In Brazil, Spanish Will Do

In Brazil, Spanish Will Do

    So what is it about Brazilians that make them understand
    Spanish without a hitch? In Rio,
    they understood my
    questions, but I never understood their
    answers. Now how annoying is that?


    George Lou

    Quick question: Spanish is the official language of Brazil, right? Well of course, it’s in Latin America! Having been to
    Rio de Janeiro almost a year ago, I quickly realized that Spanish
    was the official language of Brazil. Now Spanish speakers
    have more reason to visit this beautiful land. Are you guys getting ready to go now?

    OK, with all jokes aside, and to save the patience of those who already know, Spanish is not the official language of
    Brazil. For those of us who know, the answer is Portuguese. Or better yet, Brazilian Portuguese. Just like there is a difference
    between Spanish and Portuguese, it is worthy to mention that Brazil has its own version of Portuguese. Different vocabulary,
    grammatics, and pronunciation (this is a big one!) separate it from its European sister.

    Anyways, the reason why I joked about Spanish being the official tongue of Brazil is because of an interesting
    phenomenon: that’s literally all I spoke while in Rio de Janeiro. Yes, Brazilians have a special ability to understand—at full speed
    and with complex words, slang, and profanity thrown in—Spanish speakers. I was totally dazzled. "So both Spanish and
    Portuguese must be similar enough for communication," you ask yourself. Well guess what—you’re wrong.

    Cariocas—natives of Rio de Janeiro—understood my Spanish but I was unable to understand most of what they
    said to me. They understood my questions, but I never understood their answers. Now how annoying is that? At times I
    pretended to know what they said, as a poor attempt to fit in with such cool people, only to leave more confused. Imagine how
    one-sided my relationship with my Brazilian girlfriend was!

    So what is it about Brazilians that make them understand Spanish without a hitch? Brazilians would answer that
    question by saying, "Deus é
    brasileiro! (God is Brazilian)" It almost seems that way to me, and I’ll buy that explanation for the
    time being for I can’t just samba (with all the hip movement) my way into a scholarly and technical explanation.

    After almost a year of studying Brazilian Portuguese, I came to realize that in fact it is very similar to Spanish. (No, it
    didn’t take all this time for me to realize; I did so from day one). And if I had been somewhere else in the country such as São
    Paulo, I would have had an easier time understanding Portuguese. Turns out that the
    Carioca accent is to blame for my lack of understanding. That accent is so heavy that multi-syllabled cognates such as
    `pensamento’ and `banheiro’ could be
    easily misunderstood for some type of odd command by the second syllable. "How could regional accents be that much of a
    difference?" you may ask. Well all I have to say is, "Have you ever been to Texas?"

    Anyways, in no way shape or form am I making fun of Brazilians. As a matter of fact, I’m making fun of myself. I wish
    I knew how to speak Portuguese, danced samba instead of techno (yes I received all types of reactions), and behave
    "properly" when I was being robbed. Turns out you should not try to act like a tourist, because that’s the reason why you’re in
    that predicament to begin with! Anyways, Brazilian Portuguese is an incredibly beautiful language. In my humble opinion, it
    is a lot sexier than French. So for those Spanish speakers who want to make Brazil your next vacation destination, make
    sure you prep yourselves.

    George Lou, born in Panama, lives in New York City. He graduate from Pace University with a BBA in
    International Management. Lou speaks Spanish, Portuguese, English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hakka, a Chinese dialect. He has a
    Brazilian girlfriend, Sandra, and would love to live in Brazil. Want to contact him? Write to  

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