Be a Brazilian Vanilla Ice (Or How Sing Your Way to Portuguese Fluency)

December 13, 2010

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Music is everywhere. On the radio when you wake, in the car when driving (or in headphones when biking), in the streets, restaurants, supermarkets, bars, and elevators of your everyday.

You’ve passively learned an obscene amount of crappy pop lyrics during your existence in, say, area code ______ of zip code ______. In other words, you can thank being born in the right place at the right time for the fact you can rap Ice Ice Baby in your sleep.

In another life perhaps your weekend soundtrack would be the Indian pop sensation Daler Mehndi. (We’ll leave the Vanilla Ice Vs. Mehndi debate for the comment section).

Here’s my point: to learn Brazilian Portuguese outside of Brazil you need to constantly expose yourself to Brazilian music, much the same way you’ve done with your native language since the day you were born.

If today you began a Brazilian music only regimen, in no time you’d dramatically increase your Brazilian cultural knowledge (by learning about different artists), increase your vocabulary (by absorbing the lyrics within the songs’ context), and connect Portuguese learning to a personal passion (music or dance).

Irish Polyglot Benny Lewis agrees these are all steps in the right direction. However, there’s a more effective way to learn Brazilian Portuguese….


Singing in another language is the best way to memorize vocabulary and improve pronunciation.

Some language gurus recommend singing lullabies or children songs since they’re simple for newbies. Though I admit I had a Christina Aguilera phase when learning Spanish, I don’t recommend the dumbed-down music approach because the goal is not to talk like a three-year-old (or a female teen pop star). The goal is to communicate your ideas with Portuguese speakers.

There are no magic songs for language learning. It’s more important to listen to music you like, music you relate to, music you’re passionate about, music that moves you. In Portuguese. And sing along!

Pause, rewind, play. Repeat as many times as necessary to hit that high note or understand that obscure Carioca street slang. Your Portuguese will thank you.

TIP: Use Rolling Stone’s Brazilian Top 100 Albums list or Amazon’s Listmania feature to discover interesting Brazilian bands. Listen to them online for free on Grooveshark or

DISCUSSION: What kind of music in Brazilian Portuguese do you listen to? What are your favorite sing-along Brazilian bands?

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