Brendan and I speak Spanish, so we can read Portuguese pretty well. However this does not translate to being able to speak Portuguese. The vowel sounds are very different from Spanish vowels, so we struggled significantly to understand when people spoke to us.
Fellow volunteer Stephen, gave us a Lonely Planet phrasebook which was good for getting us through the basic phrases ‘Where is…’ ‘Do you have…?’ etc. However it was primarily useful as a source of entertainment for us while riding on the bus and our Brazilian friends.
(Please take note of the token gringo dancing like an idiot on the left hand side next to the drummer)
Here are a few of the phrases Lonely Planet thought it was important for travelers to know…
Personal favorites are marked with a *
In the safe traveling section, with a subsection on ‘Police’:
Please telephone the Tourist Police
I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong
Can I pay an “on-the spot fine” (Umm bribe?)
Medical Section: ‘The doctor might say…’
*You’re a hypochondriac
You look like someone I know
You’re a fantastic dancer
You’re great! (goolly gee willikers)
Do you want a massage?
(I copied the entire section; it is one of the most entertaining)
Kiss me (Fred told us that if we said this to someone using the phrasebook’s pronunciation they probably would give us a kiss just because we’d sound so silly, in an endearing way of course)
I want you.
I want to make love to you. (and then we’ll watch the telenovela, I’m pretending we’re in afterwards.)
Let’s go to bed.
Do you have a condom/Lets use a condom
I won’t do it without protection
(five gold stars for safer sex)
Touch me here
Do you like this?
I (don’t) like that
I think we should stop now.
Oh my god!
That was …
This is my first time
*It helps to have a sense of humor
*Don’t worry I’ll do it myself
(Personally I think if you need a phrase book for any of these, you may need to rethink the grounds for a relationship)
I love you
I think we’re good together
Go out with me
Live with me
Are you seeing someone else?
We’re just friends
You’re just using me for sex.
I don’t think it’s working out.
We’ll work it out.
Sadly I didn't get to use these colorful phrases, but I am proud of how well Brendan and I communicated considering our limited time in the country. It has been a long while since I’ve been a tourist in a country where I didn’t speak the language, but I was amazed how far we could get with a few phrases mixed with some Spanish vocab. We didn’t do the obnoxious touristy thing and expect everyone to speak Spanish or English. While I know we butchered their language in the process, we did our best to respect the local people and language.
Another amazing revelation was that, initially at least, I realized I felt more comfortable speaking Guarani than Portuguese. Who would have ever thought that was possible?
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