Portuguese language

22 Jan

Having now been in Lisbon for two weeks, I have now heard enough Portuguese to have some opinions about it! So here are some comments:

–because Portuguese looks somewhat like Spanish, one gets the false impression that it will SOUND like Spanish. It does not!  I can read Portuguese pretty easily, but I do not understand a single word that is spoken, especially when they speak informally.

–this may sound strange, but spoken Portuguese sounds a little bit like Russian or some other Slavic language. I think this is because of all the sounds in the front of the mouth.

–we were here two weeks before I realized what the days of the week were. Check this out:  while Saturday and Sunday are like Spanish–sabado and domingo–these are the names for the rest of the week:

Segunda-feira [say-goon-dah fay-ee-rah] – Monday.

Terça-feira [tayr-sah fay-ee-rah] – Tuesday.

Quarta-feira [kwar-tah fay-ee-rah] – Wednesday.

Quinta-feira [keen-tah fay-ee-rah] – Thursday.

Sexta-feira [say-eesh-tah fay-ee-rah] – Friday

So that is, essentially, Monday as ”second day” or ”second fair” (?), etc. Sunday is considered the FIRST day, and then everything else is just second day, third day, and on til Friday, sixth day.  This seems very strange to me for some reason.

–to get an idea of how different the pronunciation is from what the words look like, here is Cesario Verde’s famous poem, O Sentimento de um Occidental:

Nas nossas ruas, ao anoitecer,
Há tal soturnidade, há tal melancolia,
Que as sombras, o bulício, o Tejo, a maresia
Despertam-me um desejo absurdo de sofrer.
 

O céu parece baixo e de neblina,
O gás extravasado enjoa-me, perturba;
E os edifícios, com as chaminés, e a turba
Toldam-se duma cor monótona e londrina
 

Batem os carros de aluguer, ao fundo,
Levando à via-férrea os que se vão. Felizes!
Ocorrem-me em revista exposições, países;
Madrid, Paris, Berlim, S. Petersburgo, o mundo!
 Semelham-se a gaiolas, com viveiros,
As edificações somente emadeiradas:
Como morcegos, ao cair das badaladas,
Saltam de viga os mestres carpinteiros.
 Voltam os calafates, aos magotes,
De jaquetão ao ombro, enfarruscados, secos;
Embrenho-me, a cismar, por boqueirões, por becos,
Ou erro pelos cais a que se atracam botes.
 E evoco, então, as crónicas navais:
Mouros, baixéis, heróis, tudo ressuscitado!
Luta Camões no Sul, salvando um livro a nado!
Singram soberbas naus que eu não verei jamais!
 E o fim de tarde inspira-me; e incomoda!
De um couraçado inglês vogam os escaleres;
E em terra num tinir de louças e talheres
Flamejam, ao jantar, alguns hotéis da moda.
 Num trem de praça arengam dois dentistas;
Um trôpego arlequim braceja numas andas;
Os querubins do lar flutuam nas varandas;
Às portas, em cabelo, enfadam-se os lojistas!
   

Vazam-se os arsenais e as oficinas
Reluz, viscoso, o rio, apressam-se as obreiras;
E num cardume negro, hercúleas galhofeiras,
Correndo com firmeza, assomam as varinas.
 

Vêm sacudindo as ancas opulentas!
Seus troncos varonis recordam-me pilastras;
E algumas, à cabeça, embalam nas canastras
Os filhos que depois naufragam nas tormentas.
 

Descalças! Nas descargas de carvão,
Desde manhã à noite, a bordo das fragatas;
E apinham-se num bairro aonde miam gatas,
E o peixe podre gera os focos de infecção!
 

Cesário Verde, 1880

Now listen to how it’s pronounced:

So fascinating!  I have also found that I would never be happy living in a country where I couldn’t speak the language. It’s driving me crazy not being able to understand or respond!

 

2 Responses to “Portuguese language”

  1. Cyndy January 27, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

    I loved watching the poem read and I loved hearing it, too, but it does have a Slavic or Russian sound. An exposure to Portuguese, other than some friends who speak only a little, is through the music of the Cape Verde singer, Cesaria Evora. Perhaps it’s the music or the way Portuguese is spoken there, but the language on her CDs is much more lyrical.

  2. esauboeck January 27, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

    e’ve been listening to lots of fado music, including Evora, and you’re right: it’s the SPOKEN language that sounds so Slavic. And the people know that, too: we have had several people make comments that everyone thinks they’re Russian!

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