A funny thing about living in Brazil, specifically Sao Paulo, is that you see english everywhere! I guess it is considered chic to name your business with an english name. Every day I walk by places like “The Body Store, Mr. Pretzel, Baked Potato, and Fast Shop.”
It seems strange to me to see so much english, and sometimes it’s not always correct. For example, the Chinese restaurant China in Box (still sounds weird to me). Or one time I saw a store named “New Shoes” and under it written in portuguese was “Loja das camisas” literally translated Store of Shirts. Even the graffiti on the streets is sometimes in english, there is one I pass by all the time that says “Porn for Blinds” (I’m still not entirely sure what the author of that one is trying to say).
But english speakers beware the pronunciation of these places are not in the traditional english that we speak but a Brazilian english. For example, there is a children’s bilingual school here in Sao Paulo called Red Balloon but the actual name pronounced in Brazilian english is “Hedgy Baloon”.One time I was out with a friend and we were going to a bar on a popular street in Vila Madelena called “Vizardgy” street. Once we got there she realized, so this is the famous Wizard street. She didn’t realize it before because the pronunciation is so different.
The crazy thing is that I know that Brazilian pronunciation of english is different so when I go to place where they have english things on the menu (a.k.a Starbucks) I find myself thinking how do I say Blueberry Muffin with a portuguese accent. And once I order I feel pretty silly because here is an American girl speaking portuguese with an accent, trying to say an english word with a portuguese accent.
All in all I like that Brazilians use so much english because for me it is a nice reminder of home.
I have been here for almost three months now and I wish I could say that I am fluent in Brazilian Portuguese…I’m not even close. Portuguese is hard! I have learned a tremendous amount of words since I’ve been here and I am able to communicate simply with people but that’s about it. It’s the speaking part that gets me. I’m beginning to be able to read quite a bit and I can even understand a lot more but my speaking is minimal.
Before I came to Brazil I read the book, “Eat, Pray, Love” and one of the things I so appreciated about the author’s journey was how much she loved learning the Italian language. When she talks about the perfect word being “Attraversiamo” meaning let’s cross over, she describes the word as containing all of the beautiful sounds of the Italian language.
I’ve always tried to keep this perspective in my head as I learn Portuguese because Portuguese is a beautiful language. I love the “ão” sound in São Paulo or pão. My teacher says I pronounce this sound perfectly. I also love the fact that you can add the ending “inho” to almost any word and it means small. For example, the word dog in Portuguese is “cachorro,” if you add inho to the end you get “cachorrinho” which means little dog or puppy.
The problem is I don’t always feel this way about learning Portuguese, a lot of time what I feel is pressure. I mean the only way I am going to survive here in São Paulo is to learn this language, so I put pressure on myself to learn quickly and when I can’t I feel defeated. My teacher, husband, friends, and family all very encouraging and I will continue to try but there are times when I don’t think I’m going to make it because Portuguese is hard! But there is a bright side…at least I’m not trying to learn Chinese.
So I finally started Portuguese classes last week and it seems to be going very well. I actually could not get into a general class because of the time I came to Brazil I missed all of the Fall classes; so instead I have a private tutor named Lavenia. She is around sixty years old and is very nice and personable. When my husband signed me up for classes, he told the woman (in Portuguese), “My wife would not be comfortable with a male instructor.” I understood what he said and told the woman (in English), “No, my husband would not feel comfortable with me having a male instructor.” So now I have Lavenia.
Lavenia has been teaching for many years and is very good at explaining Portuguese from an English perspective. For example, the “ão” sound in the word São is pronounced like the “um” sound in the word umbrella. Which I thought was very helpful, she tells me she is very strict with pronunciation and is also teaching a sixty year old Brazilian woman English. The woman tells Lavenia, “I cannot learn the “th” sound (which is very difficult for Brazilians) I am too old.” Lavenia spent three hours teaching her the “th” sound and her student finally got it.
Over the past two weeks I have learned a lot about Lavenia. Along with teaching she likes to tell me about herself (in Portuguese). She is divorced and never wants to be married again. She has no children but does have Nikki, a very cute Yorki. She lives and takes care of her mother who just turned 97 years old this week. Coincidentally the street she lives on was having a celebration for one of the public officials with a marching band and parade; so Lavenia took her mother downstairs and said “Look mom this celebration is for your Birthday,” her mother was so overwhelmed and really thought it was for her. Everyone went along with it and she said her mother was really cute about the whole thing.
Lavenia teaches almost the entire class in Portuguese and for the most part I understand. I am very grateful for the previous tutoring that I had in America which taught me the basics because Lavenia has decided I am too advanced for that and is teaching me everything! This week’s class was especially hard because she hit me with a ton of things and I now have a lot of homework to do. I hope I can continue to learn at this pace because I feel that the sooner I learn Portuguese, the sooner I will truly get to know São Paulo.