For the first 3 weeks of our time in Brazil, we had Portuguese lessons to prepare us for the rest of our trip. I thought this was really useful, as the project phase is spent working with kids, and so being able to communicate is essential for getting the most out of it. Also, just generally being able to ask for simple things, like drinks, and order your own food makes the experience so much better, and means that we don´t have to rely on our leader the whole time. For me, the language phase was one of the reasons I chose the trip, as I am going on to study Spanish and Portuguese at university.
I found the lesons really helpful, and the fact that we were split into two small groups of 5 and 4 meant that we had more time to go through each point in detail, and also ensured that everyone in the group understood what we had learnt before moving on to the next unit. We had 4 hours of lessons every morning, with a half hour break in the middle. I found the lessons really varied, and each day we would learn something new, while also revising what we had already learnt so we didn´t forget antyhing. We used a text book for part of the day to get a grasp of more gramatical issues, but also listened to Brazilian music and translated some songs as well. One day, having learnt all the vocabulary for different fruits, we were taken to the fruit market near the school, and were actually able to try the different fruits, like Jaca, while also practising our Portuguese with the venders.
Our teacher also made us pick a topic that we had learnt, and teach it back to our class, which was a really helpful way of going over previous units. We also played lots of games to help us remember vocabulary, and the fact that each lesson was different kept us interested and meant that we were constantly learning new things. After about a week of lessons, we visited Casa La, to introduce ourselves to the boys that we would be looking after. It made me realise just how important the lessons were, and motivated me to work harder so that I would be able to communicate with them better. It was great to actually be able to use what we had learnt, to understand and be understood, and talk to the boys. It amazed me just how much we had learnt in so little time, and now that we have the basics, I think we will be able to pick up a lot more Portuguese during the project phase.