Earlier this week I sent out an email to subscribers of the Brazilian Gringo newsletter to check in with a simple question:
How has learning Portuguese affected your life?
Readers of this blog come from all over the world. Everybody does different and unique things. Some of the stories are romantic. Others are professional. Others are inspirational.
If you’re learning Portuguese or you’re just curious about what kind of adventures you might be able to have in Brazil by learning Portuguese, then you’ll definitely want to check out some of these stories.
I have lived full time in Diamantina Minas Gerais since the beginning of 2015. Here where I live no one speaks anything but Portuguese. Having studied French, and spending a lot of time in Spain I had a rooted foundation in Romance languages. Portuguese has proven to be more difficult to write correctly but speaking colloquially is easy. I do have a problem with regional accents on the phone….especially paulistas….I am used to mineiros that speak slower and very loud… I work at a hotel as an event planner. I write contracts in outline form and another employee polishes it up in legalese Portuguese so I am covered.
I first fell in love with a Brazilian woman who later became my wife (and who is now I should add now ex-wife – don’t worry, we’re still friends), then I fell in love with the country, its ways, its energy, its music, its food, but most of all with its people. I still travel to Brazil whenever I can, and I have now taken up capoeira, jiu jitsu and Portuguese lessons, I make smoothies, açaí, pão de queijo and tapioca pancakes. I know that one day I’ll retire there. Brazil is as we all know the country of the future, and it always will be. Brazil, it seems, is the country of my future.
We live in Texas where I am from and she speaks better English than I do. So learning Portuguese is not a requirement for me but it makes me feel closer to her and her family in Brasil. She appreciates it and so do they. I use the translate app less every day and I have the benefit of a personal teacher. For me it is about love and I wanted to learn from the moment I met her. I recommend that if Brasil is in your life in any way learn the language you won’t be sorry. Tchau
Last year I spent three months in Brazil as a digital nomad. I don’t think I would have easily survived there without speaking Portuguese, but only a few simple lines were enough for me to flourish in the country. Josh, you are absolutely right about the “gringo script” (I think I read it in your blog), and I had many of these “small talk” occasions with charming, interesting and open Brazilian people. The variety of topics that can be included in a 5-minute conversation in Brazil is amazing. The “where do you come from” and “what do you do in your life” questions are obvious (in Portuguese language, of course), but it is also possible to get information about the most beautiful praia in town, to discuss corruption and disillusionment of the elite, or to get a quick insight into where the ancestors of your partner came from (Angola, Germany Italy, Japan, Poland? or from all of these countries? in Brazil it is easily possible…) I felt I was able to connect with Brazilian people, and also with Brazil through these short chats, and I never felt alone, even for a moment. There was always a chance to get in touch with someone at the next corner. But without speaking some Portuguese I would have missed all of these great opportunities.
I lived in Brazil for three months, but studied Portuguese long before going. When I returned I was basically fluent since I used it the entire time I was there. I made a lot of new friends and had a lot of new experiences along the way, but I wanted to really use my love for Brazil in a big way. I teach an indoor color guard team called Spintronix, so when I returned from Brazil I used the song “The Girl From Ipanema” for our competition piece. My team went all the way to state championships that season, and then WON for the first time in our 9-year history. Afterwards, a foreign exchange student from Brazil came up to me. She was living with a family of one of our competitors and was very homesick after 9 months here, but she said she got to see our show and it brought happy tears to her eyes. This entire journey was incredible to me, but this was the one single moment that made every single part come together for me.
Antonio de Barros
I’ve never been to Brazil but I’ve started learning about Brazilian festivals in my city that I didn’t know existed. I’ve helped multiple Brazilians who were learning English and in the spring I’m going to Portugal. Someplace I had never thought about until I started learning Portuguese.
I’ve been studying português for 4 years and 1 month and been to Brazil 13 times and love it and the people, food, weather and culture. But I still can’t converse in português or understand much because it’s like a secret code and I can’t understand people when they speak. It’s the most frustrating thing I’ve ever done. But I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep going until I learn enough to understand and converse. I contacted the Josh at Brazilian Gringo and he helped me by giving me advice and was very kind. Thanks! Patrick O’Rourke
I live in Germany and I am currently spending a few days holiday in a small place on the river Rhine. On a small boat trip on the river I came across a large group of Brazilians from Porto Alegre who where on a short tour of Europe. Having learned Brazilian Portuguese for the last three years I was able to have a really good conversation with some of them. It felt great!
I’ll be visiting Brazil again next year and can’t wait!
I need to learn more then.
Things can change to the better. Three-and-a-half years ago I knew nothing about the change waiting around the corner. Today I’m married with a Brazilian and live half of my time in Planet Brazil. Little did I know when studying Portuguese long winter evenings at the Helsinki University evening course that I would soon aproveitar the soft and gentle lyrics of Marisa Monte, be with this Sunshine people who knows how to make stressful situations into something funny or hear cool guys greeting each other saying “Beauty” beleza! The sense of freedom in Brazil is also reflected in the polyphony of how they use their language, nossa língua.
Marisa Monte sings in Ainda bem about her loved one:
“Você veio pra ficar
Você que me faz feliz
Você que me faz cantar assim …
Tudo se transformou
Agora você chegou,”
But it was not only the loved one that came. Also Brazil with its lyrical songs and its funk full of energy came. Everything changed. New feelings opened up inside. And I can’t stop gazing at the endless beaches, mountains and skylines like Ana Carolina can not stop gazing at her love in É Isso Aí “Eu não sei parar te olhar…“.
In the letras of Música Popular Brasileira the beauty of life is combined with reality. This Brazilian attitude makes life is more intensive, gentle, and mais leve here. The spontaneity of the Brazilians to communicate makes me happy, and for that you do not need to know much Brazilian Portuguese. You just need to open your ears, mouth and your heart.
Learning Portuguese gave me the opportunity to worship in a coffee plantation, compare issues of race & class in the US vs. Brazil, chat with Rolker Gracie off the mat, take a capoeira class in the favelas of Rio, try every single Brazilian candy in one day, learn to cook fuba and pão de queijo, hear from the farmer how to prepare a new vegetable each week at the farmer’s market. and get to read every single sign at the Museu Historico de Londrina!
I’m starting to learn Portuguese. I took it more serious and I’m having online classes with a teacher and it has been so empowering to learn faster and faster.
One of the few things is having access to new content and stories I didn’t know before.
The first way learning Portuguese changed my life was that I learned that I could actually learn another language. It wasn’t easy, but well worth it.
I had always struggled with language learning, including Portuguese. At my Peace Corps site, I received lots of help from the other PCV (who spoke Spanish and English at home, had taken intensive Portuguese classes in college, and had already been in Brazil a year when I arrived.) She set some strict rules including that I could not speak English around Brazilians, that I sit in on the ginásio Portuguese language arts classes, help her teach literacy from day one, and that I had to carry a notebook to record new words. I also asked my (English-as-a-foreign-
After about 2 months at my site, I started to understand and be able to speak more easily. It didn’t take long to begin to think in Portuguese and a while later to dream in my new language. (I still occasionally dream in Portuguese and can understand and speak fluently in my dreams, even though I can no longer speak that well when I’m awake.)
I loved being able to speak Portuguese, especially since it is rarely spoken in the U.S. Although I’ve never studied Spanish or Italian, I can understand it somewhat, too. And although I knew some French (all book learning, never learned to speak it) I can read it better than before I could speak Portuguese.
I like playing trivia games on my iPad. I can’t tell you how many times I answer a question correctly because the correct answer (multiple choice) is similar to a Portuguese word.
Before I returned to Brazil for the first time, 40+ years after leaving the Peace Corps, I listened to audio lessons from the library, to get used to the sounds and inflections again. I was in Brazil for a month. By the end of the first week, I was comfortable enough again to carry on lengthy conversations with friends, former students and even strangers on planes.
And on several occasions, Portuguese came in handy in my work.
Upon returning home, I taught art in public schools for most of my working life. On several occasions, Brazilian students showed up, unable to speak English. They were placed in ESL classes, but the teacher was there for only a few hours 4 days a week. The students would often come to me so I could explain something they didn’t understand in one of their other classes, for example, a math concept.
No matter what grade they were in, Brazilians were assigned to my 8th-grade art class, and while my other students worked on their art projects, the Brazilians could ask questions about their assignments in other subjects. I also asked for volunteers among my students to help them with English words.
I spent part of each day monitoring the Time Out Room, so on the day of the week when the ESL teacher wasn’t in the building, the Brazilians would go there and when I didn’t have to deal with a Time-Out problem, I would teach them things the ESL teacher might not know, such as the words that were similar in English and Portuguese, but with different endings. The time I spent with the last 2 students I worked with, was about 25 years after I left Brazil, when I had forgotten a lot of Portuguese, so we taught each other.
Shortly after I retired, a friend of mine invited his 16-year-old Brazilian daughter to spend a year in the U.S. to perfect her English. (He had worked in Brazil for several years and fathered a daughter he never knew about until she was 12.) Her mother came with her. One day a week I would take the mother grocery shopping, then take her to see some of the local sights, while Jim was working and her daughter was in school. We became good friends.
I always considered my involvement with Brazilians visiting the U.S. as my “paying forward” for all the warm, wonderful and welcoming Brazilians who had befriended me, invited me into their homes, and treated me like a daughter, while I lived and worked in Brazil.
Hi Josh, my name is Dr David Kalin and I have been studying Italian French Hebrew Korean and Portuguese
Learning Portuguese has enabled me to travel to smaller cities in mostly Parana, and to discover the beautiful country of Brazil. My wife’s big wonderful family lives close to Foz do Iguazu. I have been 4 times, monthly stays and hope to be there para Natal, e Ano Novo 2019. I can tell you the people are warm & friendly,& speaking Portuguese is absolutely a must. If you give it your best shot I believe it gains you acceptance & many new friends. I cannot say enough about the Brazilian people, their kindness, love of family & unique beautiful country & culture. Yes it is obvious I am a Gringo.
When I speak my improving Portuguese people are happy, curious about USA, and mostly laugh but respect my attempt to learn their language, I try to practice speaking & writing every day as I am fortunate to have many Brazilian friends here in Kentucky working in the horse industry. I encourage others to travel to Brazil as it opens many doors, is peaceful, calm and a helpful lot of fun, think I also could get a job teaching English, my forte in school, your program is very legal, I enjoy all your videos & methodology, Mauricio, Brazilian Gringo, Kentucky, USA