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Language for living here

By SUZY TURNER [email protected]

Practical Portuguese is the perfect handbook for anyone looking to learn the basics of the Portuguese language.

Let’s face it – learning to speak basic Portuguese is not the easiest of tasks, especially when most guidebooks focus on how to book a hotel room with a shower or how to order a hot bowl of soup.

Of course, these will always come in useful but when you are trying to run a household, it’s how to ask for an electrical supply or buy an elbow for plumbing that you are more likely to need.

This is where Sheila Watts’ books, Practical Portuguese and Progress with Portuguese, can be of enormous help.

Written in an easy manner, using simple grammar and practical assignments, Sheila wanted to help people get by comfortably in Portugal.

“After all, it was largely our cleaning ladies that taught me what I needed to know,” says Sheila, who, with her husband, moved to Portugal in 1987 and set up a property management and administration business.

“We had no choice but to learn Portuguese and to learn Portuguese fast,” she said. “It was the kind of things that we couldn’t find in most phrase books that we found we really needed, like plumbing terms.”

In 2002, the couple completely retired so they were free of commitments, something that allowed Sheila to get back to what she loved doing – teaching.

Having been a language teacher in the UK, she was easily able to get back into it. Her first ‘victim’ as she calls him, was a retired Englishman eager to learn the language.

“He was my guinea pig, if you like,” says Sheila.

He had tried many options – classic grammar and phrase books but nothing had really worked. Sheila’s assistance paid off, leading her to put together useful ways of expression.

“I had not set out to write a book but it just developed and came naturally,” she says.

By 2003, the chapters were ready and the first book, Practical Portuguese was launched at the BLiP exhibition. With such a niche in the market and the book being aimed at people living here, it was a huge success. “The book is quite unashamedly for Brits, especially for those who have retired here and haven’t learned a language since school-days. If you don’t use it, then you lose it,” she said.

Progress with Portuguese is Sheila’s second book, which focuses on the more advanced language for those who want to learn to speak a bit more. “It is very much based on Practical Portuguese, and follows on in the light hearted and chatty way of the first book. There is more on medical matters here, for example, which is imperative for anyone living in the Algarve,” adds Sheila.

“Residents here really ought to at least try to speak some Portuguese. If we at least have a try, it can make such a difference,” she says.

Practical Portuguese is also available in CD format.