“Tudo Bem?”

Tudo bem? or Tudo bom? is a simple yet intriguing greeting that has been one of the most culturally interesting aspects of living in Brazil. You might be thinking what is so interesting about these two words but the greeting itself when you translate it has much more of a significance than what you would think. I find it fascinating for a number of reasons, which I will divulge during this article and it is important to keep in mind that languages including English have different ways in which people can address each other from the very neutral to the very positive.

To give some background first, I have studied a few foreign languages thus far and one of the first things you learn in any language are the greetings / salutations. The way you greet someone in another language can teach you a lot about the culture and also about the country. No one greeting is the same although the meaning is usually quite similar. What has thrown me off about ‘Tudo bem?’ is not just the brevity of it but the significance regarding its inherent positivity. I did not expect this greeting to be so prevalent, but I am fundamentally glad that it is used so regularly.

Let us start by breaking ‘Tudo bem?’ or ‘Tudo bom?’ down in terms of trying to translate it into English, which is not so easy on the surface. You would think it means ‘How are you?’, ‘How is everything going?’ but that is not the right translation. If we are to translate it into English, it would be more like, ‘All is well?’ or ‘Everything good?’. Instead of saying ‘Como vai voce?’ (How are you doing?) or ‘Como voce esta?’ (How are you?), I have been surprised to learn that these greetings are not as popular while ‘Tudo bom?’ or ‘Tudo bem?’ are used frequently in polite greetings whether it is with a shop keeper, bank teller, a cashier, or your neighbor from next door.

What I really like about ‘Tudo bem?’ or ‘Tudo bom?’ is that you are being positive and outgoing right from the start. Even if everything is just okay or you might be having a bad day, it is almost expected to say in response ‘Tudo bem!’ or ‘Tudo bom!’ to indicate that everything is going well and you’re doing fine even if that might be the case. To me, this represents something very unique about Brazilian culture in terms of airing on the side of being positive and upbeat. Even if you are going through some tough times or don’t think everything is alright, you are unconsciously drawn to saying that it is and to stay positive.

You do not have to always respond with ‘Tudo bem’ or ‘Tudo bom’ but during my time here, I have not really heard any answers in Portuguese with the equivalent of ‘I’m doing alright’, or ‘I’m doing okay’, or ‘I’m fine.’ Even rarer would be to say that you are not doing well, or you are sick, or you are tired. ‘Tudo bem?’ is a very casual greeting and it is usually only common to respond with the same reply or with a ‘bem’ (good), ‘bom’ (good), or even ‘tudo certo’ (all right). You don’t really say that you are doing amazing, fantastic, wonderful, or any other exuberant English equivalent when asked about ‘Tudo bem?’ but this kind of greeting in Portuguese is much more positive, and warm than I have encountered with another languages.

Greetings tend to be neutral at the outside when the person asking expects a positive answer, but the response can also be neutral or negative depending on the language used. However, I have found that Portuguese among the languages I know or have studied is the only one which leaves very little room for a neutral or negative response. I do believe that is a good thing although it can be a bit difficult to express those emotions right away. It is kind of expected to start out any interaction on a positive note by saying ‘all is well?’ and ‘all is good?’. Unless you are with a family member or a close friend, it can be tough to really express how you truly feel because they are likely not asking how you really are but just trying to be polite at the outset.

Regardless, when you compare Brazilian Portuguese to English or to Spanish, the initial greeting is much more positive in terms of the translation. While you can say ‘All is well?’ or ‘Everything good?’ in English, these are not really the initial greetings that you would use when you are talking to someone for the first time. It is much more common to say, ‘How are you?’ or ‘How are you doing?’ instead. Saying ‘Hello, all is well?’ or ‘Hello, everything fine?’ at the outside to an English speaker would be a bit strange at first whereas ‘How are you?’ is much more of a common occurrence.

In my opinion, the same could be said with Spanish where you would address someone you have never met before with ‘Como estas?’ or ‘Como vas?’, which is a very similar translation from the English of ‘How are you?’ or ‘How are you doing?’ Now, you could do something similar in Spanish with a greeting of ‘Todo bien?’ which is similar to the meaning of ‘Tudo bem?’ in Portuguese. However, from my own experience, while ‘Todo bien?’ is more acceptable and can be heard from time to time, a more proper greeting in a first interaction with a native Spanish speaker is ‘Como estas?’ rather than ‘Todo bien?’ An exception would be if you had met that person before or a few times previously and consider them to be more than a stranger. That is when ‘Todo bien?’ would be used but not really when you meet someone for the first time.

Lastly, even with Turkish, the last language I have learned, you would say to somebody new: ‘Merhaba, Nasilsin?’ (Hello, how are you?) similarly to English or Spanish but there is no formal greeting used in the Turkish language where you would ask if everything is well right off the bat. In English, Spanish, or Turkish, it seems that the greeting to ask how someone is starts off as being very neutral in its meaning whereas with Brazilian Portuguese, it is fundamentally a different story. Out of all the languages that I have learned and studied, the greeting of ‘Tudo Bem?’ is fundamentally the most optimistic and positive out of all of them.

I have to say that it took me back at first when I arrived in Brazil how common it is and how it is customary to reply with a ‘Tudo bem!’ or ‘Tudo bom!’ in reply, usually with a smile. It is a testament to the positive and upbeat culture where even if you are having a bad day and things aren’t going well, people here try to have a happy outlook on life and to boost their spirits with a ‘Tudo bem?’ and a thumbs up. I am not a psychologist, but I can imagine seeing someone smiling and wishing you a ‘Tudo bem?’ will do wonders for your day and for your overall mood.

If you can learn any two words in Brazilian Portuguese, I would recommend that you first use ‘Tudo bem(?)’ because it is probably the most important words in the language and can both be a great question and a great answer to have under your belt as you navigate this fascinating and unique culture.

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English Corner – Definite and Indefinite Articles

When it comes to using ‘definite and indefinite articles’, this grammar concept in English is a lot easier to use and master when compared to other languages such as French, German, and Spanish. There are only four examples of definite and indefinite articles in the English language so it is pretty easy to remember them all. Most other languages tend to have more than ten unique articles, definite and indefinite, compared to the four that are commonly used in English.

On top of all that, there is only one definite article used in English, which is quite surprising considering how diverse and versatile the language is especially when it comes to structuring a sentence in different ways. While not the most interesting of grammar topics, both definite and indefinite articles are used so often that it’s necessary to master both their formation and usage in order to become a better English student.

You may be asking yourself: What exactly is an article? That’s a good question with a simple answer. Any definite and indefinite article whether it’s ‘a, an, some, the’ can be used to give information about the noun in a noun phrase. A noun phrase usually includes a noun and an adjective together with the article coming before both the noun and the adjective to form the complete basis of the sentence. I’ve listed below two examples of a noun phrase (article, adjective, and noun):

  1. The brown paper bag
  2. A golden retriever

If you so choose to use a noun phrase, remember that they can also include numbers, possessive adjectives or demonstratives such as this, that, those, these, etc. When it comes to the purposes of the definite and indefinite article in the English language, there are quite a few of importance that you should be aware of.

Definite and Indefinite Articles should:

  1. Tell us how many of a person, place, or thing that you’re dealing with. (a, an à for one, some à more than one)
  2. Tell us if the noun being referenced is a specific one or a general one.
  3. Show the reader or the audience listening that the noun is being introduced for the first time or has appeared before and is a familiar one from a story or another paragraph.

Now that we know what definite and indefinite articles are used for, let us take a look at the similarities and differences between the two types of articles.

Indefinite Articles

When it comes to indefinite articles, there are three of them total. Two of them are to be used with singular nouns and the other one is for plural and uncountable nouns. Singular nouns use the indefinite articles of ‘a’ and ‘an’ that go with the next word, which has to be singular in nature. Unlike other languages whose articles depend upon factors such as gender, spelling, and other factors, the only thing that matters for indefinite articles in this case is the numerical value of the noun being referenced.

Also, when it comes to the next word, the indefinite article ‘a’ is used with nouns that begin with a vowel sound and the other indefinite article ‘an’ is used with nouns that start with a consonant sound. Here are some examples below of ‘a’ and ‘an’ being used with nouns and adjectives to form noun phrases.

‘A’

  1. A poor man
  2. A green jacket
  3. A public beach
  4. A private university

‘An’

  1. An apple
  2. An unbelievable party
  3. An hour
  4. An ostrich

When it comes to plural nouns, there is one specific indefinite article that is to be used with the noun and/or adjective. The indefinite article in this case is ‘some.’ This indefinite article of ‘some’ can be followed by any kind of adjective, adverb, and uncountable or plural noun as long as the noun phrase can be completed successfully.

Let us take a look at some examples with the indefinite article ‘some’:

  1. Some brave men
  2. Some courteous women
  3. Some money
  4. Some black hair

There are numerous examples you could use with ‘some.’ You are not restricted with the usage of nouns as long as they are plural and uncountable in their nature.

When it comes to the reasons for using the indefinite article like ‘a, an, some’, there are two main ones:

-You are introducing a noun for the first time.

For example: A boy learns how to ride his bike.

-The specifics of the noun are not important. The noun ‘boy’ is simple and direct.

For example: Can you go to the supermarket and pick me up some milk?

-The indefinite article ‘some’ with milk doesn’t refer to any particular brand or kind of milk, just ‘some milk’ in general making it easier for the person doing the grocery shopping.

Indefinite articles are not usually supposed to be used for specifics and are much more general in their formation and usage. When it comes to definite articles, that’s a different story however.

Definite Articles

Luckily, there’s only one definite article that we need to cover in this blog post and that’s the very popular word of ‘The.’ ‘The’ is very flexible in terms of both its’ formation and usage within a sentence. You can use ‘The’ for singular, plural, and uncountable nouns making it very versatile. Both the reader and the writer should have a good understanding though of what the word ‘the’ is being used for. There are three main uses for the definite article of ‘The.’

  1. You have introduced it already in the story or paragraph. “The old man, Jerry, thought about his future, and decided that he needed to retire.”
  2. There is only one of ‘the’ object, person, or place in existence and is unique in its’ existence as well. “I visited The Roman Coliseum last summer and it was magnificent.”
  3. You have to describe which thing you are specifically talking about or referencing. “Let’s pop open The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc to celebrate your recent college graduation!”

Here are some examples of the definite article, ‘The’:

  1. The red fox
  2. The happy students
  3. The scary truth
  4. The kind doctor

When it comes to the similarities that definite and indefinite articles have in common, it is important to remember that ordinal numbers can be used with both ‘a, an, the’ under different circumstances.

Examples:

  1. A third book
  2. The second floor
  3. An eighth of an ounce

Lastly, the innate differences between definite articles and indefinite articles can be summed by the fact that a definite article like ‘The’ can be used with specific places such as rivers, monuments, cities, and countries themselves while ‘A, an’ are used with general objects, groups of people and places.

While not the most popular or well-known grammatical subject, having a good grasp on definite and indefinite articles will help you immensely to become a better English language student.

Five Steps to Making Language Gains Quickly

Modern-Foreign-Languages
“Which direction are you headed in?”

Getting better at a foreign language or achieving an advanced level of proficiency in one is not an easy task. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Regardless of which language you’re focusing on, it can months or even years to get the hang of it. Depending upon how much hard work and effort you put in, you are going to likely improve quicker and remain committed to the process of becoming bilingual or multilingual. Certain people are going to pick up language(s) quicker because they may have a natural talent for it or because they truly enjoy learning the subject and find it easy to excel in.

However, even if you’re not naturally gifted or don’t pick it up quickly, you can still get ahead and make gains in the language through a number of ways. As someone who has studied foreign languages for over half of my life and has also taught English as a Second Language for a few years now, I have a pretty good idea at what separates those students who are going to succeed in their language studies and those students who are likely to fail.

Even though, you may want to be fluently writing in Japanese or speaking to friends in Spanish, you have to put the work in even if language learning happens to come easy to you. It won’t happen overnight but the process can be sped up if you want to boost your ability to learn with a few key steps that I will highlight in the rest of this post. Take these five steps that I will flesh out to heart because it could mean the difference between you being at an advanced level in a year rather than being stuck at the intermediate stage. You don’t have to do all of my five recommend steps to make language gains quickly but it’s definitely recommended to try our at least one or two of them for your own personal benefit as a student of foreign languages.

  1. Be Consistent

While not the most noteworthy recommendation, some language learners forget to put the work in on a consistent basis. If you happen to work five hours on one day specifically on learning a language, that sounds great on paper but if you happen to neglect the six other days of the week, then you’re not really going to make any progress. This is partly why if you study a foreign language in a school or at a university, you’re going to usually have classes four or five days a week so that it stays fresh in your mind. One or two hours per night five or six days a week will go a long way for you and your learning language goals.

Being consistent and responsible in your hours of study will pay off much greater dividends than cramming all of your language studies into one night for a bunch of hours. It’s likely that your brain and memory will be so overwhelmed by all of that information if you cram it into one night that you won’t be able to remember anything you learned by the next week or month. When it comes to any academic subject including foreign languages, you should listen to wise words of a popular phrase that I remember from my high school days: “It’s better to study smart, then it is to study hard.” Don’t overwhelm yourself, stay committed to a language study schedule, and remember to take one day off instead of five or six days off to retain the vocabulary, grammar, phrases, etc. that you have been learning.

  1. Use Both Online and Offline Resources

We live in an amazing time and I would argue that it’s easier than ever to learn a foreign language if you’re willing to do your research, both online and offline. When it comes to online resources, there is almost a limitless amount of information that you can discover dealing with the study of a foreign language. Whether it’s grammar, vocabulary, listening, writing activities, etc. you’re likely to find what you need in order to study and improve if you make the effort to research carefully. In addition to that, it’s easier now than ever to do a language exchange with a native speaker through the medium of an online platform such as Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. You can also use a website like Meetup.com to find a social group to meet up, hang out, and practice your target language with if you happen to live in a big city or large town.

Beyond just online resources, you can network in person by offering to have coffee for an hour with a native speaker of the language you’re learning and if you haven’t had success with Meetup, you can enroll in language classes for a fee at either a foreign language center, community college, or at a local university of note. It’s much easier to make language gains when you live in a big city and have a good amount of money to spare for some formal classes. However, not everybody in the world has that luxury, which leads me to my next step.

  1. Invest in a Private Tutor / Teacher

As mentioned before, not everybody can live in a big city or have the ability to pay for classes at a university or a language center. However, if you can make the more affordable investment of getting a private tutor, it will save you some money and you will be able to practice directly, one-on-one with a native speaker and teacher of the target language.

Usually, a private tutor or teacher who you meet with face to face in person is going to be a bit more expensive than an online tutor. If you prefer to be physically present with your tutor to make it easier for you to learn and clarify the content that you’re absorbing, you may prefer to shell out the extra money for them to meet you at a café or to make a house call to your home and apartment.

However, if you are on a budget, don’t have access to a native speaker of the language you’re learning in your current location because you’re in a small town, don’t live near a foreign language center, etc. you should consider getting an online tutor or teacher. Even though you won’t be physically in the same room as your tutor, you’ll still be able to learn new material, go through lessons together, speak in the target language, and be able to complete homework and classwork to improve your fluency. Online tutors also tend to be less expensive as an investment when compared to real life tutors or to enroll in group classes.

You have to consider how much time you have to devote to the foreign language you’re learning and what your budget is. The cheapest and least expensive option is to have a free exchange of languages if you have a friend or colleague who wants to improve at your language in exchange for them teaching you their language. If you are particularly interested in learning a foreign language online, you should check out platforms like Verbling or Italki.

  1. Immerse Yourself (Books, Music, Movies, TV)

Another great way to boost your foreign language abilities is by seeking out opportunities outside of the classroom or textbook to brush up on your knowledge. Through a variety of media that is available both online and offline, you can spend an hour or two each day going through books, music (songs), movies, TV shows, etc. to listen and absorb the language you’re learning. For example, when you’re reading a book in a foreign language, you can highlight the words that you do not know and find out the meaning with a dictionary. You can also look up news articles online and take the time to translate the sentences and paragraphs from the foreign language into your own language.

You can immerse yourself more deeply into the culture behind the language you’re learning by being exposed to the songs and dances whose lyrics you’ll be able to study and analyze. In addition, you can pick up a lot of a language when you watch a popular TV Show, Movie, or other program. You can not only pick up a lot of a foreign language by spending some time listening to the language and interacting with it but also by observing the host culture(s), and finding out more about the individual expressions and phrases that also make this language you’re studying unique in its’ own ways.

  1. Move Overseas

To save the best and most important step for last, if you want to immerse yourself fully and take your foreign language studies to the next level, you’re going to want to move overseas for a period of time for some intense study of the language. You can watch a lot of movies, you can take a lot of classes, and you can study five or six nights out of the week, but moving to a country where they speak the language you’re learning as a fact of life will challenge your language skills and abilities as never before and put you to the test. Out of the five steps that I mentioned, this one will be the most beneficial to your language studies and also make the biggest impact on your life. I cannot recommend it enough for you as the student to go overseas for as long as you need to improve your language skills and improve as much as you can.

Even if you can only make it overseas for a cultural / language study exchange program for a month or two, you should take advantage of an opportunity like that. Also, if you happen to be in university and have the chance to study abroad for a semester or even a year, you should really do it especially if you’re committed to mastering the foreign language you’ve chosen. Foreign language learning doesn’t have to end even after you have earned your diploma.

You can continue to make trips to those countries where the language is the official one into the future. Other options include taking a gap year off from work or school to devote yourself to language study while you’re traveling around the world. If you are TEFL certified and want to learn a foreign language at the same time, you can move overseas to teach your language to students while receiving lessons from a teacher in that country as well as being immersed in the culture at the same time. There are tons of options out there so if you want to boost your language skills as much as possible, moving overseas for a long period of time could be a great chance for you.

There is no ‘magic bullet’ that will guarantee you perfect, almost native-like fluency in a foreign language. It’s a goal that takes a lifetime to master and even then you’ll still make mistakes and may retain your accent while speaking the language. Learning a foreign language is a lifetime project and is a skill that has to be consistently studied and improved upon.

It’s a common fact that the younger a person is when they start a foreign language, the better off they’ll be. If you start learning Chinese at five years old, you’ll be at a clear advantage when compared to somebody who is first starting a language at twenty years old. The younger a learner is when it comes to a foreign language, the more vocabulary and grammar they’ll be able to retain.

However, it’s important to not be discouraged about this fact even if you’re starting a foreign language in your 20’s and 30’s. With hard work and determination, you can still make a lot of progress especially if you follow these five steps. You can boost your level quicker than usual if you consider implementing these useful steps in your weekly or daily routine.

It’s also a positive that after you learn your first foreign language well, it’s likely to be easier for you when it comes to getting a high proficiency for your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th foreign language. Anything worth doing in life does not come easy so you have to decide how much the study of languages means to you personally. However, with the five steps that I have outlined in detail for you as the reader, you will be able to learn the language well, improve quickly, and reach your goals as a student to develop this crucial skill for the 21st century.

If you liked this article of mine and you are looking to improve your English language skills, please consider the option of having me as your private tutor. You can find out more information about this opportunity at https://benjweinberg.com/learn-english-with-me/. Whether it’s a lesson through Verbling, Italki, or another platform, I’d be happy to work with any English language student from around the world in their quest to achieve an advanced proficiency in my mother tongue. Good luck!

The Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

“There’s so many languages to learn and so little time to master them. What are you waiting for?”

 Learning a foreign language often gets overlooked by those people who like to travel to different countries and have fun adventures, unique experiences but refuse to learn the local tongue while they are traveling. However, A large part of truly integrating yourself into a foreign culture when living overseas is to develop a working proficiency in the local language. When you make the effort to learn the language, it truly makes a difference both to those in the new community and/or country in which you’re residing. If you consider yourself to be a worldly person who likes to travel, you must also seek to become well-versed in foreign languages.

 The locals will respect you more and you also stand out from the other tourists and expatriates who only know the basic phrases and words even though some of them have been there for a longer period of time than you. Especially in a professional context, learning foreign languages makes you stand out in many different types of businesses and industries today. I’ve met so many people from around the world during my recent experience of living overseas who are very successful and are fluent in three to four global languages including English, French, Spanish, etc. One of my personal goals in life is to be fluent in three to four languages excluding my native tongue of English.

 I’ve been pretty successful thus far in developing a good proficiency in Spanish, Turkish, and with some basic knowledge of German and Arabic. I hope to keep improving my foreign language background as I go through my 20’s. One of the best things about language learning is that it’s never too late to start and to see how far you can develop your proficiency in it. I’ve heard that it does get harder though as you become older and that it takes more and more work to learn a foreign language starting in your 30’s and beyond. Even if you don’t want to really become fluent, it makes all the difference really in just having those basic 25–50 words and phrases that you learned and memorized before you head off for your travels to new countries and foreign locales.

 There are a lot of cognitive benefits to knowing more than one language and there is a lot of research to back this statement up. (For example; Source –http://www.actfl.org/advocacy/what-the-research-shows) It helps your mind stay sharp and it allows you to see the world in a different way. It’s hard to describe but by thinking in multiple languages, it makes your mind much more agile and able to think creatively, and to analyze thoughts much more deeply.

 I think that every person should learn a foreign language even if it’s just the basic phrases and sayings. There are so many free and cheap ways to learn a foreign language these days. For example, Duolingo is an excellent web application that is free to try and use. There are also many websites nowadays where you can hire a native speaker of a foreign language to tutor you in a private lesson for an hour for only $15–20 which is quite affordable.

 The fact that foreign language learning goes neglected sometimes in the United States is a real shame. However, regardless of where you’re from, even though you may have never picked another language up when you were younger doesn’t mean it’s not still possible.(http://qz.com/453297/many-european-kids-…cans-zero/) Hopefully, everyone who reads this blog entry will think hard and long about giving foreign languages another go of it and to make it part of your personal development. It’s challenging yet rewarding and there are many benefits to it, both professionally and personally.