflag.jpgBrazil is South America's sleeping giant. Expectations of this large, resource-rich country

have always been high, and while the optimistic scenarios haven't panned out so far, the country's fortunes may be about to change. According to the Goldman Sachs report, Brazil’s economy could overtake Italy by 2025; France by 2031; and the UK and Germany by 2036. There may be obstacles and detours along the way. But, for now, things seem to be inching in the right direction. And, no matter how things go, Brazil remains an outstanding place to travel, and, for that reason alone, it's a good idea to pick up some Portuguese.

Once a colony of Portugal, Brazil is the only South American country that officially speaks Portuguese. But because Brazil's population is so large (182,000,000), it turns out that Portuguese is the dominant language on the continent, although just barely. (51% speak Portuguese v. 49% Spanish.) The Portuguese spoken by Brazilians is not quite the same as the version spoken in Portugal itself. You'll find differences in pronunciation, intonation, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, etc.

Today, we're highlighting three series of podcasts/mp3's that will get you up to speed:

First, we have Brazilian Portuguese. It's a homegrown introduction to Brazilian Portuguese, which will teach you the differences between the language spoken in Brazil and that in Portugal, and it will also give you an introduction to Brazilian culture. Mp3s for lessons 1-16 can be found here; audio files for lessons 17 and beyond can be accessed here. (The latter ones can also be located on iTunes.) Just as a general note, the podcast quality improves as the lessons get more advanced. So keep that in mind.

Second, we amazingly stumbled upon series of introductory lessons, collectively called Portuguese Programmatic Course, that was put together by the US Foreign Service, and they're apparently now in the public domain. From this page, you can download pdf text files that accompany related audio files that you'll need to download and unzip. The Foreign Service approach to teaching languages is generally very well regarded. Language lovers will definitely want to check out the full collection of Foreign Service language lessons here.

Third, we have "Ta Falado: Brazilian Portuguese Pronunciation for Spanish Speakers" (iTunes Feed Web Site). This podcast is produced by the Language Technology Center in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UT-Austin, and it helps students who know some Spanish make the transition to speaking Portuguese.

Finally, if you'd like to take things to the next level, then you can always check out some more comprehensive language learning systems out on the market. We've listed a few in our Amazon store.

Next, Part 2: Learning Russian.

See our complete collection of Foreign Language Lesson Podcasts. It now covers 17 languages.


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  • Claud says:

    It’s not very often that we hear good things being said about Brazil on the news. On the one hand the future seems gloomy, education is bad and violence on the rise, on the other hand it’s a land of unexplored resources, both natural and human yet to be discovered. I hope that the ‘sleeping giant’ won’t stay laid on his bed forever. As this article shows, Brazil’s economy may soon catch up with the world’s ruling economies. If that prediction turns true, it will certainly boost the interest in learning Brazilian Portuguese as a foreign language.

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