Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Portuguese, a tutorial

So, while Lott is wondering around places like Peru and Ecuador, where people speak Spanish (conveniently enough), I´ve been back in Brazil for the past two weeks, trying to decypher Portuguese. Currently, spending a day, waiting for my boat in the tiny town of Alvaraes, in the middle of Amazonia, after a visit to the spectacular Mamiraua Reserve (pictures forthcoming eventually... but only once I get to a country where internet access is cheape than here in Brazil!).

Obviously, noone speaks English in this town. Ok, it´s not actually true, I met a guy who speaks English this morning. He even introduced me to someone else who spoke both English and French... but I digress: yesterday, not a soul around here spoke English, or Spanish, or French... I didn´t bother inquiring about Russian. So here´s what I´ve learned about Portuguese in a day in Alvaraes:
- you can just speak Spanish for the most part, and the people will understand a lot of what you say.
- some basic things you need to substitute: fala for habla, obrigado for gracias, tem for tiene, etc.
- lots of things are mispronounced: t´s tend to become ch´s. As in Fonte Boa, where I´m heading next, actually becomes Fonche Boa. I don´t understand why, really. Other things are mispronounced as well - I just stick to Spanish pronounciations and the people seem to eventually figure out what the silly gringo is trying to say. Understanding them is purely hit and miss. Well, mostly miss.
- hand gestures and drawings always help
- try to avoid short, simple words. The more complicated the word is, the less likely the Portuguese were to come up with a separate word for it. Largely through a process of trial and error, I´ve determined that ser and estar (the two forms of 'to be') are more or less the same in Portuguese... But often times, I´ve been willing to just skip the verb altogether - verbs are overrated anyway!

That's it... best of luck! On the bright side, Brazil makes you feel better about your command of Spanish - I was downright fluent when I got to speak Spanish to the rare Brazilian I've run into around here who speaks the language! If things go well, I'll be back in Peru in three more days...

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