Friday, June 1, 2012

Tá Falado: A Valuable Free Resource

I found out about Tá Falado from Hacking Portuguese, a website I've mentioned in other posts.  I started with Tá Falado's pronunciation practice not long after I began Pimsleur Level 1, because I was having trouble with some basic pronunciations that I just couldn't seem to get right, no matter how much I practiced. 

Tá Falado is a series of podcasts which are presented by a team consisting of a native speaker of North American English who moderates the program; two native Brazilians, a male and female, one from São Paolo state, one from Bahia; and a Spanish speaking native from Venezuela.  The dialogue is first read at full speed by the Brazilians, then it's repeated more slowly, with the moderator providing an English translation, then it's read again, fairly slowly, with the Spanish speaker repeating each line in Spanish after the Brazilians speak. The Portuguese/Spanish rendition is repeated twice.  Finally, the group discusses the sounds and the cultural content of the dialogue, and then it's repeated one more time in Portuguese.  By the end of the podcast, you will have heard the same dialogue quite a few times, and the sounds will start to become more familiar.  

Unlike Pimsleur, this program is *not* designed for the learner to repeat the dialogue, as there are no breaks in between for you to do that.  Instead, it's all about hearing the language spoken properly and training your ears.   

Tá Falado has helped me a lot with my proncunciation (and so has Lauren from Hacking Portuguese, who took the time to answer my questions about particular problems I was having).  Be warned that Tá Falado can be a bit daunting at first.  You will hear native Brazilians speaking at a normal pace and it's going to sound very fast, with the words all seeming to run together.  There will be vocabulary that you don't know, colloquial expressions that don't seem to make much sense, and grammar structures that you do not encounter in basic, elementary Portuguese lessons.  

But don't let any of that scare you off, because the lessons are not aimed at building your ability to converse fluently at native speed with a full vocabulary.  Remember: the goal is to help you get a grip on specific aspects of pronouncing the sounds of Portuguese.  The lessons are organized in a logical way, starting with some of the most common (and easily mispronounced) sounds.  For example, the first lesson deals with the sound /i/ as represented by the letters "e" and "i."  If you're a Spanish speaker, it takes some adjustment hearing the sound /i/ when you are looking at the letter "e".  In fact, a native speaker of English must work hard not to make the sound /i/ when pronouncing the Spanish letter "e," which only complicates matters.  

Each lesson includes a podcast and a PDF with a script and explanatory notes, and I recommend that you download the PDF before you listen to the lesson.  I read it over first, and I've found that helps me to get more out of the podcast.  I also keep it in front of me as I listen.  

You can work at the computer, but I prefer to download the MP3 file to iTunes, and then sync it to my iPod, iPhone, or iPad.  That way, I can listen to it wherever I want. You can add the PDF to your iTunes library, which allows you to synch it to iBooks on your iOS device.  That way, you can listen and read at the same time without having to be at the computer.  

You can also copy and paste the dialogue from the PDF into the "lyrics" pane in iTunes.  Then you can see the dialogue while you listen on your iPhone or iPod.  Unfortunately, the iPad does not currently support lyrics, which makes no sense to me at all, but that's another story.  

You do not have to progress through the lessons in order, though that was the way that I chose to do it, since each new lesson does assume that you have some level of familiarity with material that has been covered previously. 

For me, the key to getting the most out of Tá Falado has been to revisit the podcasts more than one time.  In other words, I apply the spiral approach.  The first time, I read the PDF, listen to the podcast with the PDF in front of me, then try to read the dialogue on my own (but a lot slower than the native speakers, focusing on the correct sounds instead of speed).  

I then move on to the next lesson, normally only doing a couple a day, and taking time off in between.  After a couple of weeks, I'll go back to review the lesson.  I have found that what was difficult the first time through is not so hard the second time through, and it makes a lot more sense.  Not only that, but the vocabulary and grammar don't look so scary.

The second time through, I don't need the entire PDF, just the dialogue, and sometimes I try to listen without referring to the printed script at all.  The goal this time is to perfect the pronunciation so that it feels natural.

Then I move on to the next podcast and review it the same way.

But wait, we're not done yet!  Once I finished about half of Pimsleur Level 3, I went back to Tá Falado for a third time.  This time, I listened to it without any script at all, just listened to the dialogues while I was working out at the gym.  By this time, I had enough practice with Pimsleur and other language learning resources (including books, listening to Brazilian music, and watching Brazilian films) that the entire dialogue made more sense. It didn't sound as rushed together, because I was more accustomed to hearing vowels seeming to disappear between words.  I understood the grammar better, and the colloquialisms were more familiar (movies are great for that).  My goal the third time through was to listen, comprehend, and refine my pronunciation, with particular attention to the *reasons* for the sounds (unstressed versus stressed syllables, etc.).  The tips and hints during the follow-up discussions also make a lot more sense after you've had additional exposure to the language.  

So, is three times enough for "Tá Falado"? I'm not sure yet. I am thinking that I may edit the MP3 so that I cut out everything but the Portuguese dialogue at full speed, since I don't really think I want to listen to the entire podcast a fourth time.  Tá Falado also includes a set of grammar podcasts, which are quite good, but not as essential as the pronunciation podcasts.  

Meanwhile, there are some other great free resources and projects at Brazilpod that I've been playing around with.  Be sure to stop by there and take a look!

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