Over the past 6 months I've been round the houses looking for the best method of learning Portuguese and I reckon I've found it in Fluent Forever. The best method being the most effective while also being the one that felt most like fun and least like hard work. I wish I'd found this before moving to Portugal as my language skills have accelerated greatly since using it.
The method is to create personalised flashcards that you then review using spaced repetition (the cards appear for review just at the right time for your brain to remember them, with decreasing frequency until they're saved to long term memory), and you do it in the following sequence:
- First you train just your ears and tongue using pronunciation flashcards.[*]
- Then you move on to learning 625 of the most common simple words using simple word flashcards. [**]
- Then you move onto sentence flashcards that teach you grammar and abstract words. [***]
* I moved to Portugal as an English-only speaker and it quickly became apparent that I wasn't going to learn Portuguese sitting around listening to my girlfriend's family speak to each other or to me in Portuguese. I simply couldn't decipher the sounds they were making. Training my ear and tongue first has now made it relatively easy to learn new words.
** 'Simple' meaning words that can be easily conveyed with an image. There's very little to no translation here. You learn to think in Portuguese by associating Portuguese words with images, images that you've chosen (with the help of Google Images) and are often personalised to you (a photo of my mum for mãe for instance). And instead of learning words grouped into categories, as many apps do (e.g. colours, days of months, etc.), or even randomised (which is better than learning them in categories) you learn words grouped into thematic story lines (e.g. wet, pond, lily pad, slimy, green, front, tongue, to eat, fly). This helps your brain to make connections and not to get words confused.
*** Thematic story order also plays an important role here, as you make up your own sentences out of these groups in order to learn abstract words and grammar.
Currently, the downside is that creating these flashcards in Anki (the most popular flashcard app) and finding pronunciation recordings is quite time consuming. I’ve had the advantage that my girlfriend has kindly recorded words and sentences for me.
However, and this is the main reason I’m posting this here, Fluent Forever have their own flashcard app, which is much faster to use than Anki. The problem is that it doesn’t currently support European Portuguese (only Brazilian). But they’re planning to add a feature to the app this year called Unsupported Language Support, meaning it will soon be possible to use the app to teach yourself any language by creating your own resources. When it becomes apparent to them that a particular language is quite popular they will then take it over and provide all the resources, along with all the bells and whistles that comes with official support.
So, with my girlfriend’s help, I’ve been busily creating recordings and flashcards that I use in Anki to teach myself Portuguese and I’m going to add these resources to the Fluent Forever app as soon as it adds Unsupported Language Support. It’s currently on their backlog of things to implement:
I'll keep you posted when this happens. The more of us that use it, the more likely they'll take over official support of the language.