Countdown to College: Learning Portuguese

Countdown+to+College%3A+Learning+Portuguese

Graphic by Ashna Haiderali

Since middle school, I have been cultivating a bucket list of activities to accomplish. I’d like to consider myself an adventurous individual, but being a minor limits my participation in certain activities on my bucket list. However, I decided to narrow my list down to the activities I know I can finish before I start college.

Throughout “Countdown to College,” I will focus on completing this bucket list, making my last year of high school the most memorable. For this first blog, I decided to check off learning Portuguese. 

Twenty-five years ago, my parents immigrated to Miami, Florida after their engagement. Both my parents were born in Pakistan; however, my mother moved quite frequently throughout her childhood. She was born in Pakistan, but moved to Lisbon, Portugal at the age of 6 after already knowing Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, and now Portuguese. Most of the citizens residing in the city predominantly spoke Spanish and English, which she immediately started to speak almost fluently.  

Throughout my childhood, my mother tried her best to take me to Portugal as many times as she could. As a baby, I was unable to understand her extreme fondness for the country but after recently visiting in 2018, I understood her love for Lisbon, a beautiful city filled with lights and vivid colors. Walking along the streets of Lisbon and listening to the language its people conversed in was like walking in a dream. That was when I decided that I had to learn the language. 

Starting this blog forced me to start learning Portuguese immediately. I decided to take the first step by signing up for Duolingo, a language learning website, and doing a little bit every day. The website helped me with the vocabulary of the language, teaching me words such as girl, boy, man, woman, dog, milk and apple. As I advanced, Duolingo started to introduce me to pronouns and how to piece them together with the vocabulary I had learned. A great foundation was the perfect way to begin learning. 

Along with Duolingo, I had my mom. She has always wanted me to learn Portuguese because it was what she grew up speaking for the majority of her childhood with her brothers and sisters. When I told her I wanted to learn, she was ecstatic. She started off slow by teaching me the phrases I would constantly use in various conversations. Throughout the week when I got those phrases down, she started responding only in Portuguese. This was a massive step from where I thought I was in the learning process, but it was the most helpful. It gave me no choice but to decipher what she said and form my response. 

Hearing my mom talk to my aunts and uncles in Portuguese during a conversation was a connection I was surrounded by but was never a part of. Learning Portuguese has always subconsciously been a goal to feel closer to my mom’s side of the family because I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. So far, it has been an enjoyable experience. Being able to connect more with my mom’s roots has brought me and my mom closer, making me realize how much I’m going to miss her when I take off for college next year. Having the basis of this language was something I wanted to have before I move out because I know I may not have the time to learn anything once I leave. Overall, I’m thrilled to cross it off my bucket list.  

Learn Portuguese