A Plan to Juggle Languages

When I forget a word in Spanish, my brain immediately switches to Portuguese. When my brain forgets a word in Portuguese, it subs in a Spanish word. My brain knows they’re not the same, and I can sort of feel that it’s settled on this one word in a panic. I say it’s like trying to tune a radio, and you’re rolling the dial through channels of static.

That’s what my brain sounds like on the inside when I speak either language, static. Sometimes my brain lands on a station after some tuning, and I just hope it’s the right one.

I’ve been contemplating my relationship with Spanish and Portuguese, and my brain clearly has a preference. I see Portuguese everywhere here in Spain, but not really! For example, yesterday my roommate told me that she likes the bank, “Caixa Bank.” She said it like, “kysa.” She explained to me that it was a Catalan bank, from Catalonia, Spain, where they speak their own language (and are going through their own moment right now). My brain snapped at attention, “ALL THIS TIME I THOUGHT IT WAS A PORTUGUESE BANK. ‘Cept they say ky-sha.” I was so desperate to see Portuguese in everything around me.

Spanish and I never clicked. I have less than 20 Spanish language songs in my music library, but uh, nearly 100 in Portuguese. I was in a bar in Spain the other day, and they were playing a bossa nova / samba playlist. When they got to “Oba, La Vem Ela,” my heart leapt out my chest. I really miss Portuguese. This presents a bit of a problem, you see?

In my spare time, I consume a lot of Portuguese language media. I follow comics like Ângulo de Vista, watch shows like 3%, and like I said, listen to a lot of Brazilian Portuguese music. I need to get into the habit for Spanish, but I also want to keep learning Portuguese.

“Looks like it’s nighttime. It’s time for bed!” “Time to go to work!”

Very few language learning tools say that this is a good idea!

Aside from learning two very closely related languages and getting confused with vocabulary and grammar, these languages are going to compete for my time and immersion. I’m in Spain, so unless I’m a complete hermit, I’m going to hear Spanish a lot more than Portuguese. This brings me to what a Brazilian Portuguese speaker suggested to me the other day, the 80/20 method.

80% of my time and effort will be devoted to practicing Spanish. This means I’ll have to start reading and watching my news in Spanish, listening to Spanish podcasts, and my favorite pastime of watching people play videogames will also have to be done in Spanish.

Portuguese will have to be a sidenote, a passive study to keep my vocabulary sharp. I think I’ll reserve Portuguese for Sundays or Mondays, and Spanish to the rest of the week.

It will be hard, but being that my brain is already so heavily invested in Portuguese, it would be a disservice to both my Spanish and Portuguese to deny that bias exists! Until I get my footing in Spanish, and develop my Spanish personality, this will have to be the plan. I wonder what my Spanish personality will be like? Right now she’s a bit meek and timid like the actual Beyoncé, in due time maybe she’ll be Sasha Fierce?

 

Best,

Kristina

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