Learning Portuguese is mandatory if you are headed to Brazil. Whether you’re going just for a few weeks, or if you’re planning on living here, learning the local language will significantly improve the quality of your travels.
But you already knew that. That’s why you’re looking to invest in professional assistance with the language, perhaps with a Portuguese teacher or a digital course.
Not all courses are created equally though. Some courses are designed without empathy for their students who will use them.
There is one course in particular that is the worst offender of this crime. It also happens to be one of the most well marketed language courses in the world. Maybe you’ve seen their bright colored boxes at Barnes and Noble, or at gift shops in the airport.
Of course, I’m talking about Rosetta Stone, the expensive language learning software that promises fluency in 30+ languages.
But is Rosetta Stone really that great for Brazilian Portuguese learners? Let’s dig deeper.
Is Rosetta Stone Portuguese useful for travelers to Brazil?
In the first lesson of this course they teach you how to say, “The girl is drinking,” “The boy is eating,” “the man is eating,” and “the woman is drinking.”
This is really useful stuff if on your first day in Brazil you go people watching in a park and want to give your friend a step by step account of who is putting what into their mouths.
I understand why they are teaching these things in this way; they want to teach you the verb ester through context at the same time that you’re learning common nouns like man and verbs like eating. And I get that they’re aim is to build your confidence up slowly with basic words like ‘boy’.
But honestly I can’t remember ever saying any of these sentences in a conversation in Portuguese, Spanish or even English for that matter. They could’ve taught the verb estar using examples that you’re likely to use as a foreigner in Brazil.
It’s certainly not the first thing that I would teach someone who is going to Brazil in a few weeks
I would start by teaching things that are more immediately useful, like how to say “Thank you” in Portuguese, “Nice to meet you?” “how much does it cost?” and “I don’t understand.”
Does Rosetta Stone Teach You How to Converse with Brazilians?
I’m not sure what kind of conversations Rosetta Stone Portuguese’s creators expect you to have, but their material certainly doesn’t match any normal conversation I’ve seen in Brazil.
Here is a sample conversation that you’ll likely be a part of if you go to Brazil.
“Oi tudo bem?” Hey how are you?
“Tudo bom, e você?” Good, and you?
“Estou bem, graças a Deus. De onde você é?” I’m good, thank god. Where are you from?
“Eu sou da Australia.” I’m from Australia.
“O que você esta fazendo aqui?” What are you doing here?
“Estou aqui para trabalhar.” I’m here for work.
“Mas por quê aqui no Brasil?” But why here in Brazil?
“Porque eu acho que o Brasil é muito legal.” Because I think Brazil is really cool.
“Você já foi para o Rio?” Have you been to Rio yet?
“Ainda não.” Not yet.
“Lá é muito bom, você tem que conhecer.” It’s great there, you have to visit.
“Ta bom então.” Ok then.
Every time you meet a Brazil you go through some variation of this conversation. The questions might vary somewhat, but it’s a pretty safe bet they’re going to ask you where you’re from.
It isn’t until lesson 2.5 before they teach you this question, which almost every single Brazilian is going to ask you. In fact, before Rosetta Stone teaches you how to say, “Where are you from,” they teach you 6 adjectives to describe hair.
I’m sure that if you stuck with Rosetta Stone and diligently studied with it every day for several months you could have decent conversations with Brazilians, but you’d have to supplement what Rosetta Stone doesn’t give you with outside learning. That’s like going to a sem balança restaurant and having to bring your own beans.
Does Rosetta Stone Teach you Brazilian Culture?
I’ve really got to wonder though if the people who make this course even have a Brazilian visa. There is nothing in the course that suggests that they’ve adopted their method to Brazilian culture and the unique way that Brazilians speak.
For example, the greetings they teach are ridiculously formal and almost never used by foreigners in Brazil. You’ll have to wait until lesson 2.4 to even learn how to greet someone, which is an essential part of polite conversation. Once you finally get there, they teach you, “Como vai o senhor?” and “Vou bem.”
If you use these greetings with friends they will correct you and tell you to say, “Oi tudo bem?” “Tudo bom,” as a greeting and response.
The images Rosetta Stone uses to teach are not unique to Brazil and are the same ones you’d see in their Mandarin or Arabic courses. It would be more effective if they taught the word ‘child’ with a Brazilian kid laughing while playing soccer with his friends on the beach in Rio de Janeiro with Christ the Redeemer in the background.
Final Verdict on Rosetta Stone Portuguese
Quite frankly I cannot recommend that you use Rosetta Stone to learn Brazilian Portuguese. The lack of focus on useful conversation, the teaching of frivolous vocabulary and disconnect from Brazilian culture end up making your job as a student much more difficult. If you use Rosetta Stone you’ll have to relearn Portuguese as it is actually spoken once you finally get to Brazil.
Fortunately there is a course out there that teaches conversational Portuguese in a way that connects you to Brazilian culture.
You’ve probably never heard of it though because it’s a program that only exists for Brazilian Portuguese.
That course is called Semantica Portuguese. Unlike Rosetta Stone which teaches you through boring images, Semantica teaches you through stories filmed by Brazilian actors in Rio de Janeiro. This method is so much more effective because you get to see real people using the language in context.
It was also made specifically for foreigners who are traveling to Brazil, taking into account the cultural differences that you’ll have to adapt to in Brazil. When you learn Portuguese with Semantica you also get to see and experience Brazilian culture which will reduce the culture shock you’ll feel when you arrive in Brazil.
You also won’t have the problem of buying a course that you never use with Semantica. Semantica teaches Portuguese through an ongoing series of stories, so you’ll want to keep learning so that you find out what happens to the characters.
It’s simply the best course that exists for learning Brazilian Portuguese.
Click here if you’re ready to start learning Portuguese with Semantica.