Or actually your d’s, t’s, e’s, ….

Now that I have been in Brazil for a little more than a month, I felt that it was time to write a bit ab0ut the Portuguese language, more precisely about Brazilian Portuguese.

I figured that it would be a little bit easier for me to learn Portuguese as an adult than it would be for some others since I am already an intermediate French speaker, which I also learned as an adult. Thus the part of my brain that is used to learn languages, the part that shuts off if we don’t exercise it by the time we are in the middle years of grade school, has been turned back on. It may not have the capacity to process a full stream of information but at least there is a trickle of activity.

In some ways I was right, and I will get to a bit more on that later, yet the lack of time ahead of the trip and the lack of time once I have been here to really study the language has been the biggest hindrance. I really feel badly that I was unable to at least learn a basic travel vocabulary before I arrived, as I really feel much more comfortable in a location if I can communicate at least somewhat in the native tongue. And I feel that I am being disrespectful of the place I am visiting to have not found the time to do this beforehand. Note to self, I must remember that in about a month I will be in Greece, another location with another language that I don’t know, so I must learn some basics before I fly there.

That said, I am making some very slow progress in building a minimal vocabulary. And I am basically able to communicate to navigate around with my minimal set of words and lots of pantomiming and pointing.

What I didn’t expect was to find as many similarities between French and Portuguese as I have found. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since they are both romance languages. And I had seen a number of similar words during the little bit of investigating I did before leaving the U.S. For example, the numbers 11 (onze), 14 (quatorze), and 15 (quinze) are spelled exactly the same and 12 (douze – doze), 13 (treize – treze), and 20 (vingt – vinte) are similar.

Of course, the similarities end with the spellings. The pronunciations are as different as those between English and Portuguese. Some of the things that I struggle with daily are

  • “d” is sort of pronounced ch, I think it is really more dch and find that quite hard, for example
    • bom dia (good morning/day) pretty much sounds like “bom chia” with the m sort of swallowed as many ending French consonants
    • Lucas de Oliveira (the name of the street where I live) pretty much sounds like Luca(s) ch’Olivera or Luca(s) ch’wallivera
  • “t” seems to pretty much be similar to “d” in that it becomes a “ch” (at least when it is in the middle of a word), for example
    • continuar (which actually means what you think it does) comes out as con-chin-u-eh
    • vinte comes out as vahnch
  • “e” at the end of a word is pronounced, sort of like the vowel of “le” in Alleluia when singing, for example
    • onze is basically onz-eh
    • quinze is basically kin-zeh

I have less trouble understanding the locals when they use Portuguese pronunciations for English words

  • they almost always pronounce the “ed” at the end of the word, for example
    • worked becomes wor-ked
    • helped becomes hel-ped
  • they also pronounce t as “ch” in English words, for example, when folks were flying to San Francisco for the project they talked about their connection in Char-loache (Charlotte)

Related to this is an observation that a few of us were discussing over the weekend.  It seems as if we have a much easier time understanding English spoken with Portuguese “mistakes”, or for that matter any other accent that someone visiting the U.S. has, than folks here have understanding our incorrect Portuguese.  Likely this is because we have been exposed to more people attempting to speak English that the Brazilians have been exposed to people attempting to speak Portuguese. And that also likely extends to when I massacre French in France yet they usually understand what I am saying.

Of course that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when trying to get home after work and the cab driver just doesn’t seem to recognize the street name, and if they do eventually recognize it they seem to pronounce it differently than the driver the night before did, and the driver the night before that…. Thankfully the hotel where we stay is named Bela Vista and this is pronounced pretty much as one expects and even if the hotel itself is not that known the whole area near there seems to be known as Bela Vista. And if that doesn’t work, there is another hotel a few doors down, The Blue Tree – can you guess how to pronounce that – that just about every cab driver seems to know.  The only trick with using that is getting them to stop a few doors early with lots of pointing and a few “las” and “aquis”.

Another somewhat bizarre thing that I have noticed is that I often find myself slipping into French instead of English when I am trying to use Portuguese.  For example I’ll say oui instead of sim, or through in a d’accord every so often. When talking to some co-workers I discovered that this isn’t all that strange, and it relates to my thoughts above about having reawaken a part of my brain. It turns out that once you learned a second language as an adult, when studying the third and subsequent ones you are indeed using a different part of the brain than when speaking a language you learned when you are young. And while you are exercising that part of the brain to learn the third language, it is much easier for it to jump in with words from your second language than for the other part to jump in with words from your native tongue.

In addition to thinking about languages, and actually spending some time trying to learn some new Portuguese as well as practice my French, I did do a few things of interest over this past weekend.

Friday night most of us from the States as well as two folk from the Brazil office went out to dinner to try one of the restaurants we had noticed the week before and wanted to check out. It turned out that we stumbled upon an excellent pizza place that featured Uruguayan beer (which I didn’t really take to as it was quite light) and a traditional Uruguayan sauce on the pizza which tasted just fine though I can’t say that I noticed anything distinct about it. I had a four cheese pizza, complete with gorgonzola, ymm, and eventually ordered a bottle of wine to share which was quite nice.

I basically laid low on Saturday, though I did get to both the grocery store and the mall where I bought a few cap sleeve T’s to wear under jackets and sweaters as well as two new dresses and some much needed new tights. I also spent some time browsing in the music section of the book store where I made some purchases of some local tracks as I like to do when I travel to new places. I don’t know if the stuff that I bought is at all popular. It seemed like a good mix and I enjoyed what I heard at the listening stations in the store. After I listen to the whole CDs I’ll let you know more about what I actually bought.

Saturday night Sarah and I finally went to see “Alice” in 3D. It was good, not as good as “Avatar” and it was nice to hear English for length of the movie. Though there was a moment after we paid and entered the complex that we thought we had accidently wound up at the dubbed showing instead of the sub-titled one. We both breathed a sigh of relief when the movie finally started and the first, and remaining for that matter, words were in English.

On Sunday I wrestled with the washers again, this time however I got there early enough to get the better one and to have a dryer available once my clothes were washed.

Finally it was time to play tourist again and I headed out on a city tour with 2 local co-workers, Barbara and Caio and Caio’s girlfriend. Mostly I got some ideas of some places that I would like to go back to since the bus didn’t really slow down to make it easy to take photos, and only stopped for about a minute at the cathedral.

One of the first places we passed was the planetarium, which I want to check out and see if it is worth going to a program at.

Throughout the tour we passed a number of colorful buildings, many or which the color is due to the fact that the exterior is covered with mosaic like tiles, less patterns than a mosaic piece of art, yet tiled none-the-less.

There were also some interesting window treatments. Shutters are on just about every building here a and provide many interesting photo ops. The one below is unusual as they are usually closed. For instance there are the large metal vertical shutters on my hotel room windows, and just about every day I open them to get the light into the room in the morning, and just about every night when I come back the person cleaning has shut them. Sometimes I open them again at night to not feel so boxed in.

In addition we drove passed some sculptures and statues,

the oldest street, a fruit market, a mural,

a juxtaposition of old and new, a gutted building,a cool structure next to the fire station

and, the BBQ store (I might have to use that extra baggage allowance I get after all to take some of this fine outdoor cookware home).

The weather for the tour was a bit cooler than other days (it was about 15) and quite a bit cooler than the day before where it was an absolutely gorgeous 27. Of course even when it was 27 many people were walking around not only in long sleeves, but in multiple layers of long sleeves and/or with coats. Thankfully the weekend was nice, as starting Monday evening it has been raining pretty much non-stop and yesterday this was accompanied by some howling wind that was driving the rain against (and in some cases through) the windows. I guess it is a sign that fall is really in full swing – although despite the weather and the lack of long hours of daylight it is hard for my to comprehend that it isn’t spring.

The rainy weather meant that when we had another BBQ, like the one the first week that I was here, we spent the whole time inside the kitchen and cooking pit area rather than sitting outside next to the pool.

Finally, no post can be complete without an Inter reference, yes the tour went passed the stadium, it also passed that other location which was not deemed photo worthy. And as part of my shopping, this was actually post movie shopping, I picked up an Inter mug to use in the office and an Inter hoodie.



Wait, there is one more thing that I just have to sneak in. As I was talking to my folks Monday morning on Skype my U.S. cell phone rang and it showed up as a “private” number which I found odd as the only number that generally shows up that way is my parents. So I ignored the call and didn’t think much more of it right away. When I finished my Skype call, I checked my email and there was a message in my inbox from the US Embassy in Buenos Aires stating that some cab driver had turned in some of my forms of identification over the weekend. At first I was suspicious that this was some sort of spam, and so I researched the phone number they gave and the return address and it was indeed legit, plus the fact that they gave some detailed info about 4 things that had been in my wallet added to the believability of it all.

The mail said that I could stop in and pick these things up any time. Clearly that wasn’t going to work as it would be easier to get a new license when I get back to Chicago than to fly back to Argentina. So I replied asking if they could send the documents to either the Embassy here or in Chicago, and even better they are sending them directly to my condo in Chi-town were they should arrive a week or so before I do. The whole thing is pretty surreal. From the fact that the driver took the time to turn the items in, to the fact that the Embassy took the time to look up my email address (and I think phone as well as my guess is that is who was calling), to the fact that they are willing to send the items directly to my house.

Now it is really time to go,