Last 3 years (same period that I live a nomad life) I’m really into capoeira. What I love most about capoeira is that it constantly pushes me to learn new things, get new skills and open my mind.
1. Get initial inspiration and set a goal
One year ago, while at a capoeira workshop, I was staying at the same house where all capoeira masters invited to the event were staying (including Mestre Irani, Espirro Mirim and Papa-Léguas). It was a good chance to get a bit of their knowledge, speaking and even just listening to them. Unfortunately, at that point of time I knew only a couple of Portuguese words.
That was my initial inspiration to learn Portuguese and that was the day when I set a goal for myself: be able to understand and speak Portuguese in one year.
2. Find a way to follow
The goal was set, but what to start with? At that time I was already living a nomad life, so taking classes was not my way.
I started to search for textbooks. Most of them offered academic approach, which included too much material I didn't really need.
Then I tried several applications like Babble, Rosetta Stone.
All what I tried gave either too much material, or just concrete sentences to drill.
Getting this knowledge took some time (like 2 months), but it helped me finding a way to follow. I understood, that what I needed first were basic grammar rules, with which I can start making my own sentences right away.
3. Learn to learn in your own way
At that point of time I already knew 20-30 nouns and forms of personal pronouns, so what I needed to start building sentences, were the forms of verbs. Having understood this, I found a series of videos, called "Portuguese in 7 lessons" (in Russian). Very simple and very short, 1-2 minutes each video.
It didn't teach me the language, but it gave the basics of Portuguese verbs and the ability to start building my own sentences.
After that I chose 30 verbs I may need and started to make sentences with them. While inventing those sentences I started to come across new grammar topics I needed to learn.
On the way I got help from Google.Translate (which is amazing when translating from English to Portuguese), my Brazilian friend Aná (who was reviewing my sentences) and a teacher (from which I took 10-15 skype classes, learning new rules and practicing to speak). What I was doing was actually learning to learn in my own way.
4. Educate yourself
Suddenly, in 4 months after I started, I came across 2 discoveries.
First, I can speak Portuguese already.
Second, I can understand literally nothing when Brazilians speak between themselves (too fast), but can understand more or less when somebody speaks to me personally, not very fast.
That was the day I formulated my next objective - get more practice listening.
I started with using WhatsApp speaking to my Brazilian friends over voice messages and taking a video course by semantica-portuguese.com (which was not bad, but quite small). Both ways helped a bit, but didn’t give sustainable amount of practice, so I had to search for new ways.
That is a process of self-education as it is. Even if you are studying with a teacher, to achieve your goal you need to be able to learn yourself.
In this process of self-education I discovered a mean, which helped me improve my listening skills - audio lessons from PortuguesePod101.com. They have courses of lessons for any level. Each series consists of 25 lessons: 1 minute dialog read on normal speed, then slowly and finally with the translation. Remaining 10-15 minutes of the lessons presenters are discussing vocabulary and grammar used in the lesson (in English). You have all of this in text also and in a phone app, which you can use on the go even when you are offline. Pretty awesome, huh?
Now, after a year after I put a goal to be able to communicate in Portuguese, I would say I achieved the goal with a score of 8 out of 10. I still have many things to improve, but I can speak and understanding spoken language improves quite fast.
5. Get constant inspiration and follow your dream
Learning is a long process and sometimes you feel you are stuck. On your way you will have a lot of these moments. The trick here is just to go on and not to give up. What helps me a lot is the fact, that I meet Brazilian capoeiristas, who inspire me, quite often, which in its turn inspires me to go on improving my language skills.
I wish you to make your dreams come true, the only thing left for this is just starting a way to your dream.