|Slide from my recent talk at the Buenos Aires University Facultad de Derecho|
It all started two weeks ago when I attended an all-day course on Portugal's firearm and other weapon laws in Portalegre. Seven and a half solid hours of lecture left me utterly fatigued at the end of the day, but it was an interesting one in which I had a lot of aha! moments as I saw a lot of concepts presented in Portuguese which I knew well in German and English. Most of the time I looked up words I saw in the slides or in the course textbook prepared by the PSP and made pencil notes on vocabulary in my book.
Twelve days afterward I was scheduled to take a written text, and in the unlikely event that I passed it, I was supposed to be subject to a practical examination on the safe use of hunting firearms are related matters.
Years ago when I studied for a hunting license in Germany I had hundreds of hours of theoretical and practical instruction in a nine-month course concurrent with a one-year understudy with an experienced hunter. Participants in a German hunting course typically read dozens of supplemental books and study thousands of sample questions for the exam.
The pickings are a little slimmer in Portugal.
There are no study guides in Portuguese or any other language which help to prepare for the weapons tests that I am aware of except the slim book prepared by the police.
There are, however, a number of online forums where people talk about their experiences in the required courses and on the tests. Sometimes there are sample questions reproduced with varying degrees of accuracy, and there is a lot of talk about things which people found particularly challenging.
So I copied and pasted these discussions into text files and loaded them into a memoQ project for Portuguese to English translation. The corpus was not particularly large (about 4000 words altogether), so the number of candidates found in a statistical survey was limited, but still useful to someone with my limited vocabulary. I then proceeded to translate about half of the corpus into English, manually selecting less frequent but quite important terms and making notes on perplexing bits of grammar or tricks hidden in the question examples.
|A glossary in progress as I study for my Portuguese weapons license|
Other resources on the subject are scarce; I did find a World War II vintage military dictionary for Portuguese and English which can easily be made into a searchable PDF using ABBYY Finereader or other tools but not much else.
Any CAT tool would have worked equally well for my learning objectives - the free tools AntConc and OmegaT are in no way inferior to what memoQ offered me.
On the day of the test, I was allowed to bring a Portuguese-to-English dictionary and a printout of my personal glossary. However, the translation work that I did in the course of building the glossary had imprinted the relevant vocabulary rather well on my mind, so I hardly consulted either. I was tired (having hardly slept the night before) and nervous (so that I mixed up the renewal intervals for driver's licenses and hunting licenses), and I just didn't have the stamina to pick apart some particularly long, obtuse sentences), but in the end I passed with a score of 90% correct. That wouldn't win me any kudos with a translation customer, but it allowed me to go on to the next phase.
|Practical shooting test at the police firing range|
The use of the same professional tools and techniques that I rely on for my daily work proved far better than expected as learning aids for my examination and in a much greater scope than I expected. I am confident that a similar application could be helpful in other areas where I am not very competent in my understanding and active use of Portuguese.
If it works for me, it is reasonable to assume that others who must cope with challenges of a test or interactions of some kind in a foreign language might also benefit from learning with a translator's working tools.