Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Language

As a native English speaker, learning Portuguese is not easy. One thing we hear from the locals a lot is how easy English is to learn. We had never thought of it that way, of course, but they’re right. Here’s a quick comparison of English to Portuguese:

* Portuguese has masculine and feminine nouns
* There are 5 possible accents (instead of none)
* There are also 5 possible verb conjugations (instead of 2)
* There are both formal and informal means of address

Here’s an example of the variety using the simple sentence, the white dog is old, o branco cão é velho. But if it is a female dog, a branca cadela é velha. And if it is multiple white dogs that are old, os brancos caês são velhos. Lastly, multiple white female dogs that are old, as brancas cadelas são velhas. Now you can begin to see why my brain hurts after class.

Multiply this by all of the nouns we’re learning and it gets confusing. Plus you have to change the adjectives depending on if your noun is masculine or feminine. Then throw in the various verbs, present and past and future tense, unusual pronunciations, and it isn’t easy. In addition, Portuguese is a very situational language. For example, the verb “to be” is “ser” if you’re referring to a permanent situation (like I am American) but it is “estar” if you are referring to a temporary situation (like I am cold). Don’t get us wrong, we’re not complaining, we’re just recognizing the challenge. Having (mostly) learned French when I was younger I have a great advantage because the language structures are very similar, but Katrin has no such advantage. So learning Portuguese as a native English speaker who is learning a romance language for the first time is very difficult. What it all comes down to is learning a little bit, practicing…learning a little, practicing…and repeat. We’re making good progress on understanding what we read and a little bit of what we hear, but speaking is still a ways off.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Party Time

More thoughts on our party from Dan...It can be a little nerve-wracking to host a party in a foreign land where you don’t know the customs or the people very well. But we figured it’s like everywhere else – provide food, drink, music and a relaxed atmosphere and people will have a good time. The biggest question was whether or not they would come. Thankfully, they did. We invited a lot of my colleagues and their significant others, our landlord’s family, our neighbors who don’t speak a word of English, and our language professor and her husband. We weren’t sure how many to expect, but we guessed that about 50 people showed up. So with that kind of crowd it was actually a very lively party. The guests ranged in age from 1 to 75 and nationalities included French, Hungarian, Canadian, Polish, Australian, Turkish, German, and of course a lot of Portuguese and two Americans. It made for a great evening and helped make us feel a part of the local community. Now we will turn our hosting attentions to smaller dinner parties as a way to socialize and get to know people.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Home, Sweet Home

So last Saturday, November 24, was the big house warming party, and with close to 50 people in attendance, and plenty of food and beverages disappearing, we think it was quite well received. Plus the house is now decked out with 3 poinsettias, a little purple flowering plant, and a beautiful orchid that will probably not survive long now that I am in charge of it. Not to mention the bottles of wine, port, and single malt scotch...our guests were quite generous with unexpected gifts. For me, it was also a great chance to meet some of Dan's colleagues and their families, and to start what will hopefully develop into some good friendships.

So now that we have opened our house to our new friends here, we also thought it was time to share it with you all back home, so rather than upload them all here, click here to go see the photos online.