My partner and I were passing
on our travels around Europe. A couple of months
at the most, we thought. However Portugal
appealed to us. What wasn't to like; the
countryside is stunning, the people are friendly, the
cost of living was much cheaper than just about
everywhere else we had visited, and it was warm most of
the year round.
initial couple of months we intended to travel the
length and breadth of
turned into a complete
life change. Our trusty motor home was parked up, we bought
a property, put down some roots and settled into our new life,
thing missing? My ability to communicate with our
neighbours, shopkeepers, police who stopped us
continually and everyone else who spoke Portuguese,
unless of course they were selling beer or cigarettes.
Zoom forward six years and
I can now comprehend most of what is said to me in
Portuguese, aside from the odd word or two; I can read
more or less fluently in
Portuguese, though admit I
still have to refer to an Portuguese/English dictionary
now and again. However when it comes to speaking
Portuguese I still struggle.
My mind goes blank and my
mouth fills with imaginary foam when trying to wrangle
out a complicated pronunciation, unless my lips
have been loosened with a few glasses of the local red
wine; then I can rattle away until the vacas come
However I am not advocating
alcoholism as a method of learning a language, simply
avoiding the fact that when sober my ability to converse
Portuguese is severely stunted. Embarrassment plays a
major role. I'm embarrassed I haven't tried harder, put
in the time or effort especially when chatting with
close Portuguese friends or with elderly neighbours, all
of whom expect me to be rattling away like a native.
I would dearly love to be
able to rattle away like a native and can only blame my
innate laziness in not learning more Portuguese much
quicker, but am quite proud of how far I've come so far.
And, I think, so was the Algarvian bar owner whom we
spoke with recently, who congratulated us on speaking
the language while in the
he didn't awarded us with free beer, just a bowl of
nuts, 'sobre a casa'.