Thursday, January 9, 2014



I wondered if my limited Spanish would help me in Portugal.  I feel a great deal of comfort in Spanish speaking situations, and I did again in Salamanca.  I am not a good student of languages, but when I learn a little, I enjoy using it immensely. 
Language is such a barrier to people.  I modern times space is not much of an issue, but language separates us even when we are in the same towns.
We are isolated from needing the language of the people on these Viking Cruises because we are on a ship with English speakers or on a tour with guides who speak English or in an upscale hotel with English speakers for most of the time.
It is a comfort, but it is isolation.
I could not hear the Porutguese language.  That would take a long time, really. For one thing they shorten the words the way the Puerto Ricans do to Spanish.  Our driver guide told us that the old saying is:

"For a good listener, half a word is enough." 

However, when I saw it written, I could read a good bit of it and follow much of what I read.  In one restaurant we watched television with the sound off and captions in Portuguese, and I could follow the stories there.  I could read most signs along the road.
So I was much more comfortable than I was in Italy where my Spanish just got me into trouble.  And it was much better than facing French, where nothing seems to make much sense to me.

All that being said, I still want to go back to Spain again and not on a Viking Cruise, but something simple.  I still dream of a hotel on the zocola in Segovia watching the kids play soccer in the evening and going out for cordera and a bottle of good vino tinto.

In Portugal the green wine was "vinho verde."  This is a good example of how close to Spanish the Portuguese language often would be.  In Lisbon our first taste of "ginja in copa de chocolate" included my wanting to get that across to the bar server.  "primera vez?"  she asked. 
What could be easier than that? 
In Italy I once asked for "un poco" at an ice cream store and had a scoop of coconut added to the cone.  This was a different experience.

However, I loved being in Salamanca where I could easily review the choices on a Spanish-only menu, ask for the bathroom and understand the complicated directions, ask for the main square and understand those, and wish the young fellow "Feliz Navidad," although "Feliz Natal" in Portuguese was pretty simple to remember.

And although we were usually where they spoke English, when we were not, most folks were willing to struggle with us to be understood.  I suspect few Americans are like that.  Some even seem to resent other languages as if it were some sort of threat to their culture instead of an enrichment in a multicultural country. 
I always liked that in Spain in the old days practically no one spoke English, so I had to use Spanish, but some places in modern Spain on our last visit were full of folks who wanted to try their English rather than be patient with our Spanish.
Costa Rica was very different that way.  It is a fine way to be immersed and even those learning English were willing to trade back and forth in the conversation.

Well, I'd feel perfectly comfortable being in Portugal with no English community and no guides.  I know places now that I would love to visit for a longer period of time.

However, I think that Elizabeth and I are both ready to move from a history focused trip with old churches to something else.  The problem is for me that means just simple joys of common people around me, good food, and wine.  For her it means exploring the natural wild of the country with plenty of interesting time for birds.

On the difference between Portuguese in Brazil and that in Portugal.


No comments:

Post a Comment

No spam. No advertisements. Please.