Beginning Portuguese with Two Audio CDs
Revised September 21, 2013
Author Sue Tyson-Ward
Series Practice Makes Perfect
Publication Date 2011
Skill Level Beginner
According to the cover of Beginning Portuguese with Two Audio CDs by Sue Tyson-Ward, this book is “ideal for travel to Portugal or Brazil.” The chapters have titles like “Town Amenities: At the Tourist Office,” “Ill Health: Precautions in the Sun,” “Travel: A Visit to a Petrol/Gasoline Station,” and “Directions: Getting Around the Airport.” There are 60 (!) such chapters.
In each section, you are supposed to review a vocabulary list, then listen to a dialogue from the accompanying CDs, then do a few exercises. Then there is a short bit in each section on language issues (and I mean often really short), followed by a cultural note.
Unfortunately, I found Beginning Portuguese boring. The endless string of practical applications was soulless to me, and the grammar explanations inadequate and sporadic. If I hadn’t had some knowledge of Portuguese, I would have been confused.
For example, you are taught a tiny little bit about imperfect in Chapter 58, “The Weather: Talking About Yesterday’s Weather.” (Yes, that is the actual title.) This instruction comes after se espalhava (an imperfect form meaning “was spreading/scattering”) has already been given in the vocabulary list as just another term amid nouns, adjectives, etc., and has also already been used in the chapter dialogue.
Only after these previous confrontations are you given this odd explanation: “Often when talking about past weather, we look at what was happening throughout certain periods of time, and in Portuguese we use a past tense of the verb, known as the imperfect, which is different to the one you have already been introducted to.” A few examples and a few more lines of explanatory text and you are done with imperfect!
This encounter takes place on page 177. I cannot imagine a beginning Portuguese student making it to page 177 of this book without giving up. I think it is unwise to teach things like sopa de agriões (on page 76, meaning “watercress soup”) to students before they understand the basics of Portuguese.
Better to take the cultural information (some of which is quite interesting) and various practical notes out and put that content in a guidebook and/or a phrasebook. Inserting language points in such a desultory manner simply doesn’t work.
The accompanying audio is European Portuguese, though the author consistently notes differences between Portuguese and Brazilian vocabulary. The numerous audio-based exercises were dull—I don’t want to listen to someone buying train tickets and then answer questions about whether they wanted first or second class, or what platform the train is going to be leaving from—so I started skipping those early on and never went back.