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Review: Carla’s Babies by Portuguese with Carla

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Carla’s Babies is an online Portuguese course offered by Carla Sabala, of Portuguese With Carla, and her husband, Marlon. Each lesson begins with a scene, and then there are quizzes, listening exercises, pronunciation training exercises, and explanations of the vocabulary and phrases.

The content is entertaining and enjoyable, but it also goes into a lot of depth at the same time. It mixes colloquial expressions into each of the stories, and tries to avoid focusing too much on grammar. 

More information about the course is available on portuguesewithcarla.com

Who’s it for?

It’s difficult to work out who this course is aimed at, but it’s probably somewhere between “not an absolute beginner” and “lower intermediate”.

Absolute beginners can sign up, of course, but it will be a bit of a challenge. To advance to the next level, you’ll often need to complete a quiz where you fill in the missing words. This means that you not only have to know what’s being said, but also you need to be able to spell the words which will probably be the trickiest bit. 

carlas babies vocab quiz

If you’re happy to throw yourself in at the deep end, go for it. There is a transcript (in Portuguese) of each video if you get stuck, and you can try each lesson several times. This course most likely won’t be enough to replace a beginner’s Portuguese course, but it’ll definitely be a good addition. Some of the explanation videos are in Portuguese but don’t worry: the videos are also subtitled in Portuguese and English. 

Carla and Marlon have also created some lessons which are aimed at complete beginners so, if you are a complete beginner, start with these and the audio lessons. There are also a number of free Portuguese resources on portuguesewithcarla.com that are worth working your way through. 

Generally though, most people will want to have a basic understanding of Portuguese. You don’t need to know a huge amount, but having the very basics will mean you’re less likely to feel too overwhelmed.

Features of Carla’s Babies

  • Scenes in Portuguese with a transcription of the dialogue.
  • Explanation of the scene, the dialogue, and the phrases used.
  • Listening exercises & quizzes.
  • Pronunciation exercises.
  • Memrise lessons that contain all the vocab from the lesson.
  • Bonuses like lists of useful Portuguese expressions or vocabulary.

Any course that contains audio and a transcript is always valuable. You can use it to improve your listening skills, but also to practice dictation (where you try and write what’s being said, and then check it against the transcript).

The scenes are interesting and entertaining, and feel a lot more “real” than the dry dialogues you normally find in a traditional Portuguese textbook. There’s also a big focus on pronunciation, which is something that a lot of other courses don’t spend a lot of time on.

Having the Memrise tie-in is also a big help. Retention is such an important part of learning a new language, but most language learners end up having to make their own flashcards. As these are already done, it can be a big time-saver.

Although the actual scene is only around 2 minutes long, the lessons are densely packed with lots of exercises and games. It can take a while to get through each lesson, and that’s not including the retention phase where you go over all of the new vocabulary that you’ve learned.

Other thoughts

Carla and Marlon are both very comfortable in front of the camera, and clearly a lot of thought goes into each lesson. The explanation videos are very chatty or “podcasty”, which does mean that the lessons can be long, and this may not appeal to everyone.

At launch, there were 13 videos and there’s normally a new video every two weeks or so. You’ll need to pass each lesson to move onto the next, and there’s actually a gap of a few days between completing one lesson and the next one coming available. This is the retention phase, where you’re supposed to memorise everything that you learnt in the previous lesson, but don’t worry: it’s not all homework. Normally, during each gap, you get an e-mail with bonus quizzes, vocab, or colloquial phrases. 

But, basically, you can’t really binge the lessons like it’s a Netflix show. If you did binge, you could probably get through them all in a little over a month and then you could expect around 2 new lessons each month. Costs vary depending on whether you go for a monthly or annual subscription, but a subscription costs somewhere around €10 per month (or around €5 per lesson, not factoring in all the bonus material).

As mentioned, it’s not enough to learn Portuguese on its own but is a good addition to another course. There are only a limited number of resources for learning European Portuguese, especially fun ones, and this is a good tool to have in your language learning belt.

Last updated in January 2019.
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