Yo Fallo Portañol

Or Spaniguese, if you really want to anglosaxonize it. I can honestly say that since I arrived in April, I have been wonderfully (and sometimes not so) lost in translation. Now you would think, Spanish, Portuguese, basically the same, right??Wrong!

Before I arrived, yes I had given myself a crash course in Portuguese- and by crash course, I mean I memorized a few key phrases/ words in the flight between Ghana and Brazil, and decided that my fluent Spanish would take me the rest of the way… needless to say it has been an eventful month of learning another language. However, my Spanish has been very helpful none the less!

My favorite moments of my communication roller coaster, have been on communicating with Noelía, the woman I live with here in Salvador. Many times we resort to hand signals, halted conversations with my “How to Say Anything in Portuguese” book, and at times, entire conversations typed out via google translator! Somehow, with a lot a patience, the two of us understand the other pretty well.

Struggling with Portuguese has transported me back to the first few days of my junior year studying abroad in Madrid, Spain with the HCAYS program through Hamilton. I will never forget when I first arrived at my host family’s home and my host father- Luís offered me juice (zumo) and I had no idea what it was! I drank the “mysterious substance” anyways since I was so thirsty after a transatlantic flight! The first 3 months in Spain were a linguistic and cultural struggle. Each day I was surrounded by a completely different culture than I was used to, and talking about simple household items or a mundane daily events could take hours to express in Spanish. It was hard, and not to mention extremely mentally exhausting! Many times I was tired of struggling to comprehend simple conversations, and longed for the sounds of the English language, just so that I knew my ability to easily communicate and express myself wasn’t forever lost.

This same feeling of utter language confusion and inability to express myself has once again emerged, and though not as strong as when I first went to Spain, it’s here none the less. I crave to have the same level of fluency and easy of expression as I do in English and Spanish! But I already know that lots of time and patience are the only ways I’ll get there.  A girl can always hope to be perfectly fluent overnight though! 🙂

Even though  struggle with comprehension and expression every day, it really isn’t as bad as I make it sound. Most days I end up laughing at myself for the moments I am utterly lost in translation! And unlike Spain, I am not on a language pledge so I can spake English when I want, though with whom is a great question! I can honestly say that I enjoy this experience of language confusion since I always end up learning a new phrase or word, and often times tell my unofficial instructor the english equivalent 🙂 A win-win situation if you ask me!

And even if I can’t communicate fluently, that doesn’t stop me from talking, communicating, or reaching out to forge a new friendship, nor does it deter people from doing the same.

So, even though my lack of fully speaking and understanding Portuguese has been a small impediment to my research here in Brazil, that hasn’t stopped me! Brazilians have hearts of gold, and the majority of beauty salons and supply shops I have gone into have welcomed me with open arms and the patience of Jobe! I think I can say with all certainty now that the beauty salon is the one place in the entire world that is a place of refuge for women of any nationality, or language barrier to come and talk! Yes there are those places that are hesitant to talk with me, or tell me they are not interested in helping me with my project because of distrust within the industry, but sometimes these things happen! Life can’t always be full of yeses, how else are you supposed to learn with how to cope when you receive a no?

While I still don’t understand 100% of what is said, it could be worst; at least they’re not speaking Greek! And now having been here a month, I can understand and communicate with more Portuguese and less Portañol! So until my mind has enough time to fallar com fluidez, I’ll fallo portañol like a champ!


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