Monday, August 29, 2011

Where is My Social Portuguese!

This weekend we went to a bbq with the families from my 4yr old's class. It was a great way to get to know the parents of my kid's friends, eat some meat, and realize that I don't understand half of what they are saying in Portuguese.

Yes, this weekend was a wake up call in that I have become a selective Portuguese speaker. I speak the Portuguese of our close Brazilian friends and Mr. Rant's family. The Portuguese of a random mix of people still comes out a half jumbled mess.

It was great. We were sitting around tables, Mr. Rant and I separated at one point as the men were having the universal Brazilian conversation about soccer. Sitting there alone, I missed half of what was going on with the women. The combination of background noises, accents, and people talking over each other made me feel like the half deaf and semi-senile Grandpa who falls asleep at family events. Note to self, bring a recliner next time around so I have an excuse to doze off.

All and all it was a wonderful afternoon. I had some good one on one and two on one chats. The kids ran around like cracked out monkeys and thoroughly exhausted themselves. I was even complimented on my Portuguese as it is rare to meet an American who speaks it so well. While part of me wondered if I should be offended for my countrymen, it was too true of a statement to try to debate.

The most ironic part was Mr. Rant afterward. While he was fluttering around like the social butterfly he is, he stated later that it was kind of awkward. He felt that he didn't have that much in common with the other parents other than being a parent. Duh. Of course, I envy that ease as I didn't feel I got to know anyone enough on a superficial level in Portuguese to judge if I have anything in common with them or not.

Yet another reminder that I have hit the glass ceiling in world of learning Portuguese via osmosis.  I suppose I will have to get off my lazy American bottom and get myself a teacher. At the very least just being American and understand enough Portuguese to get by is sufficient enough to impress. 


  1. I am sure I can make myself 100% non understandable by any gringo-with-wonderful- Portuguese if I wish so. I'd just have to speak quick and use lots of colloquialism, figures of language and slang. I did that a lot with my parents when they were visiting - so that my husband wouldn't have a clue what we were talking about (he's been learning portuguese secretly the last 10 years).

  2. u had a school BBQ? sounds fantastic!
    where was it?

    have u tried reading a portuguese-portuguese dictionary? i know its boring but it really helps if u try learning a new word everyday.

  3. You're not alone. My husband just reminded me the other day that my Portuguese should be so much better than it is, I make tons of mistakes, but at least I get out there and try. I have always wanted to take that intensive Portuguese course at PUC, but they always offer it during hours when I am not free. I've recently been trying to get a tutor to come up to do a 2 hour once a week class but have had no takers! I need to get beyond this level I am at now...I don't have many problems understanding or being understood, I just know it is sloppy and ugly sometimes. Last week, my son's friend from school came over to my apto. and the Mom came along too. We talked for 2 hours, just fine...but she would throw out these sayings like "Bicho do Mato" or "Pe na Jaca" and I was lost at the references, she used loads of them and I was like, "O que???" But now I've learned a couple at least! Hey, we're going to be learning this language for the REST OF OUR LIVES! If you want to get a group together (during mid-day child in school hours) let me know.

  4. I used a regular Portuguese teacher (schoolteacher) and asked her to do grammar and conversation with me. If you are an anal learner like myself, that could be a good solution. I find Portuguese for foreigners teachers to be unmotivated to really get you to full fluency...and so I quit classes a long time ago in favor of TV, magazines and books. I figure you pick up the nuances through regular media that the intermediate learner books are probably missing in favor of long exercises on the subjunctive.
    IMO. :)

  5. Thanks for the post and for the connecting. IDK if it actually helps, but I feel better reading your post and others' comments. I do remember from my CELTA course (11 years ago!) that it takes 7 years to reach academic fluency, which is what I'm shooting for. My husband is such a positive person, that he's not a good marker of how well I'm doing. He says I have learned more Portuguese in my first 2 months than he learned English in his first 2 years in the USA- but he was tackling Spanish and English at the same time and worked with Brazilians, so it was harder for him.

    I'm really interested in a group Skype class for a reasonable fee, but being so rural reasonable to me is not reasonable to someone in Sao Paulo or Rio.

    I did find a local schoolteacher, and he is wonderful when he's available, but he won't let me pay him and he is out and about quite a bit.

    Meanwhile, I think we might be getting a TV in the next 2 weeks. I think that will help. And maybe not reading in English all the time would help, too.

    Love all of you- THANKS FOR BEING THERE!!!

  6. Hi Rachel,

    Have you tried Busuu? It is a language learning meets social network kinda site. They have language lessons and many other activities. I think one of the coolest is when you correct texts submitted in your mother tongue by an user/partner and then he/she has to return the favor and correct, say, your Portuguese text ( in this scenario you have paired up with a Portuguese speaker). Anyway the link is below.

    Have a nice week.

  7. I've been using, I managed to get it with an offer, so you do have to pay for it but it is pretty good and you can choose different courses. There ones for travelling/family/grammar/meetings and conversation/fashion etc.
    It does voice recognition and a review thing that keeps making you check things you keep spelling wrong. It also has a social side where you can chat.. although I keep getting random Arab men trying to add me!

    If you sign up via this link you get a free week


  8. I am also a selective Portuguese speaker! My husband told me that I'm not missing out on too much because women at parties in my city just talk about different ways to do laundry. I don't think that's entirely (or at all) true but it was strangely reassuring.

  9. Can you understand that:

  10. I can do fine in 99% of social situations even with people I don't know... but that 1% I don't always get is putaria - when people start joking around with double entendres that pretty much always have a sexual subtext. Then I always feel like the 3-year-old who doesn't understand "adult talk," and my husband has to explain to me later that when they said "periquita" they really meant "vagina."