Given that I am leaving Brazil shortly I figured it was time for another language post which will likely be the last for a while.

One of the things that many of the folks in Brazil note as confusing between Portuguese and English are the words for push and pull. Essentially they have the opposite meaning in the two languages. The English “to push” is equivalent to the Portuguese “empurrar”, which kind of sounds like it has “pull” as its root. And the English “to pull” is equivalent to the Portuguese “puxar”, which kind of sounds like it has “push” as its root. I am sure you can see how this can be quite confusing.

We stumbled across another set of opposites in our Portuguese class the other day, the one where we read about the Inter victory. The first sentence in the article was “A torcida colorada esperava uma noite tranquilla de comemoração…” which essentially means that the colorado fans expected a tranquil celebration, of course this was referring not to the celebration after the win but that they expected an easy game, but that is getting off topic. What is interesting is that the Portuguese word used for celebration is closer to to the English word for commemoration, and, you guessed it, vice versa. In Portuguese you would talk about celebrating someone’s achievements post mortem rather than commemorating them.

And I am sure there are plenty of other examples that I just don’t know of yet.

These situations remind me of what in to English speakers learning French are referred to as faux amis or words that you would think you know the meaning of in French because they look like something you know in English and in fact mean something completely different. For example, you would think the French verb attender would mean to attend, however it actually means to wait. And as a matter of fact I can think of a Portuguese word that falls into this category as well. You might think that lanches means lunches, especially when you see it at many places serving food, when in reality it means snacks.

Switching gears a bit I want to relate a story of a shopping adventure I had right after this class. In lieu of a normal lunch I headed to the nearby mall to pick up a few last minute things that I wanted to take back to the states. When I got to the check out I was apparently the main attraction as there were four women gathered around, the cashier and three others who seemed pretty amazed that I would be venturing out to do some shopping when I didn’t speak fluent Portuguese. They all tried to be very helpful, and one of them who is actually studying English was really trying to help, not that I needed it as I kind of know what to expect when checking out, but they didn’t know that. So she was practicing here English and I was practicing my Portuguese and we were having a bilingual conversation. Of course when the cashier wanted something translated she spoke to me, rather than to the woman who knew some English so the whole thing sort of became a “who’s on first” situation.

To finish things I want to fast forward to today, as a matter of fact to within the last hour or so. I was returning from an excellent trip to Gramado, there will be more on that in a future post complete with pictures, and as usual had a hard time getting the cab driver to understand my address. The street name has become pretty easy and there is rarely confusion over that anymore, the address is a different thing. For some reason, the way I pronounce 1081 makes it sound like I am saying 1801 and tonight was no different. After a couple of times of the driver repeating the wrong thing I concentrated on the 80 instead of 800, figuring he had the 1000 part figured out. Well, I was wrong, he tried to drop me at the end of the street, I don’t even know what the address is there, but it was clearly wrong. So finally I got him to understand what I had been trying to say all along and loop around to take me to the right place. When we got there he said the fare was R$ 24 something and I said I wouldn’t pay more than $20 – I couldn’t really come up with the words to say he took me to the wrong place, but just kept saying something. After a bit of shouting (I am not proud of that part) and exchanging “you said” – “I said” I took out a R$ 50, the smallest I had that would cover the fare, and low and behold he gave me R$ 30 in change. I was kind of shocked and felt that I won a little bit of a battle in the war of Portuguese pronunciations and getting native speakers to at least try to understand my accent. Again, I am not happy that I had to get a little mad to make it happen, just kind of satisfied that I kept trying at least partially in Portuguese and apparently made some headway.

Tchau,

Wendy

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