This is the latest in our series of user portraits. This time we’re hearing from Glasgow student Laura Watts, who has been learning Brazilian Portuguese with Babbel for her partner Bruno. We liked Laura’s story so much that we’re switching up the format a little this time. Below is the interview we did when we first got in touch with Laura to hear about her experience of learning for love.
Had you ever thought about learning Brazilian Portuguese before you met Bruno?
No. I hadn’t really been exposed to it previously, except perhaps through some famous samba artists I’d heard on the radio.
Before we officially began dating, we exchanged a few words for fun. Bruno taught me Portuguese, and I taught him broad Scots – we had a lot of fun hearing each other murder them in our respective accents!
So how did you meet? And how did that lead you to learning a language?
On my first day of university, I was a ball of nerves. Anxiety and excitement combined in the pit of my stomach, wrapping me up in a haze so thick I almost walked right past him. He smiled and introduced himself in perfect English, making my knees knock as I giggled like a schoolgirl.
We found out we were living in the same flat in student halls, so we spent the night getting to know each other over coffee as I moved in. We quickly became friends and spent a lot of time together, going for meals and on day trips around the country. Bruno was a civil engineering student studying in Glasgow for a year, and his intelligence and wit shone through any language barrier. Although he was practically fluent in English, a Scottish accent is a particularly difficult one to grasp!
While I always found him ridiculously attractive, I enjoyed spending time with him too much to push for anything more. It wasn’t until Christmas, four months later, that we shared a kiss after a long walk around my hometown. We grew closer and closer over the next few months, but I always knew he would only be in Scotland for a year, and was wary of letting myself fall too deeply.
No matter how cautious we were, by the time summer rolled around we were both completely smitten. I loved him, and didn’t hesitate when he asked me if I wanted to continue dating after he left. I never pictured myself having a long-distance relationship, but the feeling in my chest as I watched him board the plane was enough to make me go for it.
Five months later I found myself traveling the land of sunny Brazil, with the love of my life right beside me. Most of his family couldn’t speak English very well, so I quickly started to learn Portuguese in order to communicate with them better. They were so welcoming and made a real effort to get to know me, which really made a difference. Now Bruno is coming back to visit me, and I couldn’t be happier!
How does Bruno feel about you learning his language?
He lights up whenever I speak to him in Portuguese. He’s told me that he can’t wait till I can hold a proper conversation with him. In his own words: “You have only seen the part of me I can express through a language that is not the one in my head. Once you can hear those words, unedited, then you’ll truly get to see the real me.”
How have you been learning?
I started learning with YouTube videos, which was a nice way to dip my toe in the water. I also took a class through my university at the beginning of the year, which helped me grasp some of the basic grammar. After visiting Brazil, I decided to get a yearly subscription to Babbel. I now use it on my phone, along with books and videos.
I’m still afraid to speak sometimes (I’m very self-conscious about my accent), but the encouragement I receive from Bruno is enough to keep me going. Language exchanges are definitely an invaluable tool when learning a language, and talking with a native speaker will help you learn idioms and colloquial expressions alongside the standard grammar.
Have you come across any particularly tricky words or concepts so far?
I made a very common mistake the first time I approached a street vendor and asked for an água de cocô gelada. I thought I was ordering chilled coconut water, but stressed the wrong syllable in the word coco and ended up asking for poo water!
An easy mistake to make! Are you looking forward to improving your Portuguese further?
Yes. Right now, I have a lot of work to do for my degree and find it very difficult to find ways to immerse myself in the language. I can’t wait until after my exams, as I’ll have a lot more time to devote to learning.
Thanks Laura, and best of luck!