Book Review: Complete Portuguese: The Basics

Complete Portuguese:  The Basics, by Jura D. Oliveira & Oscar Fernandez

This book is a straightforward guide to teaching the basics of Portuguese, and although the book doesn’t have a lot in the way of frills, it has a lot of genuinely worthwhile information about words and expressions that could be useful to someone learning Portuguese.  If you are familiar with the Living Language approach for other languages or some of the more lesson-based language studies methods, this book will not be surprising in the least.  And although this book does not have much in the way of surprises it is certainly a worthwhile book that accomplishes what it sets out to do, and that is to instruct the reader on the basics of Portuguese and how they can master some of the fundamental aspects of the language.  Those who desire to dig deeper into the language will have to seek other sources, but without a mastery of the basics one is not going to reach the higher levels of comprehension that one might wish to develop.  This is a lesson that is all too often forgotten by people who try to jump to mastery of complex and difficult tasks without having a sufficient grasp of the fundamentals.

This book is 40 lessons long and more than 350 pages in length.  The bok begins with an introduction that discusses the comparison between different Portuguese dialects as well the course material and instructions as a whole.  After that the main contents of the book begins with lessons on letters and sounds (1), cognates and special consonant sounds and the Portuguese alphabet (2), regional differences and practicing pronunciation (3), and more cognates and general spelling equivalents (4).  After this comes various vocabulary lessons, sometimes including supplemental vocabulary for areas like the weather or food that are of interest but which do not require instruction.  The book differentiates between definite and indefinite articles as well as discussing plurals, contractions, and adjectives (8), provides lessons on demonstrative pronouns and adjectives relating to this and that (12) as well as and, or, and but.  One lesson combines direct and indirect object pronouns with reflexive pronouns and verbs (15), while others discuss dates (19) and time (20, 21).  A few lessons deal with social occasions such as what one would say at the book store (26), or while in transportation (31), or corresponding via letters or e-mail (32).  Still other lessons deal with menus (35), apartment hunting (36), and Portuguese names (39), and the book as a whole ends with a summary of Portuguese grammar, letter writing, and tips for internet writing.

One of the more interesting aspects of this book (and others) is the way it differentiates between Brazilian and Continental Portuguese.  Many of the guides one can find on the Portuguese language will focus on one of these dialects over the other, and the result is that one will likely make some blunders if one is not aware of the specific dialect one is looking to speak, similar to what would happen if one tried to master continental France when going to Quebec or only knew British English when trying to converse in the United States.  Even within Brazil there appears to be a distinction between the dialect of Rio de Janeiro as opposed to the rest of the country.  And as someone who has some general interest in linguistics I appreciate the way that the book starts with the raw materials of the Portuguese language and then moves on from there to more complex matters of grammar and word usage, because I find it somewhat disconcerting when books skip over these matters because they are thought to be too dry and boring when they serve as the fundamental source of how the language itself operates for those who seek not only to speak it but to understand how it came to be in the first place.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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