It’s time to make a confession: after half a year in Brazil I do not speak the language as well as I would like to and as well as I need to. I do get along on a daily base, opening a bank account by myself was a challenge that I mastered, but talking to people on the phone is still quite difficult. But what puzzles me are the three different responses I usually get when I talk in Portuguese it is:
- either the fear freeze
- or people tell me (kindly) that my Portuguese is amazing and I am absolutely fluent and I should not worry about it at all
- or people start to smile and giggle and tell me that my Portuguese is “sooooo cute” and that I sound like a child learning the language.
But despite my lack of mastering the language, I am having my fun with the Brazilian Portuguese. I learned for example, that something can be a “abacaxi”, which literally translates to “pineapple” but means, that something is a problem or causing trouble. Why this wonderful fruit is used to describe something negative, I did not understand, but it is also nice when some mysteries remain. And there are more wonderful expressions I’ve learned.
When you talk about people, someone can be a banana. But it’s not a “he’s banana” as in English, meaning crazy. “Banana” in Brazil means (as far as I undersand) a person who does not have an opinion at all about something. Oh man I can’t wait to find more fruit-related metaphors!
But now to something different: Do you know when you smell the fresh air of an early morning in the mountains? Or the salty breeze that comes from the ocean on a hot summer day? In Portuguese you do not only “smell” as in English or in German, you “feel the smell” (sentir o cheiro) which makes this sense so much more physical and tactile. Wonderful!
Another favourite of mine is connected to body sizes. After being in the US for a while I became very careful which adjective to use when describing people. It is similar in German where saying “fat” to someone would be considered impolite and offensive. In Brazil people seem to be more relaxed about this, which may have something to do with the fact, that there are so many overweight people in Brazil. But it might also have something to do with the fact, that Brazilians can be incredibly relaxed when talking about themselves anyways. Have you ever heard a funny story from the last visit to the urologist told by a twenty-something year old young man on a big party? I did, here in Brazil. And it is in the same sense that I had to laugh when I heard another wonderful expression for the first time. “I lost my pants” (perdi minhas calças) does not mean that you’ve lost your pants on the street, it is used to say that you gained weight and that your pants don’t fit any longer. In this sense, they arelost too (or you’re lost). But doesn’t it sound so much more poetical and funny the Brazilian way?