It’s been a while, dear readers. Sorry about that. But here I am, in lovely Portugal now for almost three years. It seems like just yesterday that I wrote about the ten things I learned in that first year. But anyway, almost three years in and, you might be wondering – how is my Portuguese?
Well, it’s not bad. I’ve had a lot of help from friends, colleagues, students and more besides (a special shout out has to go to my fiancée’s avó Isabel who puts up with my bad pronunciation at great length and rarely castigates me), which has me at what I’d probably call a strong pre-intermediate level. I can do everything I need to do in daily life in Portuguese. Sometimes I’m quite sure that I don’t do this in exactly the most natural way, but I can do it. I can interact with shop assistants, nuisance calls, the police, and cheerful old ladies who tell me I should really be wearing a coat, all with more than a modicum of success.
Bizarrely, though, I feel like I’m less effective in Portuguese than I was in Polish after the same period of time in Poland. Bear in mind how difficult the Polish language is supposed to be (there are about 60 ways of saying the number “one,” for example) and it’s a bit of a surprise. To me, too.
Why so difficult?
The difficulty in the language is really rooted in a number of things.
First of all, there is the fact that the language simply is difficult. Yes, it’s a romance language, so my knowledge of French and Latin help a lot. But there are also words with Arabic origins and more besides. There are also myriad false friends with English and an extremely complex grammatical system.
Secondly, there is the fact that people here are, broadly speaking, terrific at English. This means that, more often than not, when you’re in downtown Lisbon trying to find out what’s in that soup, the well-meaning waiter will simply say “Oh, if it’s easier, we can use English!” I’ve now begun to refuse such offers of help, politely, explaining that if I’m to live here I must know the language. But for a long time, it was all too easy to say, “yeah, ok”.
Finally, there is that I’ve been a bit lazy. I had some hit and miss experiences with language schools and don’t meet my language partner as often as I should. But all this could be about to change.
This week, I was approached by some people who run the Lusa school of Portuguese, who are a new school, based in Cais do Sodre, in the very heart of downtown Lisbon. So, from next week, they’re going to contribute some wisdom to these very pages, helping expats like me, or even just tourists visiting the city on how to best acquire this tricky, but beautiful language. I hope you’re as excited about it as I am. In the meantime, take a look at their Facebook page, here.
Até logo! (See you soon!)