Iso is the time for self improvement. Yeah, a lot of unfortunate shit has happened to a lot of people. But if you ask around, people are trying their best to make the most of a crap situation.

So now’s the time to get around to doing that thing you’ve been putting off for yonks.

For me, that means picking up another language. We supposedly have the tools for free at our very fingertips, thanks to technology. Yet here I am, monolingual* as fuck.

Last week I set out to learn as much Portuguese as I could in iso. The results are in, and, well, at least I had fun, right?

Here’s how it went.

Step 1: Whip out Duolingo

The bird taunts me to learn more Portuguese.

I swear to god, if that fucken bird pings me one more time I will throw my phone out the window.

But I had no choice but to persevere. In 2020, Duolingo is a must-have for any language learner.

It’s even more essential in iso. I can’t go out and join a class, nor can I easily buy language-learning textbooks.

So it’s come to this. Me, the bird, and the world’s sixth largest language in terms of native speakers.

I actually learned some stuff.

Food vocab, for me, is the most important vocab of any language. Luckily for me, Duolingo got me off to a flying start to talk about what I’m eating and drinking.

Guess what, I am eating bread and drinking milk, and I want the world to know it!

Eu como pão e bebo leite.

Duolingo is like the teacher who won’t let you stare out the window. Whenever you slip up, you’ll be bludgeoned with notifications until you get back to work.

But at times it can also be the cool teacher who somehow manages to incentivise doing well in pop quizzes without actually providing a decent reward.

I’ve succumbed to the bird’s pull, and I’m not looking back.

Step 2: Find bangers in the language of choice

Turns out I already knew some Portuguese. I just couldn’t understand what I was saying.

Everyone knows the lyrics to at least one song that’s in a language other than their own. It’s just something you belt out when it comes on at parties, not necessarily a song whose lyrics you analyse closely (or at all, considering its incomprehensible).

Luckily for me, I went through a weird phase as a teenager where all my fav bands were Brazilian. So I had no shortage of Portuguese-language bangers to draw upon.

But first I needed to take baby steps. I decided to consolidate my knowledge of basic numbers from Duolingo by using the into of “CPR” by cupcakKe.

Um, dois, três, quatro.

After the first few seconds, the rest of the song is useless for language-learning unless that language is English. But it absolutely fucken slaps so ofc I listened to the whole thing without skipping each time.

(It should go without saying that I’ve known all the lyrics to the song, and the whole album in fact, since 2017. Don’t @ me.)

Now to something a bit more sophisticated in terms of language level.

“Águas de Março” is not only a classic but its lyrics literally consist of listing nouns. The structure is more basic than a nursery rhyme, but the content is more useful if you don’t need to be taught basic morality or whatever “Jack & Jill” was supposed to convey.

Now I can semi-confidently say: “it’s the stick”, “it’s the sun”, and “it’s a little piece of glass”, among other things.

É o pau, é a pedra, é o fim do caminho
É um resto de toco, é um pouco sozinho
É um caco de vidro, é a vida, é o sol

Ok, time to step things up a notch.

Can I sing the lyrics to a song my my favourite band in highschool? Yes! Do I understand them? Not yet.

“Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex” was much harder learn. The Portuguese lyrics (which kick in after exactly two minutes of English fire) were faster and they were screamed. Tbh, I’m just not at this level yet.

I gave it a crack anyway.

Claro que sim, fui escoteira-mirim
Direto da escola, nao, nao ia cheirar cola
Nem basquete, pebolim

Hmmm. Not sure when I’ll ever need to say: “Definitely, I was a girl scout, straight from the school. No, I didn’t go to huff glue, nor basketball or foosball.”

At least the last line is handy:

Ele é fodão, mas eu sei que eu sou também

“He’s a bad bitch, but I know I am too.” This is my new mantra. It’s locked in my mind forever, now.

Step 3: Chat online

Now that I’ve mastered a handful of basic words and phrases, I decided to start practicing with actual humans. I mean, that is the end goal after all.

I have no shortage of Portuguese-speaking mates to choose from, but forcing them to be my language teacher is a bit of a dick move. So I forced strangers to do it instead!

My first stop was putting “Portugues” into Omegle. No luck. But that’s not the worst thing that could’ve happened on that cursed website.

Next, I tried looked for apps designed this purpose. Turns our there are heaps, but a lot of them have annoying sign-up processes and some even cost money. I’m here to learn how to swear in Portuguese, not to make friends. I don’t have time for other crap.

That’s when I settled on HelloTalk. It’s a simple app that matches you with native speakers off the language you want to learn, and vice versa.

Then I remembered time zones are a thing. Fuck.

The only account which would reply to me was the app’s in-built virtual assistant. I literally had a convo with a robot. Sad.

All my mates are robots.

Como você está?

Great, now I’m speaking like an old man. Ugh.

The verdict

It’s been a week of language-learning, and so far, I can’t even hold a conversation. But that’s to be expected.

What I can do is describe basic food and even sing along with a few bangers.

The best part is feeling productive while in iso. If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be scratching my arse and rewatching Tiger King.

But now I am a learned scholar of languages, and the world is my oyster.

Maybe that dickhead Duolingo bird isn’t such a prick after all.

As the song goes: ele é fodão, mas eu sei que eu sou também.

*Actually I speak a bit of German.