By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Forget classrooms and textbooks; a new and innovative approach to learning and improving one’s grasp of Portuguese or English has arrived in Rio, presenting a fun and sociable alternative to traditional language study. ‘Portuglish’, was set up by U.S. expatriate Margaret Miller and her Brazilian partner Thiago Verdini after it became apparent that one of the main problems language learners face is not being able to get enough practice with native speakers outside of the classroom.
Miller explains, “My fiancé and I decided to start Portuglish two years ago after traveling abroad and discovering similar events. It offers real-life conversation practice face-to-face, building listening and comprehension skills that you simply can’t get from listening to one person speak.”
On the surface, Portuglish is designed a little like a speed-dating scenario in which people sit opposite one another in pairs and are allowed to converse for ten minutes before switching partners. Each person takes turns conversing in both Portuguese and English, thus benefiting foreigners and Brazilians alike.
The informal, social setting of the event is key since its purpose is to aid and improve the use of language that people traditionally acquire in the classroom.
Miller explains, “When life demands that you use a foreign language (as in the case of a job interview, friendly introduction, dating encounter, etc.) it is easy to feel ill-prepared if you have only taken language classes.”
“Language classes prepare you to have future conversations in a foreign language – Portuglish is the practice setting for the actual conversations in a foreign language,” she describes.
In addition to the obvious benefits, Portuglish also serves as a fun, social event aimed at improving people’s confidence and encouraging new friendships. Miller confirms, “Portuglish isn’t just about speaking a foreign language. It is about meeting new people and building the confidence to speak the language in any setting.”
The event, which first took place in mid-July, has earned positive reviews from previous attendees, including American Jeff Brumley who shared, “I had a great time and I met a lot of people. It was an opportunity for me to get real world practice.”
Also, Yulia Davydova from Russia added that the benefits of Portuglish extended further than simply improving ones language skills.
“I work for a Russian air transportation company that operates globally and Brazil is a very important market for us. Communication skills are essential in global operations and I found the language exchange events organized by Portuglish to be an extremely helpful complimentary activity to the formal language training that I take.”
Hoping to establish Portuglish as a regular bi-weekly event, Miller describes the entry requirements from the last meeting, which took place on July 31st at Barzin in Ipanema. She explains, “Anyone can participate, regardless of language ability. We have had participants that are attempting to speak the language for the first time and participants that have spoken the language for years.”
The entrance fee is R$30 which entitles attendees to a free drink at the event which usually last for two hours, although participants are welcome to remain on at the venue and continue practicing their chosen language. The next Portuglish event will take place at 7PM, August 16th at Jardim Leblon. For more information about the program visit the website for details: www.portuglish.com.