The Portuguese language has many homelands

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Over two years ago, I wrote about the idea of a language as a homeland as I was starting my journey into the endangered language of Ladino/Judeo-Spanish. The Portuguese writer, Fernando Pessoa, is quoted as having said, “Minha patria é a língua portuguesa” (My homeland is the Portuguese language). The Portuguese language is the homeland to millions of people outside of Portugal.     On my recent trip to Portugal, I was constantly reminded of how far the Portuguese language went beyond Portugal and Brazil. As I was eating my chicken in a restaurant, I heard an African couple at the nearby table speaking in Portuguese and some other language. As they were leaving, I asked them which language they were speaking and they told me it was a Creole language from Guinea-Bissau. A Creole is a mix of the local language(s) and the colonizer’s language, which in this case is Portuguese. Haitian Creole is a mix of French with a native Haitian language. In the US, the only native Portuguese speakers I had ever met were either from Portugal, Brazil or Cape Verde. So this was my first time meeting people from mainland Africa who spoke Portuguese. I have… Read more »

New year, new books on language learning

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January not only brought in a new year, it brought in three new books! First, I updated Language is Music with about 30 new tips on language learning using music, TV, radio, movies and other media and I added information from scientific studies about the relationship of music and language, bilingualism and language learning. Then my Russian publisher, published the Russian edition of Language is Music, Легкий способ быстро выучить иностранный язык с помощью музыки a week early! In this video, you can hear a short Russian radio broadcast in Russian on 18 January 2014 about how the book teaches people how to listen when learning languages: To make January not seem as cold as it is in the Northern Hemisphere, the Portuguese edition of Language is Music, Idioma é música, was published and brought some Brazilian sunshine to my life! Brazil is getting ready for the World Cup and Olympic Games and I want to help Brazilians learn other languages. If you read Portuguese, you can read these articles in the Brazilian-American press about Idioma é música: Livro mostra como aprender um idioma estrangeiro usando músicas Livro ensina como aprender idiomas através da música e mídia     Adding… Read more »

At what price, monolingualism?

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Fortunately, a scant few of us will ever be in a life or death situation requiring foreign language knowledge. However, Canetti’s example is not the only example of how a multilingual person in the Balkans used a language to save a life.

I’m co-producing the documentary, Saved by Language, with Bryan Kirschen about how Moris Albahari saved his life in the Holocaust by speaking in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) to an Italian Colonel and a US pilot.

Improving my Portuguese, one (lost) calorie at a time

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We’ve probably heard of people improving their conversation skills in a language over a meal. I’m reversing the trend. Portuguese vocabulary goes up and the inches melt away. (Let me be ambitious and count in inches which are longer than centimeters!) When I say “reading Brazilian books on a bike to improve my Portuguese”, is this the image that comes to mind?

Rediscovering Budapest and reveling in the Polyglot Conference

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Have you ever felt like traveling into your past while being marveled by the present? My trip to Budapest for the Polyglot Conference was both a trip to my past and a wonderful journey to be with others who are passionate about foreign languages. Before my trip to Budapest, I was in Mexico doing presentations on learning English for the US Consul General in Tijuana and I had no time to practice my Hungarian. Sorry Hungarians, but who wants to practice magyar when you can admire the stunning sunsets and sand animals at the tip of the Baja California peninsula instead? My Hungarian had once been at an A2-B1 level. But that was in the last millennium when Hong Kong had just been “returned” to China. Not exactly yesteryear and not anywhere in the forefront of my memory. The only person with whom I sometimes exchange pleasantries in Hungarian in California actually speaks less Hungarian than I do even though he spent twice as many months in the country as I had. When I reached home in Alta California (the US side) from Baja, I had four days to unpack, wash my clothes, pack, celebrate Mother’s Day, handle two media… Read more »