If my calculations are correct I’m about halfway through the Portuguese course at FSI. I’d love to provide a super meaty update, but frankly there isn’t a lot to say. I go to class every day with my little band of fellow FSOs headed to São Paulo. I should take this moment to say how lucky I’ve been to have fantastic colleagues and teachers since day one (the instructors rotate so we’ve had several by this point). As you can imagine, you get to know your fellow students pretty well in six months of intensive language training so it helps to have a lot in common to start with.
It really does amaze me how quickly you can learn a language when that’s your full focus. Maybe since bilingualism isn’t as common in the U.S. as in many other countries I think we have the sense that learning a second language as an adult is somehow impossible. And while native-level fluency may still be a distant dream, professional competence isn’t out of reach.
So, what can I do with all the sweet, sweet taxpayer funded training I’ve had so far?
I can hold a halting conversation, with plenty of grammatical errors, on most topics. I can read the paper and the David Baldacci book I checked out from the library (almost finished with it in fact). I can understand reasonably paced speech as long as the speaker doesn’t get all crazy with the slang or specialized vocabulary. In short, I could muddle through day to day life.
What I’m not quite ready for is professional life in Portuguese - holding meetings, doing public speaking, conducting fraud investigations, etc. That’ll have to wait til the end of the course. In the meantime I guess I’d better keep plugging away!
And on a separate note I hope to have some more photos of the house for you soon - interior walls are going in soon, along with flooring.