February 22, 2010

Expand your Portuguese through reading and music: A great book for advanced speakers

I am always on the look out for books for my advanced students that are interesting so that they can practice their reading. The only thing is that some books that I love and some of the classics can be very difficult to read for foreign language speakers and they end up giving up!* During my last trip to Brazil I found a great book for advanced learners called "Noites Tropicais", by the music journalist Nelson Motta.

The language in the book is really natural (more similar to spoken language than many books I find). As well as looking out for the abscence of language features that are mostly formal and looking for informal language while reading it (like "pulando feito pipoca"), I test drove the book by giving it to my husband (an advanced speaker) who could read it without too much trouble and really liked it!

The story is super-interesting if you like Brazilian music. The book tells the story of Brazilian music from João Gilberto until the 1990's, from a very personal perspective (the author was right in the middle of the music scene the whole time and was good friends with a lot of the musicians). Because of that, it mentions the story behind of a lot of the songs that we know and love. So you can spice up your reading by pausing to listen and have a good look at some of the songs mentioned in the book (learning through music can be very nice and break up your routine). [I have set up a Pandora station (free!) with songs *mostly* by the composers mentioned in the book. To access, click here (login required) or go to "create station" and start typing "Noites Tropicais", it should find the station and suggest it to you as you type it.]

You can see a good summary from the publisher here and a nice review here. These are in Portuguese, so if you can understand the gist of these articles well, you are in a great position to read the book... If you can't understand most of the summary and review, keep practicing (and following the blog :-)) and try again later.

As of right now, you can get the book from Amazon or you can get it through Atlântico Books, a boutique book importer which specializes on Portuguese books. There is also companion CD (or you can listen to the Pandora station, which is free :-)).

*I think is a great goal to be able to read the stuff with more complicated language (and worth it!), but I definitely don't think your first Portuguese book should be one of those (just like I don't think English learners should start by reading Shakespeare!). I recommend reading books with more current/ natural language first and then moving on to harder stuff later... even if your Portuguese is really good!

** This post is for my lovely student of the month, Thomas, who is going to read the book with me!


  1. My first portuguese book was and is Dom Casmurro and my god is it difficult for a beginner. I've been making my way through it for the last 6 months but i think your advice to start with current language is a much better idea!


  2. Oi Charles,

    Thanks for stopping by! You are a brave man starting with Dom Casmurro! I hope you are enjoying it! The Nelson Motta Book is much easier to read. One of my students is reading it now and he is having a much easier time with this than some other texts we had tackled together. Best of luck with your learning!


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