Nick is a student of Caminhos Language Centre. In this blog series he will chart his journey through the entire 16 week Brazilian Portuguese course, from absolute beginner to advanced level. Nick is a native English speaker who has never learned a foreign language before. He will spend 6 months in Brazil, mostly in Rio de Janeiro. Follow Nick’s progress each week as he discusses his learning experience, his activities at the school, and life in Rio as a new arrival.

Hottest Rio summer on record

  • In apartment. Air-conditioning. No sweat.
  • Leave apartment. Sweat.
  • Get into Metro. Air-conditioning. No sweat.
  • Leave Metro.  Sweat.
  • Walk to Caminho’s. Sweat A lot.
  • Go inside Caminho’s.  Air-conditioning. No sweat.
  • ‘You all have a Portuguese test on Friday’. Sweat.  A lot.

It’s summer and boy do we know it!  Every forrey out into the street is like walking into an open oven.  The beach breeze provides some respite but doesn’t think of walking on the white sand, it’s practically melting into glass!  Yes, according to the O Globo news reporter this is set to be the hottest Rio summer on record.  I checked my phone last week (practically melting in my pocket) and the forecast tells it all…

Snapshot from iPhone:  Just a tad warmer than Ireland…

Conversation in Portuguese

In contrast to the ever increasing heat, the pace of the class has decelerated, or perhaps we’ve simply hit terminal velocity, it’s hard to tell sometimes.  This week has all been about consolidating what we have learned over the past few weeks.  Classes have been about conversations on different topics, running through what we did yesterday, what will do for Carnival, what we agree or disagree with what the author says in a particular article, etc, etc.  It has been a tough week, but it a different sort of way: this is real Portuguese, conversational, natural Portuguese.

One of the main learning lessons for me has been that in order to communicate you need to use the words available to you, as opposed to trying to say a sentence exactly as you would have in English.  As a result, sometimes your speech seems a bit labored and the words clunky but so what, so long as the other person understands what you are trying to express then you have succeeded.

local market

In keeping with this, Karen brought us down to the local market at Praça General Osório to test-drive our Portuguese on some unsuspecting local traders.  The market is a veritable feast of exotic fruits, vegetables, and other foods from around Rio de Janeiro state and further afield.  Traders were welcoming and plied us with free tasters of all their wares.  As well as a free lesson in Portuguese, this was also a crash course in salesmanship from some of the best I’ve seen in years!  We left the market with filled stomachs, more confident in our Portuguese, and just a few bags of fruit to be devoured at home.

“Voçê gosta de pimenta?”: Who says Brazilians don’t like spicy food?!

If it swims, they have it:  “Nemo?  Is that you…?!”

Lining up for Carnival 

As well as the temperature hotting up, the buzz of Carnival is in the air.  Yes, it’s over a month away, but already there are groups having pre-Carnival parties, features on the news about Carnival, and most importantly, samba schools stepping up their practicing schedule.

When a Brazilian friend of mine asked me to come along to her school, Mocidade, I jumped at the chance.  The journey to the sprawling complex of Cidade do Samba (the purpose built area for the most famous schools to practice and construct their floats) is something of a precarious one through the not-so-glamorous Centro of Rio.  A far cry from the glitz of Ipanema, Centro is more of the underbelly of the bigger city.

The schools are a hive of activity and there was an electricity in the air as people tried to sign up to be involved in the larger procession of the school.  After queuing for over an hour, I managed to get myself on the waiting list.  If enough people drop out or don’t turn up to rehearsals then I’ll be in this year’s Carnival.

Watch this space!

The Flag of the Mocidade Samba school