French vs Portuguese and Communicating vs Speaking

I have been studying French with Lingq for a couple months now, and I’ve been loving it. Right now, I stand at about 4,000 words I ‘know,’ or at the very least, recognize in context. (Much of those of course are resurrected words that have been lying dormant since high school).

When I have tried to SPEAK though…what a stressful, halting, awkward experience. I told myself, I’m not going to worry about making mistakes, I’m just going to go for it!!! But it turns out entrenched habits of searching for the right tense and verb conjugation to pass your oral French exam die hard. Holding on to these habits really cripple communication, as I’ve come to realize.

My father-in-law lives above us, and speaks nothing but Portuguese, (although he has lived in Canada for 40 years :). When Paul and I first got married, like any excited new spouse marrying into a new culture, I tried to learn some Portuguese, in the form of an ‘Unforgettable Languages’ CD ROM and a phrase book, etc. I amassed possibly close to 250 words - NOT A LOT in comparison to my 4,000 French words. However…much to my surprise, and frustration, I’ve realized that in many ways I communicate better in Portuguese than in French!

When I speak to my father-in-law, I could not care less about grammar, or tenses, of which I know nothing in Portuguese. I can say, in baby-talk, but without batting an eye, “Paul work now. Home later.” “Want food? Here soup for you.” “Water for garden, please.”

Having to butcher Portuguese doesn’t bother me because I can make myself understood, and I don’t care about being graded or judged on my ability.

So now my French project is turning into not so much focussing on amassing more vocabulary, but trying to break down those barriers to communication. Somehow I have to be ok with communicating in French instead of speaking, even when that means speaking like a baby when that’s all I can do.

I’m really seeing that in learning languages, the biggest barrier is ourselves! But I’m thankful for finding Lingq, and its community. I’ve probably learned as much from creeping the forums as I have from the lesson content :smiley:

Hope everyone has a great day, and thanks for reading.


Well this is normal I think, at least in my experience.

I spent the summer in Spain. Basically, before going there, I could understand tv programs, films, I could read books, etc… I had no experience of the spoken language though. I didn’t know that Spanish people say “vale” or “pues” all the time. I wasn’t used to wondering whether I had to use “por” or “para”, “ser” or “estar” before saying any sentence. I thought I already knew these basic things that are however way more important than knowing some obscure word. So at first I had a hard time communicating but then it quickly became much better. And that’s when knowing vocabulary proved to be useful in order to speak (and not just communicate).

Now I’m in Portugal and it’s exactly the same.

With English it’s different, maybe because I watch a lot of series. I have never spent more than a week in an English speaking country though, so I can’t tell for sure. If somebody works in water engineering by the way… :stuck_out_tongue:

Say Hi for me to father-in-law upatairs.

Yeah I see how vocabulary is so important. I’m just hoping all the bits that hold it together will click in my brain someday. Hope you’re enjoying Portugal, we’re planning on visiting there next year.