For some of my videos in Portuguese see my Portuguese site, or a Portuguese interview I did in San Francisco. You can also read the Language Hacking Guide in Portuguese under the title A guia para hackear línguas. At the end of my Brazilian mission, I wrote a post about How to speak like a Carioca, and how to learn Portuguese after Spanish.
[Edit: September-December 2012, Note that I'm in Brazil right now!!]
Motivation is extremely important in being able to improve your command over a language. Today I’d like to share my motivation for deciding to make Portuguese the first language that I want to reach the stage of hopefully speaking with extremely little or even no foreign accent, enough that even Brazilians think that I’m Brazilian! If you are learning a language yourself you should try to come up with a similar list (feel free to share your motivations in the comments) and help reinforce your own passion to learn it
Brazilian Portuguese itself is a beautiful language, which sounds really pleasant (especially in music). In my opinion it sounds much nicer than French (which many people tend to rate as the nicest sounding language) and I can even go as far as saying right now that it is my favourite language. It has lots of interesting characteristics that make it very unique and interesting to study. Despite its similarity to Spanish (which I’ll admit, did give me quite the head start in learning it), there are a lot of differences which are important to be aware of if you are studying it after Spanish. It is its own beautiful language that evolved in a very different way.
However, I’ll admit that my love for Brazilian Portuguese has a lot less to do with grammar, vocabulary, syntax, pronunciation etc. and a lot more to do with something integrally attached to many languages; the culture of its speakers.
After travelling for 8 years, and living in 13 countries (and visiting a few others) I can say that my favourite country in the world (at least so far) is Brazil. This is my third time here and it definitely won’t be the last.
There are lots of great things in Brazil; the tropical climate, the food, the drinks, the Carnaval and parties, the dances, their passion for sport, the vast range of nature, the amazing mix of European/South American/African cultures and skin colour, the beaches, and so much more.
But this isn’t what actually keeps bringing me back, and it isn’t the reason I am so passionate about the language. The reason I like Brazil so much is plain and simple; it has the coolest people on the planet! I am so passionate about this belief, that the purpose of this particular visit is to become Brazilian and see if I can understand them better by emulating them; imitation is, after all, the best form of flattery! As I do this, I hope to be able to communicate even better with them and get to know the culture I love so much even more. Today I want to share some of these reasons that I love them so much with you, so you can understand my passion for this mission!
Don’t get me wrong; every place in the world has arseholes, and there’s no way I can accurately generalize almost 200,000,000 people. But in travelling from Porto Alegre in the very south all the way up to Natal in the north-east, mostly by bus (that’s well over 3,000km), I’ve met a lot of Brazilians on the way, and I rarely meet any that I don’t like. I’ve met lots in Europe too, first by living with several Brazilians in Spain and then through the extremely active communities of Brazilians for almost every major city in the world, in the social networking site Orkut . They always have a spark in them that makes them special and unique compared to us Europeans/North Americans. It’s so hard to actually describe this spark, but I’ll try to list a few points that come to mind!
- They are really friendly! I travel alone and it can be hard sometimes when in cultures that are closed and fearful of making new friends. Here in Brazil, any place I go, I can guarantee myself several invitations to parties and dinners within hours, whether I know someone already or not. There is less of a barrier to break through to be considered as someone’s friend in a shorter time. They share the Irish philosophy of a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet!
- They are social. Although Brazilians do love to watch soap operas and football, they are almost always otherwise out of the house in their free time. Brazil has pushed me towards being extrovert where I was not as much before. I’ve met a few Brazilians who claim to be “shy” and I would put them in good competition for the life of the party compared to other Westerners.
- They are so nice!! Almost everywhere you go, you are greeted with a genuine smile and curiosity. Rather than being xenophobic, which I have unfortunately come across in some other Western countries, they are actually even more curious to get to know you when they find out you are a foreigner!
- They are healthy. Brazilians don’t have their famous great bodies because of genetics; they work out regularly, eat a much more balanced diet than a lot of Europeans/North Americans and are a lot less stressed out than them too!
- They are optimists. Brazil definitely has plenty of problems; poverty, floods, corruption, gang wars etc. but on a day-to-day basis they don’t complain about stupid little things as much as we do, and they enjoy life much more because of it!
- They are very hygienic – surfaces, buildings and services accessed by the public are cleaned very regularly, and Brazilians have more regular showers than any other culture in the world I’ve encountered
- They are warm people. I personally love greeting people with warm hugs, friendly pecks on the cheek and maintaining closer body-contact during a conversation. Sadly, other countries seem to have invented this horrible concept of a “personal bubble” that nearly all others can’t ever enter.
- They are smart. People seem to love to simply categorise Brazil as a third world country that is backwards, where everyone still lives in trees etc. They are actually more advanced than we are in several ways! They use way more Biofuels, they tackle the unemployment problem by creating lots of jobs (like 2 people on a city bus; one to drive and the other to take money who you can pester with questions), they do some things just better than we do (any inter-city bus I’ve taken in Brazil includes a baggage receipt, and the “bag guy” only gives you your bag if you have the corresponding receipt number. In Europe, every time the bus stops I have to look out the window to make sure that nobody is stealing my stuff…), rather than create more bad-blood between countries by inventing different visa systems for different people, Brazil simply has a reciprocal visa system. Anything a Brazilian has to do to get into your country, you have to do to get into his! Good news for Europeans where Brazilians are freely given tourist visas on entry, bad news for Americans, who have to pay $100 and send off an application in advance… just like Brazilians have to do!
- The beautiful girls (or men). In my opinion, Brazil has the most beautiful people on the planet, especially thanks to the melting pot of cultures from all around the world. Sadly, there is a misleading belief that Brazilian girls are “easy” that I really hate to hear abroad. This is a complete misunderstanding of the culture; based on the points I gave above, because Brazilians are friendly you can approach even the prettiest girl and she’ll be nice to you (sorry, but pretty girls in Europe can sometimes be quite full of themselves!!), because they are warm they will give you a greeting of kisses on the cheek, as in most Latin cultures. This is all just being friendly. If I ever hear someone speaking badly of Brazilian girls I’ll go Capoeira on them and kick their ass. If you want to be anything more than a friend, you have to be charming like anywhere else in the world. Rather than being simple sex objects, Brazilian girls are strong women (despite the macho culture) and really fun to spend time with. If you’re lucky you may meet a single one and start something special if you are charming enough. The reasons I like some Brazilian girls so much after that… I won’t get into (Oh yes, I’m told that the men are good looking too!)
- They are relaxed. You learn to love Brazilian time when here. It slows you down to the pace of appreciating life much more than being controlled by the gadget on your wrist will ever allow you to.
- They are proud. Brazilians love Brazil, and they love the state and the city that they are from. As you can tell, this love is spreading and it has infected me!
If I wanted to be exhaustive, I could write a whole book about why I love Brazil and Brazilians, but hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea! If you’ve ever been in Brazil, please share your reasons for also liking them in the comments! Is there another culture or language you are passionate about? Share it with us!
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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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