While I am on my Public Service Announcements kick in the blog and I’m sitting in the laudrymat in Lisbon waiting for my clothes, I might as well take advantage of this time. I’d like to give a shout out to a smartphone app and website known as Verbling. Suppose you want to travel to a country where you do not speak the language or you always thought you’d like to learn a new language. It’s my firm belief that if you travel to a place you should at least try to learn some words in a language to be nice. There is a TED talk that says that it’s fairly easy to learn a language in 6 months by learning 500 words in the new language. I got up to about 350 words before I got to Portugal, but I had only studied for 3 months. The reason I had only had 3 months was because, I had no idea I was going to a Portuguese speaking country before then. I had gotten in on an outstanding Travelzoo trip that I could not pass up. After booking the trip, I went to Barnes and Nobles and got 2 books on how to learn Portuguese and then looked up all the You Tube videos on the subject. The problem with all of this and interestingly is that they teach Brazilian Portuguese and not Portuguese Portuguese. Even Rosetta Stone only has Brazilian Portuguese. What Verbling does for you is pair you up with real live Teachers from the actual country you would like to learn the language from. I thought this was great! They are trained and know how to present the language. They also know that they have to reinforce the language by repeating what you said the correct way. Being someone that had low confidence in my language learning abilities. This goes back to a traumatic experience I had as a Sophmore in highschool. In my Spanish class I was having trouble rolling an R. I could not get it. My teacher Mrs. Brown had me stand up in front of the class and forced me to try and roll Rs. It was a nightmare. Most of the class was snickering at me and the few empathic ones that took pity on me had to look away because it was incredibly awkward, they were embarrassed for me. As my nervousness increased with each new attempt being worse than the last one, my confidence plummeted while the amusement level for the class was increasing exponentially. Well after the 6 or 7 attempts, the kids were actually now laughing out loud. My frustration level increasing, I started crying. Which sent everyone else in the class into fits of laughter. Do you know that bitch of a Spanish teacher still made me continue to stand up there, practicing rolling Rs while she conducted the rest of the class. True story. South Catholic High School 1978, Mrs. Brown Spanish class. To this day I still can’t roll an r the right way, sometimes I get close which actually surprises me. As you can imagine, I am now completely traumatized about learning languages. I had low confidence about my ability to learn languages. Luckily for me, all of my international travel until then were primarily in English speaking countries, like England, Burmuda, many western Caribbean Islands and places where most people all spoke very good English like the Netherlands (they speak better English then most Americans) and I think the Netherlands are a good gateway country if you want to go to Europe and not have to deal with communication issues and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is another great place where most people speak some English. As it turns out Portugal is another country where many people speak English. So even though I learned enough Portuguese to get by painfully and I had grande dreams and was hoping to get fluent in the language, it is not to be. Every time I say in my best Portuguese ‘EU sou praticar um Portuguese.’ People just start speaking in English to save me from embarrassing myself. 🙂 I am though forever thankful to Christina my Verbling teacher for bearing with me and my issues with irregular verbs. At any rate it was a fun process and I think I might continue to learn the language because I’ve pretty sure I’m coming back. 🙂
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Margaret Webster

What happens when an upbeat, sociable, single, empty nester in midlife, outdoor enthusiast, critter gal, science geek, history buff, treasure hunter with an addiction to brown signs and the wanderlust, embarks on a 4 month road trip in her Chevy pickup truck, loaded with a tent, kayak, bicycle, 5 changes of clothes, her laptop, and cell phone, by herself, that essentially turned into a fulltime lifestyle?
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