Steal These 6 Proven Formulas for Improving Your Portuguese Writing Today
If you have been thinking about improving your Portuguese writing, then you have come to the right place.
I don’t know what you want to achieve by writing in Portuguese. I mean, I know you want to find out how you can make it easier — and I hope I can help you do so — but I don’t know about the concrete goals.
In my case, when I was learning English writing, I did so because I needed to make money.
I was working on freelance websites at the time. No one wanted a Portuguese writer, but everyone was looking for an English writer. I figured that if I could write passably I could at least make a few bucks to pay the bills.
I managed to do so. My confidence grew. And then I decided to write this website.
And writing in another language has helped me so much. In addition to allowing me to work online and meet so many wonderful students from all over the world, it’s helped me grow as a person.
Now, when I think and speak my foreign languages, I am more considerate of the words I use. I can access expressions and idioms more easily in a conversation. And I can diversify phrase length and rhythm because I have done so in writing before.
But I’m not going to lie to you — achieving this level is not easy.
But it’s doable in time, especially when you have some clear formulas and methods to get where you want to go.
And in this short article, I’m going to introduce you to a few of the techniques that have helped me. And best of all, none of them requires more investment than your time.
Do you write longhand?
Writing longhand can be beneficial and helpful when you want to learn a foreign language, especially when you need to memorize words and commit them to long-term memory.
According to a study by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, students who take notes by hand remember more factual information than those who use a notebook.
And I’m very happy to say that most of my students have adopted taking notes by hand lately.
This might seem not very efficient, but when you factor all the times you want to retrieve a specific word or expression but can’t because you simply don’t remember right now, it’s more beneficial, it’s more time invested now so that you don’t need to invest as many hours in the future.
And how does it help with writing in Portuguese?
Well, if you remember the words you want to use, you’ll draft your text faster. And the faster you finish your first draft of anything, the sooner you can start editing it…
… which is where veritably good writing is born.
Paraphrasing is your friend.
Paraphrasing is another trick you can resort to if you want to improve your writing in Portuguese.
This is something that I have done in order to improve my writing in English. I cannot say that I write perfect prose passages, but at least I have this website to show that this strategy works.
When I practice this technique, I paraphrase mostly paragraphs of fiction. Here’s how I do it:
I first read a paragraph very slowly (something called “slow reading”; see next technique for more information on this).
I look all new words up in the dictionary. I want to make sure I understand everything.
When I am sure I can retell every single part of that specific paragraph, I list the main points in a bullet point fashion—nothing fancy, just general structure, like beginning, middle, and end.
And then, from those notes, I try to rewrite the original paragraph but using my own words.
The good thing about this is that you are actually resorting to one very good technique of language learning, which is scaffolding.
And when you scaffold, it means you create a structure so that you can reach higher levels. Of course, this is a crass simplification. There is a lot more to the theory than this. But for what we need it is more than enough.
Copy things out by hand!
Of course, you could use a computer to do that. But what’s the value of just typing something over and over? Typing becomes a mechanical activity, and soon enough you will forget everything you’ve done.
For copying to be beneficial to your writing in Portuguese, do this:
Choose a passage of a text you like. Maybe this passage is very fluent, maybe it’s funny, maybe it has lots of vocabulary you find interesting and you would like to use that. Or it might even have a funny turn of phrase that you would like to integrate into your writing.
So after you have chosen a specific passage to copy, copy it. It’s simple as that. You can copy one, two, three times, or even more.
As a matter of principle, I copy only twice. The first time I copy and read at the same time. And this technique is what people call “slow reading”.
Slow reading is the opposite of speed reading. It’s when you read each word deliberately and you want to savor the whole text part by part. It helps you understand better, and understanding is key to writing well.
When I’m done copying a text, I put it away and forget about it. I don’t need to check it again because now I need to go to the next text.
Be part of an online community like Reddit.
Participate in online forums and social media pages.
When you participate in social media pages and online forums, you need to understand what other people are writing you have to make sense.
The good thing is that most of the time people don’t care about good grammar on social media, they just want to communicate.
But what should you write about?
First, start by looking for pages and communities that talk about things you understand well or are deeply interested in.
When you work around your interests, it’s easier to write. You can worry less about understanding.
Then, chime in. Start reacting. Look for a post that resonates with you and leave your opinion. And be social – comment on other people’s answers. Don’t just “leave a like.” Comment.
You can even comment on our own Facebook pages (or even join our Portuguese Insiders Group!).
Pen pals… do you remember them?
When I was younger, I corresponded with a woman from Greece. She was my pen pal. I would write short postcards and she would reply to them with her own postcards.
I have learned a little bit about Thelassoniki and some Greek traditions, And she had the chance to write in Portuguese to me. We mostly shared things about our culture. And that worked wonders.
But then I moved and her postcards went somewhere else, and I don’t remember where she lived, and I didn’t have her address and we lost touch…
But now we have the Internet. And you are in luck. Because there are so many people from Brazil who want to speak and write in English. If you know someone personally, you can set up a partnership with them. It’s a different kind of language interchange.
If you don’t know what language interchange is, it’s when people agree to meet at a certain time and speak for an amount of time — half of the time in one language, half of the time in another language.
The problem with language interchange like this is that life happens. Something comes up and nobody can show up.
But let’s say you have a Brazilian friend. And both of you agree to exchange weekly emails. You have a deadline, but you don’t have a specific time to meet at. Now it’s easier.
And as part of the agreement, you will correct what she writes in English. And she will correct your Portuguese.
It’s a win, win situation and it’s something I’ve done in the past as well. And it can improve your writing in Portuguese so fast.
A last technique I suggest you try your hand at is translation.
Some people will say that translation should be avoided at all costs. Humbug. There are studies backing up the practice of translation in language learning.
And I am actually a certified translator by one of the most traditional translation schools in Brazil and I am qualified to translate literary texts.
“So what?” you say.
Well, it doesn’t matter much, but in the translation course, I learned some techniques to analyze texts and how to improve my writing by doing so.
And the good thing about translating is that you get to see how people express the same thoughts, but with different words in different languages.
For example, you might say something like “don’t let me down”, whereas in Portuguese you would say something like “não me deixe na mão”.
It’s the same concept behind it — disappointment — but the imagery is different.
Now, if you want to practice translation and don’t really have anything to practice with — and you don’t want to enroll in a course — here is what I suggest:
Get the original version of a text and its translation into Portuguese. Then select a short passage of it. Just a very short passage, maybe one line, maybe three lines even, but not much longer than that. You don’t want to become a professional translator.
(If you want to become a professional translator, then you should look for a course. There are many good ones in Brazil.)
When you have both texts, choose a short passage from the original and translate it into Portuguese. Translate it as best as you can. Look up the words in the dictionary, look for translations online, different versions of the same expression, dictionary of synonyms… Use everything you have.
After you finish, compare your translation against the “official” translation, so to speak. And then you’ll see how a native translator has rendered a specific sentence or expression. Finally, you can add that to your vocabulary bank and also to your writing repertoire.
A good writer is a good reader.
Above all else, read a lot in Portuguese. If you read it’s easier to get familiarized with accent usage, vocabulary usage, conjunctions, and everything that makes writing elegantly in Portuguese easier.
What are you going to write about? Tell us in the comment section below. But do that in Portuguese!