At times I can be quite self-conscious about my Portuguese – I know I should just lighten up and get on with learning and improving, but if I’m not in a great mood then it’s very easy to notice all the mistakes and forget about all the things I’m getting right.
However, every so often I’m reminded that many of the people I meet day-to-day are also struggling away with their own language challenges. While I’m working on my Portuguese, many of them are working on their *English! At times this can lead to a language stand-off: “Let’s speak English shall we?” “Não! Vamos falar português!”
*I’m aware other languages exist and are learned by Brazilians, but English is the most common.
I find it rather comforting to be reminded that I’m not the only one with language issues. When we are lamenting our respective difficulties, one of the things that Brazilians often mention is the trouble they have with English words which are differentiated only by a long or short “e”. They will often tell me that they struggle with the difference between “beach” and “bitch”! The other example they mention is “sheet/shit”.
This then leads to drawn out demonstrations which involve me repeating “Sheeeeeeeeeet? Shit! Sheeeeeeeet? Shit! See? And now beeeeeeeeeeeeach? Bitch!”. Passing American tourists usually look at me like I’m crazy…
Speaking of beaches, I heard a rather nice phrase not so long ago. I was talking to a Brazilian guy about the lively night-life in the neighbourhood of Lapa, when he said “Não é minha praia” (It’s not my beach).
If I had been more literal-minded I would have told him that Lapa isn’t anyone’s beach because it is surrounded by other neighbourhoods and therefore doesn’t even haver a coastline, let alone a beach! But of course I realised that what he meant was that the hustle, bustle and chaos of Lapa wasn’t really his scene.
A few days later heard my Portuguese teacher use the same phrase… to describe the beach! I was telling her how hot and crowded Ipanema beach had been on my last visit (not a bad thing in my opinion) and then she used the phrase, going on to explain that she hates the beach because she can’t handle the sun with her fair skin. The beach is not her beach!
Somehow this phrase seems very appropriate in Rio. The beach is the focal point of so many aspects of life here, from huge events like Réveillon (New Year’s Eve) in Copacabana, to laid back weekends hanging with friends and family. I wonder if this phrase is also used in other parts of Brazil that aren’t near the coast?