Not only am I a full time Mommy but I'm also a part time Conversational English teacher. During class last night we started talking about the importance of pronunciation and accent. It makes a huge difference in being understood or completely misunderstood. I say this out of experience as I have made an ass out of myself many times here in Rio. I'm pretty sure it'll become a running theme in this blog.
This story goes back to when I first came to Brazil. I was a shiny little sheltered girl who spoke no Portuguese. I mean, zero.
One day I figured I had enough Portuguese to run an easy errand. I went down the street to the neighborhood bakery and picked up some bread. The first time the guy was a little confused but then I pointed to the bread and he understood. He giggled a little bit, smiled, and sent me on my way. Mission accomplished! I was a master of my own universe... or the bakery.
I was so excited that I could manage something on my own. I was nervous every time but I got a huge smile and, what seemed to be, a lot of encouragement from the baker and cashier.
So that became my routine. I would pass by the bakery in the evening, receive lots of smiles, and buy some bread. That was, until, I went with Cousin Letty.
We were heading to the neighborhood bar for some beers and I saw that they were putting out little fresh loafs of bread. I figured a snack wouldn't be a bad idea if I planned to keep up with her.
Long story short, I ordered my bread and Letty practically had a laughter induced seizure. She literally fell over laughing onto the bakery floor. Imagine me standing there with my little brown paper bag of bread, once so proud and now so confused.
Let me just give you a little Portuguese lesson. Accents mean a lot down here. Pão is bread in Portuguese. If you do not pronounce the accent it becomes Pao. Pao is a completely different word. I'm going to give you a minute to figure out what it means.
After the day of Letty's stop drop and roll laughter, I never again entered into that shop. I couldn't explain how the ão in Portuguese is a very difficult sound for native English speakers to make. Not that they cared. It's funny regardless. I mean, I was there ordering penises daily. There's no saving yourself from that.
Needless to say, I am damn good at the ão sound now. Letty still gets a little laugh if she comes into a bakery with me, even though I now order bread.