Beginning Portuguese with Two Audio CDs

2-5 Portuguese, Books, Multimedia

Revised September 21, 2013

Author  Sue Tyson-Ward
Series  Practice Makes Perfect
Publisher  McGraw-Hill
Publication Date  2011
Price  $25.00
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 agriƵes (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.

I Was Not Drawn to This
I Was Not Drawn to This

Comments (3)

Chris • Posted on Sat, February 22, 2014 - 3:46 am EST

Thanks for this review. Somehow I missed this out there. Oddly, you last paragraph sold me on wanting it. There are so few audio tools out there for European Portuguese that I jump at them when I find them. Also, it might seem dul conversationally to hear the train ticket exchange but it contains words that you will need daily, so, I’m not bothered by that sort of thing. Especially, if it is performed with a bit of panache, like with the Teach Yourself stuff. I really enjoy the dialogue from them.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, March 02, 2014 - 11:31 pm EST

Really? You like the Teach Yourself dialogues? I guess each book is different…

Chris • Posted on Mon, March 03, 2014 - 12:29 am EST

Yes, I like them quite a bit. I have the Elizabeth Smith Fast Track German and French. My only complaint is the music in between each lesson. I have the Complete Dutch and have nothing bad to say about it. Speak Dutch with Confidence, dumb music in between but good stuff. Swedish Conversation, ditto. Last minute Portuguese has some silly acting on the student’s part. But it’s quite useful and I do admire them for trying to break the stodgy mold. When I hear it, I think of the Brit brother who comes to visit in the movie, l’auberge espagnole.

I think I’ve mentioned to you before, but if not, I really like the Your Evening Class French and Spanish. It’s a teacher/student situation ala Michel Thomas but much better, in my opinion. I haven’t used it as it was meant, yet. I just listen to the lessons now and again but I intend on actually going through the lessons in the books along with the recordings in the not too distant future.

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