Jelly donuts aside, Kennedy didn't fool anyone.Here's what Steve thinks of Benny's plan:
Sounding like a native and amassing enough vocab to pass a difficult exam is impossible IMHO. Senseless hype.I can confidently state that this is not impossible; I myself did with Portuguese exactly what Benny is trying to do with German. (And that's not even getting into wunderkinds like Daniel Tammet.) That said, I'm doubtful that Benny can pull this off in Berlin because there are some very important differences between his situation in Germany and mine in Brazil that will make it a harder task for him to accomplish than it was for me.
The tourist visa I got to go to Brazil was for exactly 90 days, and I stayed for the entire 90 days. I had never formally studied any Portuguese before arriving in Brazil, and in fact the only thing close to studying I had done at that point was reading some parts of a Portuguese grammar book more than a year before arriving in Brazil. And that book was for the Portuguese of Portugal, so it had a number of things that were useless for me in Brazil.
On the other hand, my Spanish was pretty good. I had studied Spanish throughout middle school and high school, and had previously spent a month in Mexico studying it more. Spanish is of course not Portuguese, but they are so close that the benefit of knowing one when studying the other shouldn't be downplayed; knowing Spanish was without a doubt a massive help in learning Portuguese.
On top of that, I had a great learning environment. I was living with a large Brazilian host family and there was almost always someone around to talk with. I also had a Brazilian girlfriend with whom I was constantly speaking. I didn't need to do anything but study Portuguese, so except for the occasional emails in other languages to my friends abroad (which was further limited by the hassle of a dial-up connection I had to use), it was all Portuguese all the time for me.
In terms of what I was doing to learn Portuguese, the first two weeks or so I focused on getting an understanding of the grammar. Then I moved onto exposure: music, comics (Spawn, in particular), books (a history of the Roman Empire was one I spent a lot of time on, but there were a number of others as well), television (which was always on when I was doing anything else), etc.
Naturally, I spent a lot of time getting the vocab down. I still have my digital Portuguese flashcards as they were when I left Brazil. The flashcards contained some 4,000 vocabulary words and phrases. Add to those a few thousand words that never made it to flashcards (because they were so much like English or Spanish that there was no need to do anything to memorize them, or that I just managed to pick up elsewhere) or that got deleted from the set once I knew them, and I'd estimate that I had at least 6,000 to 7,000 words in my head to some degree when I left Brazil.
Using Benny' standard for fluency—fooling native speakers for at least 30 seconds that you are a native speaker yourself and passing a really hard test—I seemed to have been fluent in Portuguese after my three months there.
When I was leaving Brazil, I managed to fool the lady at the airport check-in that I was Brazilian. I can't recall if it was precisely 30 seconds, but I'd venture that it was. I remember that I had said a few things to her, including something about having already weighed my bags and that they shouldn't be overweight, before giving her my passport. Once I gave it to her, she said, "You're not Brazilian?" When I told her I was there studying Portuguese, she was shocked to find out I had only been there for three months. I'm guessing somewhere in the course of our conversation I eventually said something non-Brazilian sounding, but, based on her reaction to my passport, I do think I had her fooled at the beginning.
Regarding the test, I came back from Brazil and took my university's Portuguese placement exam. I got placed out of all the language-learning classes and straight into the literature classes (i.e., the ones where you might be sitting next to a native Brazilian). I think that my experience shows that three months can prepare you quite well for difficult tests.
However, I'm doubtful that Benny will be able to pull it off. If you compare my situation in Brazil to Benny's situation in Germany, there are a number of things that gave me a big advantage. First, my Spanish abilities made Portuguese so (so, so, so) much easier. Benny doesn't have anything comparable with respect to German. Second, the only thing I was doing was learning or using Portuguese, whereas Benny is working (presumably not in German) and blogging in English, and that is likely eating up a big chunk of his time. Third, my guess is that the test that Benny wants to take is a heckuva lot harder than the test I took, so I'm not so sure that he'll be able to pass it as easily as I was able to pass the one I took.
Indeed, the only advantage that Benny has over me is that he's studied some German previously, but, based on what Benny himself as said, that recollection is faint at best, although it will nevertheless provide some familiarity.
So while I'd love to see Benny do exactly what he's going for, if I were a gambling man, I'd definitely be betting against him pulling it off.