Brazilian Days of Future Past

I have been reading clips from Brazilian newspapers. The Embassy put me on their electronic distribution network and gave me SharePoint access. I get daily PDF files of articles about environment, energy, politics, culture and security. My Portuguese is coming back very nicely, at least reading. I can read most of the articles fairly rapidly and I can do it well enough that I actually enjoy it, i.e. I can get the news and views from the article rather than just treat it as a language lesson. It is a lot easier to read contemporary articles and easy if you can follow the news narrative.  Since I know what to expect, I can often understand unfamiliar words and phrases from the context.   I am learning a lot about cotton subsidies, foreign military sales in Brazil, renewable energy and the Brazilian government’s attitude about Iran.

Naturally, it is easier to relearn a language than to start from scratch.  I used to reach the Brazilian newspapers every day when I was assigned there. The funny thing is that I think I am actually better now than I was back then.  It doesn’t seem possible. The intervening quarter century should have wiped out much of my Portuguese and it had, but the reading came back very fast.  I don’t remember being able to sight read articles as I can now.  Maybe my standards are lower, but I think my general ability to comprehend and figure out written foreign languages just go better with practice, even if the practice was in Polish or Norwegian and not Portuguese. I will see how good I really am when they give me the test before I start formal study.

My comprehension of spoken Portuguese is not good at all. I got several Brazilian movies.  I couldn’t tell what was going on w/o the subtitles, although I am not entirely sure it is only the language because even with the subtitles I sometimes cannot follow every plot line.  There is a lot of cultural context in film.  Sometimes I cannot follow British television shows, even though I understand most of the language.  I never understood the attraction of Benny Hill, for example.  

I used to watch the Brazilian news every night when I was working there and I recall understanding it well-enough.   But news is familiar.  Maybe that is why I can understand the newspaper articles so well.  I wouldn’t want to tackle a Brazilian novel. 

New technologies are making it easier to study language. I can get the Brazilian news on the same day.  I remember when I first learned Portuguese.  I had to page through copies of very old magazines and newspapers on that ultra thin airmail paper.

I am really motivated to get the language right. I want to be precise. My Portuguese used to be fluent, but I don’t think it was really good. This time I will do better. 

Brazil was my first post. I learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes.  I learned some lessons so that I won’t make the same mistakes again. I suppose I will come up with a whole new set of them.

Brazil is a very interesting country and I can’t think of a better place for me at this time.