Brazinglish: Your stories …

Posted by on February 10, 2010

© SuperstockIn this post, we collect your thoughts and colourful stories about English in Brazil. Have you got similar stories to tell? Come and share it with us!

Marcos writes …

I am not a typical Brazilian English speaker because I learned Portuguese and English at the same time since kindergarten. I have also lived for a while in the US, so I guess I lost my Brazilian accent. People from different English-speaking countries I have visited, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, can never really guess where I come from.

If I go anywhere else and speak in English, though, they immediately assume I am American. I even suffered discrimination in Denmark during the Bush years, when I could not convince a drunk local in a 7-11 convenience shop that I came from South America not the U.S. I guess his geography was a bit mixed-up, and he ended up saying: “Don’t worry, you’re welcome in Denmark even if you are American.”  🙂

Brazilians love to translate literally, as a joke, local expressions or slang into English, so some expressions would only make sense to other Brazilians. I book your face (eu livro a sua cara) is one of them. The meaning of this in Portuguese would be something like ‘I will take the blame for it’. And there’s the joke about the Portuguese (yes, me make jokes about them) who spent years learning English, and when he went back home and his wife knocked on the door he answered Between, Maria (= Entre Maria, if translated literally).

I am trying to think of words in English that came from Portuguese, but other than açai (the berry from Amazon) that became very popular in the U.S. and capoeira (the martial dance created by Brazilian slaves) nothing comes to mind.

Fábio writes …

I have interesting stories to share about English. We have English words that are only used in Brazil. They have a different meaning in the US, UK, Canada etc. For example: a spare tire in Brazil is called step. A mall we call shopping because of shopping mall. Since shopping isn’t a word in Portuguese, instead of saying shopping mall, people started saying just shopping (it is shorter). …

An interesting story happened to my sister when she was studying English. The word ordinary has a similar word in spelling here, but with a totally different meaning. The word ordinário in Portuguese has a negative meaning. It’s offensive. It means something like scoundrel. So, one day my sister’s teacher asked my sister’s classmate if her father was an ordinary man. Her classmate didn’t like it and felt offended. She replied back: My dad isn’t ordinário!

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Comments (7)
  • I went out with a Brazilian for many years and had a great introduction to Brazinglish. I have to say I was more than impressed when early on he told me ‘I learnt all the huge words in English first – doesn’t everyone?’
    Assuming I was on to some kind of intellectual winner I thought I’d better reciprocate and learn some Brazilian Portuguese. This attempt was taken very seriously and I was sat down and taken through the ins and outs of the alphabet and the specific pronunciation of each letter depending where it was in a word.
    I found out all sorts of things like an’R’ at the beginning of a word is sounded more like a british ‘H’ so Ronaldinho is actually pronounced ‘Honaldinho’ for many Brazilians.
    I also learnt that ‘-de’ at the end of a word is sounded like a soft ‘-dge’.
    It was only a little later on that it clicked that my lovely boyfriend had indeed done exactly what most school kids do when learning a foreign language and learnt the rude words first.

    Posted by Charlie on 10th February, 2010
  • Picking up on Marcos’s point about Portuguese words that have come into English: etymology dictionaries list quite a few words in English that are Portuguese, and OED mentions the word Portuguese in 1,849 different entries, though often this is just when comparing forms across several languages. Still, Marmalade, pagoda, piranha, mandarin to name just a few all seem to have come into English more or less directly from Portuguese. Pagoda “probably” started out in Sanskrit and arrived in English via Tamil then Portuguese. Mandarin in the meaning of an official in the (Chinese) civil service originally came into English in 1514 from Portuguese, while the citrus fruit meaning didn’t arrive in English until 1717 and came (rather surprisingly, if you ask me) from Swedish.

    Posted by Stephen Bullon on 11th February, 2010
  • It’s funny how we play with English’s words here in Brazil. We always tell some jokes that have something to do with English. There’s even one joke about our president, Lula, speaking English. If you didn’t know our president can’t speak English. Sometimes when we don’t know a word in English we just say it in Portuguese. It’s like when I once wanted to say that one person was “apelona”. It means that you care too much about something; always take things seriously when it’s just a joke. I didn’t found a word in English that has the same meaning so i said “Stop being so apelona!”
    Even those who don’t know how to speak English know some word and even a phrase I’m sure almost everyone here know: “The book is on the table”, and when you ask something in English the person answer this, now you know that it’s normal.

    Posted by Camila Fleming on 11th February, 2010
  • As you’ll realize my English isn’t so good as the people that wrote here till now. I’ve only studied English for 3 years, but each day I’m improving, well, it is that I think. My biggest problem is pronunciation, mainly the words with /th/, like: think, with, through etc.. It isn’t common to Brazilians to use the tongue between the teeth. Always that I try to say these words for natives (American, English, etc . .) I have to repeat it three or four times until someone understands me, it’s so boring ;). But I challenge you that don’t speak Portuguese to say, cão (dog), avião (ariplane), revisão (review), verão (summer). Is the same thing, it sounds very weird and we’re always asking them to repeat.

    Posted by Wladimir on 12th February, 2010
  • Hi, Wladimir!

    A fun way to possibly practise the TH sound in English would be by “imitating” Romario (football player) when he says words like “parceiro” /partheiro/ :-). What do you think?

    Cheers,

    Fernando

    Posted by Fernando Guarany Jr on 18th February, 2010
  • I am a Brazilian English teacher. Most of my students are from basic to upper intermediate levels. My student ‘pearl of wisdom’ happened in a first lesson of a basic evening group of adults. We were standing in a circle, throwing a soft ball and drilling “What´s your name?”- My name´s X.”, when a late new student arrived. When she realized that we were ‘speaking English’on the first day, she panicked and uncomfortably joined the group. A few minutes later, she was relaxed and enjoying the lesson. Two weeks later I met her and her mum at hairdresser´s. When she introduced me to her mum she proudly said, in Portuguese of course, “Mum, this is my teacher Izelza.” The funny thing about it, is that, in fact, my name ‘iz’ Elza.

    Posted by Elza Swenson on 20th February, 2010
  • We call the shower “box” and table mats “jogo americano” (which would translate to something like “American set”). When giving e-mail addresses, we call underscore “underline” and confuse “shit” with “sheet” in pronunciation.
    I once had a student who always arrived late. She’d come in saying something that sounded more like “squeeze me” (that was fun).

    But about presidents, I think the ex-president, Cardoso, is much more fun in English. I saw his interview for a TV program called “Hard Talk” (you can see it on Youtube) and to be sure, if I spoke like that I’d prefer to keep speaking Portuguese.

    Posted by Flavia Martins on 13th May, 2010
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