Sunday, April 8, 2007

Portuguese and More!

One of my co-workers is from Brazil, and it just happens that she and her husband live nearby. Yesterday, the three of us went to breakfast at a Brazilian bakery. The rules were that I was to speak in Portuguese, as much as possible, and that her husband was to speak in English, as much as possible.

He is learning English and needs help with his vocabulary and verbs. I am learning Portuguese, and I just plain need help with everything. It's been challenging for me, and the going has been very slow, partly because of the time, and partly because it's daunting. It's something I want to do.

I've never (successfully) learned a foreign language. I know bits and pieces of Spanish, and managed okay in Spain, but I want a bigger experience than that when my sister and I go to Portugal. The pronunciation is the most difficult for me. It twists my mouth all out of shape. I can hear it, but speaking it is another thing altogether.

Going to the cafe was fun, because I hear useful things in context. Of course a sentence sounds like one long word all run together, and there was lots of noise in the background, but the language was grounded there in the life of a bakery. I could make out some of the conversation, and I really enjoyed it.

The problem with my language course, is that it is not tailored to traveling; it's tailored to learning a language. Before I have another "live" language lesson, I'm going to take out my phrasebook, and memorize some nouns and verbs that will help me in a travel situation. I think I'll pursue both ways (conversation and the formal lessons) to learn the language.

Portuguese is not a big language around here except among the Brazilian immigrants. Brazilian Portuguese is somewhat different from what's spoken in Portugal, but it's the only form of the language offered around here, so that's what I'm going with. One interesting factoid is that more people around the world speak Portuguese than speak Spanish. I think if Brazil instead of Mexico were on our southern border, more Americans would speak Portuguese.

So when we left the cafe, my co-worker and her husband gave me two small loaves of bread. I ate one last night with dinner, and this morning, I prepared some French toast with the other. It was wonderful French toast full of memorable conversation in a Brazilian cafe.