The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

Portrait: Clara from Munich learns Portuguese for love

Posted on April 23, 2015 by

portrait
New from our Babbel User Portraits Series – we present snippets from the lives of our users and their reasons for learning a language. If you’d like to share your story with us, please leave a comment below. This time, we’re learning about 21-year-old Clara from Munich, who has perhaps the most beautiful reason to learn Portuguese – out of love for her Brazilian husband Gabriel.

“In Summer 2013, I took a volunteer position as a tutor in our university’s summer school program. Through the program, I met many wonderful people from many different countries and kept in touch with a few of them. One of these people was a participant from Chicago who came back to Germany at the end of November for his master’s program. He invited me out for coffee with some of his friends – I would never have imagined that this meeting would completely turn my life upside down!
One of these friends was Gabriel, and I was fascinated by him from the moment I saw him. We got to talking (at this point we spoke English to each other) and he told me that he came from Brazil, and that he was doing his exchange semester in Germany and really wanted to improve his German. I suggested that we meet up in order to speak German and practice the language together, so we exchanged numbers.
That very same evening, we started speaking (in a crazy mashup of German and English) and agreed to meet the next day for our first “lesson”. During the lesson, Gabriel spoke for four hours about God and the world. I understood maybe half of what he said, since his German wasn’t so good then. But that wasn’t important to me at all because I wasn’t really paying attention to the conversation anyway. All I could do was look at him. Since that day, we’ve been inseparable.
Everything moved really fast from that point: on our one-year anniversary, he proposed to me in Amsterdam! On February 20, 2015, we were married in a civil service – saying yes was the best decision of my life!
Our wedding was beautiful! Unfortunately, his family couldn’t be there because everything was arranged at such short notice. Still, it was a great day. Some of his Brazilian friends living in Munich celebrated with us, their presence alone providing some Brazilian flair. My brother and I had baby pictures and photos from his childhood sent to us in advance and some members of his family recorded videos with congratulations and personal greetings. We edited them all together into one video and surprised Gabriel with it. We filmed the entire wedding ceremony for his family in Brazil – his mother cried tears of joy. As a wedding breakfast, we had a traditional feijoada (a stew made from beans, pork or beef, and lots of other ingredients) that Gabriel prepared with his friends. So a bit of Brazil was with us from the culinary side as well.
For a long time, we spoke primarily in English to each other because it was hard to hold conversations in German. As his German continued to improve, we still spoke English because we’d simply gotten used to it. Since our wedding though, it’s as if a switch flipped – we now speak almost exclusively German. It’s the best way for Gabriel to practice and I’m so proud that he’s improving so much.
I’m still at the beginning with my Portuguese. And without Gabriel, I’d have never even have started learning. English had been my only foreign language, having lived in the United States for a year. I’d also be interested in learning French or Spanish, but I’m moving those to the bottom of my list for now. Learning Portuguese takes absolute priority for me.
I started learning Portuguese around five months ago, and although I can’t have a real conversation just yet, I’ve made it my goal to master a little small talk to be able to speak with his family and friends by the time we take our first trip to Rio in July of this year. His mother has been taking English lessons for six months in order to communicate better with me, and she’s really motivated. Our conversations now only consist of emoticons and bad internet translations!
Up to this point, I’ve been learning exclusively with Babbel. But to get a feel for a language, I really need to be immersed in it. It was the same for me for English. I only really learned it during my stay in the U.S., even though I had English in school for seven years. So I have very high hopes for our two-month stay in Rio this summer – you learn so much faster and more easily in a country in which the language is spoken.
Since Gabriel can’t speak to me in his mother tongue, there are still small misunderstandings here and there. But when you’re aware of that, you can usually avoid fights quite well. And Gabriel loves it when I say something in Portuguese. Of course he laughs sometimes when it sounds strange, but he’s proud of me when I surprise him with an “obrigada” instead of a “danke”.
I’ve never felt forced to learn Portuguese – the motivation came from me first. It’s important to me to be able to speak to Gabriel and his family in their mother tongue. Besides that, we plan to raise our children to be bilingual, and I think it would be difficult if I couldn’t speak any Portuguese. Ultimately, I want to know what they’re talking and laughing about!”