4 gold stars for partial success
My most recent “mission” has been to try to become Brazilian in 3 months, i.e. reach the stage that several Brazilians would think that I too was Brazilian. And I can say… mission complete!!!
I have decided to award myself 4 gold stars for my achievements. To achieve 5 stars I emphasised that I wanted to converse for about 2 minutes in several casual social situations with the result of the other person being surprised when I made a mistake or mentioned naturally where I was from. Sadly, I didn’t achieve exactly that – but I am still very pleased with the result.
What I did do was have a few (6 at last count) locals that I had just met, who genuinely thought I was from here, each in isolated events, for up to 20-30 seconds and when I was very focussed and intentionally trying. So I didn’t reach my more generous time limit and I couldn’t pull it off naturally and casually, and especially not if I was even the slightest bit tired or distracted. Even so, the overall end-goal has been reached!
As well as the “trick a local” goal, I have achieved so much more here; I’ve greatly improved my Portuguese and will label the main linguistic achievement of this time as getting past the plateau of speaking “well”. My accent has hugely improved (even when I’m not focussed) and I use more casual and less formal language and I can tell that Brazilians are more comfortable talking to me because of this. In upcoming posts I will describe the biggest changes I’ve made to my Portuguese, to make it more Carioca.
Apart from the technical linguistic aspect, I think that what I’ve achieved from the Brazilians’ perspective is more important. Nearly everyone I talked to assured me that my accent was inconsequential and that my attitude towards Brazilians was the key factor in deciding if I was Brazilian at heart; which is way more important to them. I definitely feel like I wasn’t just another gringo in Rio to them, and I’ve made lots of friends in the process. I am genuinely feeling sad to leave my favourite country and the cidade maravilhosa. There is a famous untranslatable Portuguese word: saudades . That is what I’m going to be feeling very soon…
I’ll also summarise the social aspect of what I learned in becoming a Carioca, in a separate post. So there will be a couple more posts about what I’ve learned in these 3 months, before I wrap up this mission entirely.
What will the next mission be?
I will be home for xmas for one week, and then I am going to Zakopane for one week in Poland for the JES event for New Year’s. The first week in January I am getting a flight out of Poland to my next destination, where I will be spending 2 months. I have big plans for 2010!! I plan to take on 3 languages by September.
I will tell you of course, but since I’m an evil bastard I’ll keep you in suspense a little longer! I want to finish some posts relevant to the Brazilian mission over the next 2 weeks before officially starting the next one on this blog just before the end of the year!
But for those of you who want to find out sooner, I will announce it first on fluentin3months’ facebook page and then on my twitter account, this weekend! And yes, this is a shameless plug to get more fans/followers
Otherwise, you can leave a comment below to say what you think the next language will be. I will e-mail anyone who gets it right to confirm. Each commenter only gets one guess! Some close friends and other contacts already know where I’m going, so don’t spoil the surprise please
Also, leave your comments to share your thoughts about this mission. Do I deserve 4 stars, or is that too generous? Is being Brazilian at heart more important than just speaking with no accent or having the right body language? Let me know you have been following this story and tell me if you’ve enjoyed it!
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If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.
This article was written by Benny Lewis
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