No Doesn't Mean No in Portuguese and Few Other Pitfalls in Learning Portuguese

Brazil Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Rio
So what is it like to speak Portuguese?  After two months in Brazil, I am able to converse and even convey my thoughts on politics, relationships, religion, ask a cute Brazilian gal for a dance, tell someone, “…your fly is open…just joking”, “…you just kissed a transvestite you ignorant Canadian…no really”, and even say “eat shit and die” all in wonderfully confusing Portuguese.
 
There are languages that are very distinct to the ear, and leave no doubt of its origins.  Whether it be the staccato Japanese (ha ya!), the guttural German (watch out for the flying saliva), the nasal French (Do you need an antihistamine with that croissant?), the “yo-yoing” intonation of Chinese (oops…what did I just say?), Italian (spaghetti, linguini, fettuccini, Rosalini, Toscanini, ini mini…geti the hinti?), and that rare Spanish I know so few of you back home have heard, are all very distinct!  Then there’s this thing called Portuguese.
Corcovado from the Sugarloaf.
  What a language!
 
A Mexican friend here in Brazil said Portuguese sounds like Spanish spoken badly.  He also doesn’t have too many friends here.  When I hear Portuguese, the first thing that generally goes through my mind is, “..it sounds like guttural German or maybe someone speaking Spanish with a cold, or it may be Italian?”  The best way I can explain Portuguese is a nasal Spanish with a lot of buzzing.
 
If you speak Spanish, you’ll still struggle to understand spoken Portuguese.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re fluent.  However, the Brazilians have no problem understanding the Argentineans and the Uruguayans who visit here during the summer months (Dec, Jan, and Feb. in the southern hemisphere), but that auditory luxury is a one-way flow.
Corcovado
  Portuguese seems closer to Italian to this casual observer.  In fact, I can now actually understand some spoken and written Italian; they have an Italian channel here where it took one whole week to pick Miss Italian and I could not believe the levity of situation and the panel, including the serious looking Sylvester Stalone and uhh…anyway.
 
The articles and the prepositions also take some getting used to as well.  In most parts of the world, “no” means “no!”  I mean the definition of the word “no” as opposed to when a girl still says “no”, but it still means “no” when she says “no.”  In Brazil, “no” doesn’t mean “no”, but not when a Brazilian girl says “no”, because it still means “no” wherever you are in this world.
Dominoes in Salvador.
  Ok?  The word “no” is a contraction of an indefinite article “o” (“a” in English…e.g. a person) and a preposition, which means “in” or “at.”  To say “no” to someone, you have to say a nasal “não” (pronounced closely to the word “noun” but say it quickly).  “Noun.”  So, when a Brazilian girl says “não”, she means “não.”  And if she likes you, she’ll say, “sim!”  “Sim” is “yes.”  But when a girl says “sim”, sometimes she might not really mean “sim”, especially if she’s a Calfiornian, but in Brazil, “sim” means “sim.”
 
Saying “não” is not as bad as getting used to the Brazilian “no” used as a preposition, for example “in Brazil” is translated to “no Brasil.
My favorite photo from Salvador: Father and son.
”  Bank of Brazil is “Banco do Brazil.”  Doh!
 
Once you’ve digested and reread the last couple paragraphs, read on.  Sim?  When I’m attempting to open a door anywhere in Brazil, be that may be at the University, a bowling alley, at the mall, etc., at times, if I’m not thinking, I look like a complete idiot tourist.  What?  Can’t open a door?  Ah, so simple of task, eh?  Here’s why.  Two simple words: “push” and “pull.”  Keep that in the forefront for now.
 
Push in Portuguese is “empurrar” and pull is “puxar” in their infinitive form, and if you don’t know what infinitive is, odds are your English teacher in high school didn’t like you.  By the way, whatever you do, unless you want to look like a complete moron, don’t ask a Brazilian if they speak Brazilian!  By the way, the combined population of the other 12 S.
Always the festive Salvador!
American nations falls short of Brazil’s 184 million so more people speak Portuguese in S. America than Spanish.
 
Getting back to push and pull or empurrar and puxar (keep in mind puxar is pull), you can see why my heart rate goes up when I approach a non-sliding door.  If you’re not thinking it’s a 50/50 chance, but an assured 90% chance that you’ll get it wrong.  Ready for more?  Read on.
 
Need a blank cd to burn some popular American songs for your grateful Brazilian friends, but you don’t have any blank cd’s.  No problem!  The local shopping center has a computer store.  After successfully negotiating “the doors”, you come up to a friendly store attendant who greets you with a friendly, good afternoon, “boa tarde.
Can you find the person in there?
”  Here comes the problem.  How do you say, blank cd in Portuguese?  Didn’t think this mission through, so a lot of fudging and trying to use limited Spanish as a crutch and a lot of hand gestures, and he leads you to the DVD section.  Let’s try this again.
 
In my bad Portuguese, I say, “Eu tenho o iPod e quero-o copí a música para um amigo e necessitar já um outro Cd sem música.”  Translated, “I have an iPod and want to copy music for a friend and need another cd without music already.  The sales clerk’s face lights up and he says, “Ah…cd virgem!”  Did he say what I think he just said?  CD Virgem translates to virgin cd.  Trust me, you can’t make this stuff up.  Ok, bom!  “Sim, eu necessito uma virgem.
Salvador.
”  He smiles; the guy actually has a sense of humor.  Correction, “Sim, eu necessito uma cd virgem.”  Make that five please.  It doesn’t end here.
 
You’re at Pizza Hut (yes there’s one, two, three here…) and drop your knife, because people use a fork and knife to eat their pizzas here, so “when in Rome…” you know the drill.  You call the waiter and point to your knife and ask for “another” or “outro.”  He says, “outra faca…sim.”  Did he just call me “another f*cker…yes?”  Calm down.  Knife in Portuguese is faca, pronounced like what an angry Japanese tourist would say, “…you dirty f*cker.”  Sound it out and you’ll get it.  Go to a nearby Brazilian BBQ  (chuascarria) called Agora (“now” in Portuguese) in New Port (MacAruther and Main…next to the McDonald’s on the NW corner.
Enjoying a night out Salvador.
  $35 per person…great ambiance…and $25 lunch) and go ahead, have some fun, ask for another knife in Portuguese.  Ask your date if she needs another knife?
 
Oh, at Brazilian BBQ, you have a buffet with the usual salad, pasta, fish dishes, chicken, etc.  Your waiter will ask you what drink you want.  If beer, try one of the Brazilian beers they have and my favorite in order are:  Bohemia, Skol, and Brahma.  After you return from the buffet with your plate piled mile high (don’t do this and here’s why), a small army of waiters will walk around with their meats on a skewer.  You have a button with red on one side and green on the other.  If the green side is up, it means I want some meat now and the waiter will stop by and ask if you would like a slice.
Helping out with the Churrascaria at Jurere!
  You have a pair of tongs to grasp the meat as the waiter is cutting it and use it to place it on your plate.  The miniature sausage looking things are chicken heart.  Yuck!  Put the red side up on the button, and they know you’re in the middle of digestion or contemplating whether you’re man enough to consume more burned animal flesh.  Go ahead, clandestinely loosen that belt a notch if you were foolish enough to wear one tonight, and ask for a slice of their filet mignon.  They generally don’t bring out the best meat, until you’ve stuffed yourself for obvious reasons, so ask for their very tender filet mignon immediately.  Prior to the meal, order the national toxic brew down here, called Caipriniha.  Ask for it with vodka; it’s smoother.  I guarantee you’ll love the place!  It’s also a very good place for a date…second date.  Please is still por favor, but thank you is obrigado.
 
By the way, when people greet here, they ask “Tudo bom?”  All good?  To which I answer, “Tudo bem!”  All’s well.  No one uses “Como vai voce?”  How are you doing?  It sounds so beautiful to say it.  Say it several times, “como vai voce.”  Pronounced como vahi vosay.  I love how it just rolls off your tongue.  Put a little love in it when you say it and instantly you’re elevated to a complete different level of consciousness.
 
Oh, finally, can’t leave without teaching you a dirty word in Portuguese.  “Coma a merda e morra.”  Back to the first paragraph for the English translation.  Abraços e beijos a meus família e amigos.  Tchau!
 
 
LoveSculpture says:
I loved reading it. People always say Portuguese and Spanish are so similar, but they forget that Portuguese and Italian are similar too.

Great, what a great humor, you made me laugh badly :D
Posted on: Feb 05, 2008
jenn79 says:
Great blog!! =)
Posted on: Jun 13, 2007
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Rio
Rio
Corcovado from the Sugarloaf.
Corcovado from the Sugarloaf.
Corcovado
Corcovado
Dominoes in Salvador.
Dominoes in Salvador.
My favorite photo from Salvador: F…
My favorite photo from Salvador: …
Always the festive Salvador!
Always the festive Salvador!
Can you find the person in there?
Can you find the person in there?
Salvador.
Salvador.
Enjoying a night out Salvador.
Enjoying a night out Salvador.
Helping out with the Churrascaria …
Helping out with the Churrascaria…
Sponsored Links