Every time I know I’m about to meet somebody who only speaks Portuguese I prepare myself by looking up the words that will probably be useful during that encounter. For instance when going to the grocery store I write my list in portugese so I know what to ask for and then I make sure I’ve memorised the following phrases:
“Do you have…?”, “Where is…?”, What is this…?”, “This one please”
I have no idea if it is grammatically correct or if I pronounce it right but they usually understand me. I compose these fumbly phrases by using what little experience I have of Portuguese which is:
- 20 hours of private tutoring before our transition to Brazil. My tutor was a fantastic, beautiful and very Brazilian woman from Rio. She married a swede and moved to Sweden.
- Portuguese classes here in Brazil. Every Monday morning the Swedish housewives of Araraquara (most of them) have 90 minutes of Portuguese class. The class is held at our children’s school. After class we go grab a coffee and do our homework.
- Following Portuguese instagram accounts and watching the news has helped a lot. As you can imagine the most useful word I’ve learnt from instagram is “lindo” which means beautiful and “vestido” which is dress:-)
- Watching dubbed 90s series like “Friends” is helpful because I know the lines in english by heart and can translate instantly. Listening to an old, grouchy, presumably smokers voice coming out of Joey Tribbianis mouth is torture but worth it.
- Reading children’s books in Portuguese helps a lot. It is also a great way to learn with the kids. “Os três porquinhos” is our current book. It helped me with words such as “little pig”, “door”, “wolf” and the verb “open”.
I use google translate to find single words but avoid using it to find complete phrases. It can go wrong in so many ways and it doesn’t promote learning how to build sentences.
So, today I prepared to meet the woman who is going to clean our house. I looked up words and phrases and felt prepared when she knocked on our door. As soon as I let her in all my preparation went out the “porta” (thank you three little pigs)!! I was totally tongue-tied. So annoying so I ended up having to use google translate anyway.
I have these moments of revelations when it feels like a door opens and sheds some light on certain things. After a few weeks here that door opened and shed some light on greetings and farewells. I had learned all the words back in Sweden but its not the same. It doesn’t give you the sentiment. And what if the person you are greeting doesn’t say it the same way they did in the textbook (they rarely do)? I was completely thrown and had to resort to a pathetic “que” which made me feel exactly like Manuel from Fawlty Towers. I still do, occasionally, but not regarding greetings and farewells. That door has opened and will stay open.
I am excited to find out what the next door will shed light upon.
Mom went through this when she moved to Sweden with Dad in 1981. I have never quite understood how isolated one feels when living in another country where you don’t have a second language in common like english. Vacation is one thing. You get by in the short time you are there. Trying to live and get things done day after day in the long run in a place where you can’t communicate normally is strenuous. It also pushes you to learn faster and it is a great experience.
I feel you mom! I am so impressed, proud and grateful that you went through that for us. Muah!