Posted by & filed under How to learn languages with songs and the media.

How do an exercise bike and a Brazilian Portuguese language book go together?41FNVGV2MVL._SL500_AA300_2011-08-05-exercise-bike

Well, one keeps me from falling asleep because of the other.

Problem: I like languages but I fall asleep reading grammar books.

I speak fluent Portuguese but there are some gaps in my grammar because I never studied the language formally. When I started with Portuguese many years ago, I would read my grammar book, Com Licença: Brazilian Portuguese for Spanish Speakers but it made me fall asleep, leaving holes in my knowledge of the structure of the language. Most of my Portuguese I learned from listening to Portuguese immigrant radio, from speaking to Brazilians and from reading. I want to learn how to properly form the future subjunctive tense in Portuguese because I want to speak the language correctly. The tense doesn’t exist in Spanish or in any other language I know. I hear it in Brazilian songs, I read it and I hear it in everyday language but I barely use it. What helps me is that I recognize the use of this tense in songs and when I see it written and hear it spoken. This is where music helps people learn languages. If you listen to a song, memorize the lyrics, sing along and know what the lyrics are about, when you go on to learn grammar, the grammar isn’t as hard to learn because you already know the patterns of the language and how sentences are formed. As I explain in my book on learning languages via music, Language is Music, you still have to learn grammar when picking up a new tongue, it can’t be totally absorbed just through songs, movies, TV, radio and other media.

Solution: Since I have to exercise anyway, I figured that I’d take my Portuguese book to the exercise bike as it’s impossible to fall asleep while cycling. It worked! Although it was sometimes hard to move the pages while cycling, I was able to both do my exercise and review grammar. It would have been great to meet a friendly Brazilian at the gym to help me with some of my doubts but that wasn’t the case! If I had been reading a book on Chinese or Hindi grammar, I could have easily found someone at my gym to explain things to me as there are many Chinese and Indian people at my gym.

If you’re looking for a way to study grammar but reading at the stationary bike doesn’t appeal to you, try a podcast so that you can be in motion and listen at the same time.

I recall going for a walk two years ago and listening to this Tá Falado podcast episode about the future subjunctive. I revisited that episode again this week but I was in my car.

Future subjunctive

Tá Falado Podcast, Brazilian Portuguese for those who know Spanish. It’s free!

There are also other aspects of Portuguese grammar I am working on learning. Soon, I’ll go for a walk and listen to the Tá Falado podcast on the personalized infinitive.

Obviously, listening to samba is much more fun than going over conjugation charts at the gym, especially when there is something more interesting on the gym’s television, but the trick is not in avoiding studying grammar, it is in finding a way to make grammar work in your life. If you prefer to listen to a grammar explanation while cooking, do that. Find what works for you!