One of the perks of academic life is occasionally getting to go to very cool places in the name of work. One of the downsides of this — particularly if you are going to be forced to rely on your own resources somewhere fairly remote — is that you sometimes have to learn new languages. So, I'm currently trying to learn Portuguese. To be precise, Brazilian Portuguese.
I'm not very good at learning languages; or rather, I'm not very good at writing or speaking other languages. I do, however, manage to get the basic gist of written or spoken languages which are based on Latin (thank you, Latin teacher). I got a 'Portuguese in Three Months' book from the library, but I only have two and a half months — how do you rate my chances? Not good, I think. It was clear after a couple of pages that pronunciation was going to be the most tricky bit. I've spent some time with Brazilian and Portuguese colleagues in the past, and got the vague impression that a lot of 'shoosh-ing' and 'zzush-ing' was going on. Unfortunately, I didn't pay enough attention at the time.
To help me 'get my ear in', I decided to buy a 'teach yourself Brazilian Portuguese' audiobook from Audible. It's fantastically repetitive. After listening to the first few lessons — in which an American man attempts to chat up a Brazilian woman in a really lame way — these were my inner thoughts:
[On recording]: "Ask the woman if she understands". (Man's voice) "A senhora entende?". (Woman's voice) "Não senhor".
[After something like the 50th iteration of this, with minuscule variations]: "Ask the woman if she understands"...
[Me]: For crying out loud... Sim, eu bloody entendo muito bem! I'm just trying to ignore you. And if you ask me ONE MORE TIME whether I understand, you'll end up wearing that coffee, sunshine.
This whole escapade could end in one of two ways: either it will drive me completely insane, or I'll learn enough Portuguese to say, "I don't understand". Anyway, I'll keep ploughing on, but if anyone out there speaks Portuguese (particularly if you are Brazilian), I'd love some tips. I also apologise for any grievous errors in this entry. I'm only at about Lesson 3.