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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