When Clare Casey got back from visiting her boyfriend’s hometown in Brazil, she made a decision to get fluent. After completing Portuguese 2 with us, she’s getting ready to start up again in Portuguese 3! So, what’s it like traveling as a gringa in Brazil? What does learning a new language do for a relationship? What’s so great about learning in a group? Read on to find out.
Set The Stage
Where are you from?
I’m originally from SF, but I’ve been in NY 12 years
Where do you live now?
Manhattan, Upper East Side
Do you speak any other languages?
I took some Spanish in high school, but that was a long time ago…
Amor Means Love
What language did you decide to take? Why?
Portuguese! I’m dating a Brazilian — he’s from Rio — so I just thought it would be nice to know his language, which I think also helps understand the culture. And he has family and friends in Brazil and most of them don’t speak English, so I thought it would be a really nice idea. And for the future, going to Brazil, getting around the city, etc. So I started off with Portuguese 2 because I’d picked up some basics before, and now I’m signed up for Portuguese 3!
Amazing! What made you decide to take group lessons?
I thought it would be nice to be in a group dynamic, in part because I’m not great at learning languages, so I thought one-on-one might be a little intense for me. I like the idea of group conversation and learning from each other.
Totally. So, speaking as someone in a relationship where the two of you have different first languages, how do you think learning your SO’s first language contributes to the relationship?
I think it helps bring us closer. It’s another thing for us to do together, like he really enjoys helping me with my homework and practice. And it’s a great way to learn about his culture and how they think. You learn that it’s more than just word choice, there’s all this stuff behind it.
Have you noticed that so far in your own relationship?
Yeah, definitely, especially now that I’m coming a bit further along. Some of it’s just really small things — he might say something like “Do you want to take a beer?” And I’ve learned that it’s not that he’s using the “wrong” word, it’s that the verb they use in Portuguese for a question like that literally means “to take.”
What do you think has been the most challenging part of learning a new language?
Definitely pronunciation. I’m much better and comprehension through reading, and I’m improving on listening to [the language.] But when it comes to speaking, I’m very much still “a gringa.”
What about the best part so far?
I think just the fact of learning. I’m in my 40’s I haven’t been in classes or taken on something new in a while, so it’s really just the act of learning something new and being able to apply it.
Have you gotten the chance to go to Brazil with your boyfriend?
I have! I went in February. I went to Rio, and I was there for a few weeks. Since I went with my boyfriend, I really got to see the city.
That’s so cool! Was this before or after you started taking classes?
It was before I started taking classes. When I came back, I was like “OK, I should really learn more.” As an American you sometimes assume anywhere you go: “Oh, people will speak enough English!” But that’s not really the case in Brazil. Especially coming into [my boyfriend’s] culture, I should be making more an effort to learn the language of that culture.
Do you think you’ll go back in the future?
Yeah! And I think it’ll be good to put some stuff I’ve learned in class in practice. I have more vocab now and I’ve learned more about verb conjugation. In Portuguese they conjugate verbs 27 different ways and that’s crazy. I only have 5 or 6 down right now, but still, when I go back I’ll hopefully sound less like a cave-person.
We wish you viagens felizes, Clare! Send us a postcard from Rio, next time 🙂