Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How’s that Portuguese coming along Jim?


My educational background is in psychology. I was an individual, couple and family therapist for a while and then led therapy groups for several years. From where I come from – everything has meaning.

So why do I persist in not acquiring the Portuguese language? I have lived with Luiz and his Brazilian friends and within our Portuguese language social environment for eleven years. (I took only a few casual Portuguese language courses in the US.)

Now I have been living in Brazil for nearly two and a half years.


So where is it? Where is the language proficiency I had lead myself to believe would be mine by now? Why is this so hard? Why do I not bury my face in language workbooks daily to absorb and acquire the language of my local family and friends?

Eu não sei.

Being so many years beyond my studying days in college/graduate school – I just don’t have the stomach for it. I have convinced myself that I will acquire Portuguese by simply living here and absorbing it from my surroundings. (Wrong!) Looking back I can report from experience – it does not work that way.


But as for why – why do I persist in not studying, even in the face of the difficulties this presents? Honestly – I think I prefer to be in a position to not have to participate; not take responsibility. I have many friends and family here who want to take good care of me. And I am letting them do just that.

My last 15 or so years of professional life (after I stopped being a psychotherapist) was characterized by being a supervisor, manager, boss, director – where I was responsible for everything. I think I am still taking a time out from that.

This is not exactly a prescription for success in the short run. Not acquiring Portuguese certainly has put a damper on acquiring new friends who do not speak English. But it is where I find myself.

Whatever the reason, my Portuguese is limited and it creates limitations. While my understanding of Portuguese has expanded immensely – I can generally follow the nightly television news and understand phone callers, it remains a huge challenge to actually PRODUCE the language and make myself understood in a decent conversation.


The unfortunate side affect is that folks continue to assume I do not understand, so I am generally not addressed directly in group conversations. There are notable exceptions – but this is the typical dynamic.

So I guess I am on my own to push forward; to push through the desire to avoid being the decision maker, not having to take responsibility. Like it or not I have hours of study in my future. There is no osmosis solution – at least not for me.

Time to buck up.

2 comments:

Linds said...

I think the expectation puts a damper on your learning too... but our brains work that way of course. Over time, new skills become much harder/take longer to acquire.
At least you're taking the classes but doesn't that kind of show you that formal studying doesn't necessarily make it easier to learn? Don't worry, your Portuguese is coming along just fine. Life, now more than ever, is made up of good days and bad.

Jean said...

Speaking of learning Portuguese, just today I finally picked up a Brazilian Portuguese language book. Now if I could only make the time to study while being a stay at home mom of a demanding 2 year old while also preparing for our big move to Rio.

I hope that my fluency in French and Italian will aid me in learning Portuguese. I hope so, because I'm truly not excited at all about learning a 5th language! (I also speak Korean.)

Once I get to Rio, we can study Portuguese together! ha ;-)