Posts Tagged ‘São Paulo’

Crônicas do Brasil: A Vida Brasileira

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro. When Jobim and Moraes wrote "Garota de Ipanema," this is probably what they had in mind.

I have now been in Spain for close to a month with BOSP Madrid. Posts on the Iberian Peninsula are in the pipeline. For the moment, though, I would like to present a cultural wrap-up on Brazil that I never had time to do while I was working in São Paulo this summer. If you are not yet excited for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, maybe this will get you started.

First, let it be known that São Paulo is not a conventionally beautiful city. Miles of concrete with few trees, vistas dominated by powerlines and graffiti, and a certain lack of cleanliness make it appear pretty bleak and inhospitable on cloudy days, of which there are a fair amount. Large parts of the city center are completely abandoned at night; there is one neighborhood called Cracolândia because its streets are literally full of crack addicts, who reside right next to the city’s most beautiful railway station. If you live any further than ten minutes by car from work, your daily commute is usually a pitched battle against jammed six-lane avenues, irregular U-turns, and the caprices of aggressive paulista drivers.

Yet São Paulo is unlike any other place I have seen, and I already miss it. The city has a cultural richness rivaling New York’s and plenty of charm if you know where to look. Its size is awe-inspiring. And to put it another way, São Paulo is the best answer to the question of what you would get if you stuck together 18 million Brazilians with a New York work schedule, an LA transit system, and the sensuality of Miami (which, coincidentally, has a large Brazilian population).

What’s more, São Paulo bears little resemblance to the rest of Brazil. The country is almost the size of the U.S. but far more regionalized, so that each state has its own traditions, holidays, food, dialects, and climate. Other Brazilian cities are magnificent in their own ways, and then beyond them is an ecological paradise with few parallels in the rest of the world. (more…)

Crônicas do Brasil: Falando Português

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Estação da Luz, São Paulo's most beautiful train station and home to the Museu da Língua Portuguesa, a museum dedicated to celebrating the Portuguese Language.

What is it like to speak Portuguese in Brazil? In a word: enchanting. I have found few things in life more satisfying than being able to navigate the dips and curves of this laid-back yet precise, subtle yet charmingly vulgar, and bizarre yet hypnotically musical language.

However, it may not be like that when you start. Especially in São Paulo, Brazilians use so much slang that the language you learn in school bears little resemblance to the one you actually hear. Brazilians insist that their language is very hard to learn, and they are proud of it.

That being said, the language is not inaccessible. In this post, I will portray Portuguese as I have come to know it, clarifying some common misconceptions and providing some tips on how to make it your own.

Portuguese v. Spanish

One of the most common words you will hear in São Paulo is "trânsito," which means traffic, as exhibited by the gridlock outside my apartment window. Be careful not to use "tráfico" from Spanish, which sounds logical but refers to drug trafficking!

Brazilians like to say that they can understand their neighbors but their neighbors have no clue what Brazilians are saying. This is somewhat true. Well-spoken Spanish has clear, well-enunciated pronunciations with sharp consonants and a partial resemblance to English, particularly closer to the United States. Portuguese has enough unique sounds to make it utterly indecipherable to those who have not studied it or grown up speaking it.

I started learning Portuguese after having taken six years of Spanish. As a gringo, I have found Portuguese to be “harder,” since many of its sounds are more unfamiliar and many of its rules less logical and well-regulated. Spanish helps a lot with grammar, but it also produces many traps. Portuguese is a minefield of false cognates and words imported from other languages with highly palletized pronunciations. An example? Take the word “saco,” which in Spanish means “sack” or “jacket.” It technically has the same meanings in Portuguese, but it is more often used to signify something really bothersome or to refer to male genitalia (what a coincidence!).

Nonetheless, because Portuguese and Spanish have similar roots, learning one will likely wreak havoc on the other, particularly for non-native speakers. Alternating between the languages helps, but even Brazilians who have studied Spanish find the two languages tricky to keep separate. (more…)