An independent language course review by Sarah Maddocks

Talk Portuguese is an on-line introduction to Portuguese set in Portugal and Brazil. It is divided into 10 short sections with slideshows, video clips, useful phrases and quizzes. The course covers 10 subjects such as your typical topics i.e. greetings, introducing yourself and others, describing yourself, in a cafe, directions, food shopping, accommodation, getting around, in a restaurant and hobbies). The website suggests that you also try out (alongside the course) the TV series, a book and audio cassettes and also if you are a tutor to look at the tutor notes with added activities. To be honest, once you’ve done the on-line course you don’t have to buy the BBC Talk language pack, unless you want to do the above away from your computer if you’re on your way to work. The TV series might be good to see what you can understand though. The internet course is in a step-by-step layout and easy to navigate around, although one thing to be aware of is you have to double click on the arrows otherwise you will be waiting 5 minutes for it to load (don’t want to own up to doing that as looking back it does sound like a very stupid thing to do!)

I think the best thing for me to do is to get the negatives out of the way (there’re not many so please don’t stop reading here and not try out the course because it sounds bad!!). I found that the most annoying thing about the on-line course is that you can’t see the dialogue from the slideshows in both English and Portuguese. You can see them side by side in the useful phrases section, but I would have liked to hear and read the phrases in both languages at the same time. The quiz is sometimes irritating as there are an assortment of answer types (that’s not the irritating thing) and some of them are fill in the blanks. This is especially difficult seeing as the word is not actually in the useful phrases (i.e. vocé is you – sorry have just told you one of the answers!) and so you are not told how to spell this beforehand. The only way you would know what the answer is would be to sit down, take notes from the slideshow (which would be easier if both languages were on the same screen) and then learn the notes (I know I sound like I’m moaning on a bit too much about this but it has annoyed me, plus if I wanted to do a course where I had to write things down then I would have chosen to do a paper course and not an on-line one!).

I think this is a great way of really learning the spoken accent and knowing what to expect if (or when) you visit the country.

Right, I think I have done enough ranting and raving on the bad parts,so it’s now time for the good bit. I found that the video clips were good because they used native speakers, so at first it is hard to understand the accent but once you have listened a couple of times you can really hear and understand what is being said. I think this is a great way of really learning the spoken accent and knowing what to expect if (or when) you visit the country. I thought the quiz was good as it allows you to fill in the blanks without having to worry about accents on the words, it accepts the word without accents typed in, this is very handy as it often takes me about 10 minutes to find the right accent for certain letters (this is also unusual for online courses to do this, instead they just flash an incorrect on the screen with the correct version of the word – of course with accents!).

Another great thing about this course is that the sections are short and fun. I seemed to absorb more vocabulary and information by doing one unit a day rather than cramming them all into one session. Each section took me around 15-20 minutes which I found was the right amount of time to actually remember what I had learnt the next day. This is fab especially if you work, you can just come home, turn the computer on, do 15 minutes of Portuguese a night (time that would be spent watching half an episode of Neighbours!) and hey presto in about 2 weeks you would have completed a beginners’ Portuguese language course (the miracle of modern technology never ceases to amaze!) The course needs Flash in order for the video clips to work. The BBC website offers a link to get this downloaded for free, and it is worth doing this as it is good to watch the video clips with sound.

One thing you should remember if trying this course out is that it is better to have a fast internet connection as it could take a while for each screen to load (this however is not a must have but if you are like me and slightly inpatient it is probably better to have a speedy one). The site also mentions the fact that you may have problems connecting to the video course if the internet is too busy. I’ve tried this site at various times of the day and so far (touch wood) have had no problems, so don’t let that put you off!

And did I forget to mention this? The on-line Talk Portuguese course is free. Yes, you pay nothing … thank you BBC Education.

Overall I would recommend people to try this course. At the end of the day, it takes 15 minutes to do one session which is hardly a lifetime – and in exchange you get to speak a little Portuguese from doing it. And did I forget to mention this? The on-line Talk Portuguese course is free. Yes, you pay nothing … thank you BBC Education. All I have to do now is track down somewhere I can go and speak to people in my newly acquired language!!

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