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Wednesday, September 20, 2006
It's just your jive talkin' That gets in the way

Over the last month or so I have been taking some casual lessons in Portuguese in preparation for my trip to Brazil. It hasn't been too difficult really. I purchased the "Pimsleur" basic language disks and listened to them during my commute to and from work. Pretty painless and the reward for my efforts means I can now ask where the bathroom is.

I will also be drinking a lot of beer while I'm down there because that's the only drink I know how to order. Luckily I can order them in twos and threes!

One of the amusing things about this little language lesson is the built-in assumptions on the part of the lesson-planners as to what I'll be doing when I'm down there. Granted there's not a lot of conversations you can have with a vocabulary that comprises about 30 words. I still thought the little scenarios were kinda funny.

My journey into Brazilian Portuguese began at a small cafe. The narrator (in a voice that's sterile and starched) says, "Now imagine YOU are an American man sitting at a cafe next to a Brazilian woman" (aaalll riiight) "You want to start a conversation with her..." (do I ever!)

This initial little romance ends awkwardly however and consists of me asking, "are you American?" (which is dumb because I already know - thanks to the narrator - that she is Brazilian), "do you speak English?" (she doesn't), "I don't understand Portuguese", and "good bye"

just like that she's outta my life.

It's okay though because just a couple lessons later I'm already negotiating with a prostitute. Once again, the narrator paints a vivid picture of an American man (who's name happens to be "Peter" by the way) chatting up a Brazilian woman on the street. After exchanging a few brief greetings the woman gets down to business, "do you have any money?"

"yes...I have money"

"How many reals do you have?"

"I have one real"

"are you from here?"

"no I am not from here"

"Ah...Your an American. Do you have dollars?"

"Yes I have dollars"

"How many dollars do you have?"

"I have LOTS of dollars...In my hotel" (if ya know what I mean)

After my (presumed) evening with a hooker, I head to a restaurant, order a couple of cold beers and eventually talk to some dude (the hooker's pimp maybe?) who has some lofty - yet unrealistic goals.

"where are you going?" I ask him

"I'm going to America" he says cheerfully

"that's good. But...Do you have any money?"


"how much money do you have?"

"ten dollars"

they don't teach me how to ask, "are you fucking crazy?" so instead I say,

"that's not much money"

"yes" he responds, "but I am only drinking water...And I'm not going to eat anything"

It's a shrewd plan indeed. So I wish him well and get back to looking for hookers.

So that's all a lot of fun. It will be interesting to see how well I can apply my small stable of phrases once I actually get there. I have a feeling that I'll probably be falling back on "do you speak english" a lot. By all accounts it shouldn't be too difficult to get around. Everyone tells me how warm and helpful Brazilians can be. As evidence of that, my mom mentioned my trip to a Brazilian friend of hers who than sent me an email asking me if she could help me prepare.

Check this thing out.

That's what I call enthusiasm.




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