The burgers are better when they are hamburguesas


Español: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s brush up on some Spanish. While most people traditionally associate the language with Spain or South America, one country that is increasingly becoming more Hispanic is The United States. The map above shows the reach of Spanish in the various states of America: the darker the blue, the more Latino it is. According to the latest estimates (for 2012) from the United States’ Census Bureau, 16.7 per cent of the estimated US population of 313,914,040 were Hispanic. That’s 52.4 million people. And one thing I noticed in America, the hamburguesas and patatas fritas (fries) seem más deliciosas y más exóticas when they are ordered in Spanish.

The nouns in Spanish don’t look too complicated. As usual with most Romance languages, they are either masculine or feminine.

Most of those ending in o are masculine. 

  • el libro (the book)
  • el muchacho (boy)
  • el hermano (brother)

Most of those ending in a are feminine

  • la muchacha (the girl)
  • la hermana (sister)

But once again all those words derived from Greek that end in a are masculine. Those Greeks like to be different!

  • el día (the day)
  • el programa (program)

Nouns ending in ista can be either depending on the circumstances (for instance, if your dentist is a man or woman): el dentista, la dentista. Likewise, your guide could be el guía or la guía, and your doctor could be el or la médico.

Nouns that end in dad, tad, tud, umbre, ción or sión are feminine. Some examples:

  • la ciudad (city)
  • la nación (nation)
  • la actitud (attitude)
  • la muchedumbre (crowd)
watching Spain beat Holland in World Cup final...

Two’s company, three’ s uma muchedumbre. (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

If you are observant, you will have noticed that the definite article in Spanish is either el or la. In the plural these change to los and las respectively.

However, there is one thing to watch out for. Feminine nouns that start with ha or a stressed a take the masculine article in the singular but the feminine in the plural:

  • el arma, las armas (the arm/arms, in a military sense)
  • el hacha, las hachas (the axe/axes)

The reason for this is the awkwardness of these sounds together – it is much easier to say el arma than la arma (just as it is easier to say “an apple” than “a apple” in English).

The indefinite article in Spanish is un in front of masculine words and una in front of feminine ones.

  • un señor (a man)
  • una señora (a lady)

But as with the definite article, the masculine form of the indefinite is used in front of feminine nouns beginning with ha or a stressed a, hence: un arma, un hacha

Like Portuguese, there are plural indefinite articles unos (masculine) and unas, meaning “some”.

Now I will put another picture in to make this post look more interesting and colourful… let’s look for an axe or un hacha:

eres un hacha...

Eres un hacha… (Photo credit: domibrez)

OK, back to the non-picturesque and the less colourful…

The formation of plural nouns is not too complicated either.

If the noun ends in a vowel (usually a, e or o),  add an s: hence el camino, los caminos (the paths).

If the noun ends in a consonant you add es: hence la cuidad, las ciudades (the cities)

Nouns that end in ción or sión are lose their accents in the plural: hence la nación becomes la naciones. This is because the stress falls away.

So, there we have it. Of course, there is a lot more to it than that, but that will suffice for now.

English: The Spanish Armada.

The Spanish Armada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Going back to the map of the United States at the top, I have often wondered how different the world would have been today if the Spanish Armada had succeeded when it set sail in 1588 with the intention of invading England. For one thing, England would have been a Catholic country and maybe its cuisine would have been better. Englebert Humperdinck would have been more like Julio Iglesias, Prince Charles would have been Carlos, and  Amy Winehouse would have been Amy Casavino. And think how different colonial history would have been too. Australians would not play cricket and would have siestas. Most important though, my favourite football team, Derby County (don’t ask) might have been Barcelona!

Adiós amigos


Get a grip on masculine and feminine forms in Portuguese

The words homens (men) and mulheres (women) are useful to know if there are no other clues on toilet doors. This sign says men have sex (trasar normally means to scheme or plan but it can mean to have sexual intercourse) when they can and marry when they want. Whereas women have intercourse when they want and marry when they can.

The words homens (men) and mulheres (women) are useful to know if there are no other clues on toilet doors. But these are not toilet door signs!  This illustration says men have sex when they can, and marry when they want. Whereas women  are the opposite. Yeah, yeah, whatever. “Transar” means to plot, scheme, plan or prepare, but in Brazilian slang it is to have sexual intercourse. “Poder” is to be able, “querer” is to want, and “casar” is to marry. I used this diagram because I thought it would raise a few sobrancelhas (eyebrows). You’ll soon learn all parts of the anatomy with Bernardo!

Queremos falar português, nao é? Claro! (We want to speak Portuguese, don’t we? Of course!) So far we have covered nouns, definite articles and indefinite articles in French and Italian (see the “related articles” below), now it’s the turn of Portuguese. It is relatively simple, in my opinion – é simples (which is pronounced “eh sim-plesh”). And if it all seems a bit baffling at first in print then the YouTube tutorials that at the bottom of this post will make things seem facil (easy).

Like French and Italian, in Portuguese nouns are either masculine or feminine, and the adjectives and articles that qualify them have to match their number and gender. When you are learning words In Portuguese it is helpful to include the definite or indefinite article in the learning process to make it easier to remember if a word is masculine or feminine.

The definite article

“The” in Portuguese is either o (pronounced as oo rather than owe) before a masculine singular noun, or a in front of a feminine singular noun. In the plural, you just add an s.

  • o livro = the book
  • os livros = the books
  • a caneta = the pen
  • as canetas = the pens

Incidentally, the os and as are pronounced like oosh and ash, which is why Portuguese – particularly the European variety – can be very much a “whoosh whash whoosh”-sounding language, particularly when spoken fast.

The indefinite article

“A” or “an” is um in front of a masculine noun (singular, obviously), or uma in front of a feminine noun.

  • um copo = a cup, glass or tumbler
  • uma cidade = a city

Unlike in some of the other Romances languages, there is no problem with the vowels of the articles appearing in front of a noun beginning with a vowel

  • o amigo = the (male) friend
  • a amiga = the (female) friend
  • uma amiga = a (female) friend

Unilke in English, in Portuguese there is a plural form of the indefinite article, meaning “some”:

  • uns copos = some cups, glass or tumbler
  • umas cidades = some cities

So far, so good, hey? Nothing too complicated. Yet. Vamos continuar

Peeping tomHow do you recognise whether words are masculine or feminine?

As in other Romance languages, nouns denoting male beings are masculine. Hence o homen = the man, o senhor = the gentleman, o filho = the son, o irmão = the brother, o tio = the uncle, o pai = the father.

Those denoting female beings are feminine. Hence a mulher = the woman, a senhora = the lady, a filha = the daughter, a irmã = the sister, a tia = the aunt, a mãe = the mother.

The masculine plural form can cover both male and females. For example, os pais can mean the fathers or the parents, and filhos can mean sons or children. This is typical of Romance languages.

Male words have female equivalents where appropriate, just as English has “actor” and “actress”. For example, o gata is the male cat and a gata is the female cat,  o velho is the old man and a velha is the old woman.

Here are some patterns based on word endings.

Nouns ending in o are usually masculine

  • o rio = the river
  • o ano = the year
  • o vinho = the wine
  • BUT  a foto = the photo, a tribo = the tribe

Nouns ending in me are usually masculine

  • um nome = a name
  • o volume = the volume, tome
  • BUT  a fome = hunger

Nouns ending in a tend to be feminine

  • a casa = the house
  • a hora = the hour
  • a data = the date

However, there are quite a few exceptions to the ‘a ending is feminine’ rule. For example, all the words that come from Greek ending in ma such as o telegrama and o drama; and words ending in a that denote male beings such as o papa, the pope, and o guia, the male guide (or a guidebook).

Other common exceptions are

  • o dia = day
  • o mapa = map
  • o planeta = planet
  • o cometa = comet

Nouns ending in gem, ie, tude, and dade are feminine

  • a viagem = journey
  • a espécie = sort, kind
  • a juventude = youth
  • a universidade = university

Nouns ending in ção, são, stão, and gião when they correspond to the English endings –tion, –sion, –stion, and –gion respectively are feminine… (the ão is a very nasal sound .. a bit like the “own” part of “frown”.)

  • a nacão = nation
  • a confusão = confusion
  • a congestão = congestion
  • a região = region

How to form the plurals

When the singular word ends in a vowel you normally add an s; hence livro becomes livros (books)

But when the word ends in r or z you add es; hence rapaz becomes rapazes (boys) and mulher becomes mulheres.

When a singular word ends in m that changes to ns in the plural; hence homen becomes homens (men), viagem become viagens journeys etc. (It’s a very nasal sound again).

When a singular words ends in al, el, ol or ul, the l is usually dropped and becomes is instead: o hospital, os hospitais (hospitals), o hotel, os hotéis (hotels), o lençol, os lençóis (sheets). But note, the Brazilian currency is o real in the singular but os réis in the plural. 

On my wish list of places to visit:  Lençóis Maranhenses national park in the north-eastern state of Maranhão in Brazil. It gets its name from the fact that the dunes look like  lençóis (sheets)

On my wish list of places to visit: the Lençóis Maranhenses national park in the north-eastern state of Maranhão in Brazil. It gets its name from the fact that the dunes look like lençóis (sheets).

If a singular word ends in s, the plural depends on whether the last syllable is stressed or not (the accents on words in Portuguese indicate which syllable is stressed; if there is not accent then normally it is the penultimate syllable). If the stress is on the final syllable then the s gets an es added after it; hence o país (the country) becomes os países (the countries). But if the stress is not on the final syllable then the word does not change; hence o lápis (the pencil ) and os lápis (pencils)

When a singular word ends in ão then normally this changes to ões in the plural; hence a estação (the station) becomes as estações, and again the nasal sound is very strong (like the ending of “groins” in English). But sometimes the ão becomes ães  for example, o cão, os cães (the dog/dogs). And just to complicate things even more, some ão words just add an s in the plural. For example,  o irmão becomes simply os irmãos (brothers) and a mão becomes as mãos (hands).

The gender of countries in the Portuguese lang...

The gender of countries in the Portuguese language: countries with masculine names are green, those with feminine names are purple and those with neutral names are yellow. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Finally, the names of months, seas, rivers and mountains are usually masculine, and the names of cities, towns, islands and continents are usually feminine. But Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are not. I guess they are masculine because the word rio (river) is masculine as per the o rule above, and because Saint Paul was masculine. The female equivalent of São is Santa, as in Santa Catarina. The adjective santo/santa means “holy”. Countries can be either masculine or feminine, but there are a few that are neuter, including Portugal itself.

So, how are you coping so far? Here are some tutorials on YouTube that will help, particularly with pronunciation, and there is a mix of Brazilian and European Portuguese. Boa sorte! (Good luck)

Newsroom blooper: In Brazil they speak Spanish, don’t they? No, Italian. What a cock-up!

Oops!Hello, for a good laugh you have to watch the segment “Duped by Diego” on the ABC’s (that’s the Australian national broadcaster, not the American one) popular weekly program Media Watch, which as the name implies monitors the Australian media for any embarrassing slip-ups. This segment involves the Today program broadcast on Channel Nine on June 19, the morning after Australia’s football team, the Socceroos, made sure of a place at the next World Cup in Brazil next year. And, boy, is it embarrassing! Underneath is a transcript which I have cut and pasted from the Media Watch website but it is best if you click on the link to the program and watch the segment, which switches between the Today program and the Media Watch commentary. The only thing is that Media Watch doesn’t translate the very rude word that caused so many blushes, so I will elaborate on that at the end of the post and discuss the other Portuguese word used (which is clean).

Here is the link:

And here is the transcript. Jonathan Holmes is the presenter of  Media Watch and the rest of the people are the staff of the Today program.

Duped by Diego

Cut to Channel Nine, Today, 19th June, 2013. 
Ben Fordham: And the Socceroos result is “legal”. I’m just brushing up on my Spanish. Legal!
Lisa Wilkinson: Has that got an e on the end of it?
Ben Fordham: Dunno!
Karl Stefanovic: Don’t they speak Italian in Brazil?
Ben Fordham: No, I think it’s Spanish, yeah yeah, last time I checked. Legal. It means ‘cool’…..
Georgie Gardner: It’s Portuguese isn’t it?
Karl Stefanovic: Italian. Italian
Georgie Gardner: Doesn’t he mean Portuguese?
Karl Stefanovic: No Italian. Brazilians speak Italian.

Jonathan Holmes of Media Watch: Boys, you ought to know by now: never contradict Georgie Gardner, she always knows best. Welcome to Media Watch, I’m Jonathan Holmes. It got worse for the Today team. Much worse. And a warning for Portuguese speakers. Block your children’s ears.

Ben Fordham: Duc rahlu. Do caralho. Do caralho.
Karl Stefanovic: What does that mean?
Ben Fordham: That means it was an amazing effort. I was sent this by Diego who emailed it in. Do caralho.
Lisa Wilkinson, Ben Fordham: Do caralho. Do caralho.

Jonathan Holmes of Media Watch: At that moment, Karl Stefanovic was the one who got it right…

Karl Stefanovic: I shan’t be saying it.
Ben Fordham: Really?
Karl Stefanovic: I shan’t be saying that word
Ben Fordham: Why?
Karl Stefanovic: Well I just don’t know what it means. It could be anything…

Jonathan Holmes of Media Watch: Very wise, Karl. It is Portuguese, not Spanish, and it is very rude indeed. So Ben Fordham was comprehensively hoaxed by Diego. An amazing effort, you might say. Taken in good part by Ben …

Ben Fordham: I apologise on behalf of the entire team, including Karl and Georgie, now…

So, what can we make of all this? First, let’s look at the language. Yes, “legal” does mean “cool” in Portuguese. Its more traditional meaning is “legal or lawful”, but in popular Brazilian usage it has also come to mean “right, true, correct, OK, cool” etc. For example, está legal means “it’s all right, it’s OK”. 

But what does do caralho mean? Well, in Brazilian Portuguese caralho is a vulgarism meaning, ahem, “cock, prick or dick or joystick”. (The do bit simply means “of the”.) Less vulgar, I should imagine, is pra caralho, which means “a great deal, a lot”.

On a wider level, this episode does illustrate the global ignorance of the Portuguese language. Come on, Portuguese-speaking world, promote yourself! Promova-se!

This means "sit down and shut up"

Sound advice for an ignorant TV presenter:  “Sit down and shut up”.  But what language is it? 

The other thing is, if you are journalist and you don’t know what you are talking about, well, just shut up. Which in Portuguese is Cale a boca! Cale-se! Also Cala a boca, feche a boca (shut your mouth).

Thank you, Diego, whoever you are, for helping to raise awareness of the Portuguese language in your own peculiar way (I think the Today crew are pretty clear now which language they speak in Brazil) – and for introducing me to a vulgarism, which in Portuguese is um vulgarismo. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? 🙂

Out of Africa, Portuguese style

tabu.posterIt’s not often that a Portuguese film gets a run in mainstream cinemas in Australia (well, mainstream arthouse cinemas), but Tabu has been going for a good month or two now, after getting consistently good reviews. The film is in three parts; there is a rather peculiar prologue, then “Paradise Lost”, an at times ponderous introduction to the main characters in their old age in Lisbon. But the third bit – called “Paradise” – is utterly absorbing.

Tabu CrocIt is set in Africa in the 1960s. The whole film was shot in black and white but the lighting is brilliant, as indeed is the use of sound or – cleverly – the lack of it. The scene where the lovers – played by Carloto Cotta and Ana Moreira (pictured above) – meet for the first time, for example, is shot in total silence. (They are with a group of mutual friends who are nattering away in the background but all that matters is the glances between the two main characters.) Not many actors can carry such a crucial scene using facial expressions alone, but these two do it brilliantly. You know instantly that they will become lovers, and that it will lead them into trouble. At other crucial times in the film the voices and noises of the humans are removed, but you can hear something in the background – the ominous cry of a bird, for example. Crocodiles, too, play an important symbolic role. Just don’t ask me what the symbolism is!

Combination of Image:Flag of Portugal.svg and ...

Tabu was directed by Miguel Gomes, and won awards at the Berlin Film Festival last year. You can read an interview with Gomes and biographies of the actors here.  It was filmed in Mozambique in the province of Zambezia (a place which is quite trendy at the moment – the children’s animated film Zambezia is now showing in Australia and other countries). It is called Tabu because much of the action takes place near a fictional Mount Tabu.

If you look closely at the film poster above, there is the quote, which is spoken by the narrator in the third part of the film

Aurora had a farm in Africa, at the foot of Mount Tabu.”

That, surely, must be a reference to the opening sentence of Karen Blixen‘s memoir Out of Africa:

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”

Svenska: Ngong Hills, Ngong, Kenya

The Ngong Hills in   Kenya.

For some reason, for me, that is one of the most memorable opening sentences to a novel. I like it for its factual simplicity. But I could be biased: I was born in Africa in the suburb of Karen (named after Karen Blixen) on the outskirts of Nairobi, and I can remember going for walks in the Ngong Hills as a kid. In fact, my parents had a painting of the Ngong Hills which used to hang on the wall of the lounge of the various houses we lived in. When I was last in Portugal I bought the Portuguese version of Karen Blixsen’s book, África Minha (My Africa), translated by Ana Falcão Bastos. The opening line in that book is rendered as

“Tive uma fazenda em África, no sopé das montanhas Ngongo.”

Out of Africa, I am sure most of you will know, was made into a film in 1985, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. It won seven Oscars and as a result for a while Africa was en vogue. Everyone wanted to go on romantic safaris and have picnics and sip champagne while elephants and flamingoes roamed peacefully in the background as a glorious sun was setting.

Since Tabu is about forbidden love, I wondered if tabu was also the Portuguese word for taboo. It is. The French noun is tabou, the Spanish is tabú, the Italia is tabù, and the Romanian word is tabu. In the first four it is a masculine word, in Romanian it is neuter.

Anyway, I would certainly recommend Tabu to:

  • Anyone who is learning or loves Portuguese;
  • Anyone who is a student of film (if anything just to see how the rules can be broken);
  • Anyone who lived in Africa or is interested in the history of the continent. Somehow, Africa has its own soundtrack, there is nothing like the sound of the African bush.
  • Anyone who liked the 1960s (the music, hairstyles, fashion, etc).

But if all you like is fast-paced action movies, it is not for you!

For an analysis of the film and to see the trailer, follow the link here to a very popular Australian film review program called At The Movies, and there are links to more reviews below.

Enjoyable ways to learn the local lingo

Browse through whatever media you can find - books, magazines, newspapers, CDs - to immerse yourself in the local language

Browse through whatever media you can find – books, magazines, newspapers, CDs, even simple pamphlets – to immerse yourself in the local language.

An enjoyable and fairly painless method of getting to know a language or to glean more about another culture is through music. Whenever I am in a strange place, I listen to local radio and TV stations (focusing on those that stick to the local language and don’t play songs in English), first of all to familiarise myself with the local music scene and hopefully discover artists that I really like. I will then go looking for their material in new and second-hand music stores. If time is short I like to buy at least one various artists compilation CD as a starting point for research and discoveries back home. I do this even though it is easy nowadays to discover music on YouTube, internet radio stations and music streaming services. Compilations are easy to come across, and four- or five-CD boxes of, say, the great French hits of the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s are reasonably cheap nowadays. As far as I am concerned, if I discover even just one singer that I really, really like then the whole exercise of buying the compilation album has been worth it, but usually there are more than one. The trick, then, is to play the music frequently, and try to sing along. It doesn’t matter if you initially don’t understand what you are singing, the main thing is to get to know the words and be able to say the phrases smoothly and with confidence. (It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing, either!) The understanding will come along sooner or later. Everybody loves music, right? And often you don’t need to understand the words literally to know what the song is about. It’s usually love, in either the heartbreak or the happiness guises.

music notesI am surprised at how little music in particular but also other cultural activities are covered in travel articles in newspapers and magazines, although the good travel books usually have a section outlining the greats of each country’s art, music and literature. So much travel writing focuses on food and wine that I sometimes wonder if we are turning into a planet of gluttons, and this focus also makes me uncomfortable, knowing that there are still many people in the world who are starving. I also suspect that many professional travel writers don’t really know much about the cultures of the lands they have visited and are writing about, which is fair enough as this broad knowledge is not something that can be learned easily and quickly.

I would not really expect any traveller in a strange land to go to the theatre and see a play in a language that they don’t understand, but if there is an English language film showing at the cinemas I will go and try to focus on the subtitles in the local language. Books are a useful learning tool. If I know I am going to pursue the language then I will buy a small volume of what looks like fairly simple poetry. With novels, since I don’t really have the time to look up in the dictionary every word I don’t understand, I will buy the local language version of a novel that I know I have in English at home, and then will read the two side by side. And in some languages nowadays you will get the dual text (say, English/French) in the one book anyway. Another good way of picking up vocabulary is to look at the headlines in the local newspapers each day, and to peruse the magazine stands. Bring home a couple of magazines that interest you for further reading. And if I am at an attraction – say a castle or a museum – and there are explanatory pamphlets in English, French, Italian and Spanish (Portuguese and Romanian are harder to find), I will grab one of each to have the translations handy.

Chilean rock band La Ley during a concert in T...

Chilean rock band La Ley during a concert in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a later post I will look at some Portuguese and English texts side by side, but for now (as a follow-up to my recent post “Great songs in one language and another”) I would just like to mention a couple of musical discoveries I made in Spanish South America. One is La Ley, (The Law) a Grammy Award-winning pop/rock band from Chile described on their Wikipedia entry here as “often considered one of the most influential Spanish rock bands of all-time”. Here is the single Aqui (“Here”) from Uno (One) probably their most successful album from the year 2000, although contrary to what the title suggests, that was not their first album. (The follow-up album from 2003, Libertad, is my personal favourite.)

They have done songs in English too, including an excellent cover version of The Rolling Stones’ Angie, and the song Every Time, which featured on the soundtrack to the film Crazy/Beautiful starring Kirsten Dunst and Jay Hernandez. If you listen to it below I am sure that you will agree that lead singer Beto Cuevas has a beautiful, mellifluous voice.

After the band split up in 2005, Cuevas had a fairly successful career as a soloist, (you can learn more about him here) and I like his work as much as the band’s. Here is his biggest hit Vuelvo or “I Return”  (it made No. 1 in Ecuador and Paraguay, No. 3 in Chile, No. 5 in Uruguay, No. 6 in Mexico, No.13 in Argentina and No. 15 in Bolivia, for those who like statistics). In this video he gets bound with rope and slapped around by a fiery redhead, and they play a dangerous game with petrol cans and matches, but the surprising ending is thankfully not as inflammatory as expected.

In the next video, Hablame (Talk to Me), there is great mountain scenery as he pushes a loaded shopping trolley up what look like the Chilean Alps, which is no mean feat. I would not like to be the supermarket employee charged with fetching it back. 🙂

His most recent single, though, Goodbye was a mix of English (well, the word “goodbye”) and Spanish (all the other words). Spanish singer Leire Martínez also features on it. I have only just discovered it and in six minutes it has really grown on me. There is some great cinematography in it. Check it out with this link:

Everyone has their own tastes and interests, of course, and whatever yours are, I wish you happy hunting and great discoveries on your travels. “Goodbye”.

Luxury – light asymmetries of summer / lusso – asimmetrie sottili d’estate / Fast – asimetrii subţirii de vară

Valeriu DG Barbu is a Romanian writer who lives in Italy. In his blog, which has a huge following, he often posts his poetry in trilingual text – English, Italian and Romanian. But he also has translation buttons that you can click on for Spanish, German and French. So anyone who wants to learn more of these languages and see the translations side by side should really follow his blog.

valeriu dg barbu

Trilingual text


I woke up at day break, night still in my head
the day, between my legs
the moments don’t fit me
for how big I’d like to seem

I woke up with a live scream
the scream of a premature birth
a dark mirror strips the
happiness from my voice

I am running naked inside of myself
like a free goat kid grazing on lime
I am searching, searching for something else
but the goat’s dry tit and again

I woke up in a different century
dropped like a worthless weight
and nothing drives me crazy
like the world living without luxury


mi sono svegliato con la notte in testa
e il giorno tra le gambe
momenti non mi si adattano
per quanto grande vorrei sembrare

mi sono svegliato ad ululare in diretta
parto prematuro
e il tono giocoso
mi abbandonai nello specchio grigio

corro nudo attraverso me…

View original post 113 more words

Great songs in one language and another

Maceio BrazilIf you have travelled in South America to both the Portuguese-speaking part (Brazil) and the Spanish part (the rest of the continent, apart from Guyana and French Guiana) and listened to local radio then you will have probably heard some popular songs sung in both Portuguese and Spanish. alexander piresAn example that comes to my mind is from my first trip to Brazil in 2003, when Alexandre Pires‘ album Estrela Guia (Guiding Star) was very popular, particularly the song Vem Me Amar (Come Love Me). I first heard that song while walking one day on the beachfront at Maceió (a beautiful city in the north-east, pictured above). It was playing in a nearby bar and I had to ask the barmen who the singer was. They all looked at me as if, D’oh!, what rock have you been hiding under, it’s Alexander Pires (pictured above) of course. Of course. As a visiting gringo I am supposed to know that. In other parts of South America, though, the album was Estrella Guia (two l’s in Spanish) and that song was called Ámame. I have pasted the two versions below so you can compare them, and the words in both languages are on the clips.

I think the song works just as well in both languages. Most probably it is more common for Brazilian artists to record their songs in Spanish as well to crack the rest of the South American market than it is for the Spanish to record in Portuguese to woo the Brazilian market. Generally it is said that it is easier for the Portuguese to understand and speak Spanish than it is for the Spanish to speak and understand Portuguese. I am not sure that there is as much linguistic crossover between singers in the two languages on the European continent. The markets are smaller (particularly Portugal’s) and maybe the European versions of the two languages are further apart than their South American counterparts. In Europe, when it comes to a singer in one Romance language recording the same song in another Romance language, the most common combination seems to be Italian-Spanish. In a previous post (Being Italian … is your ego under control?), for example, I noted how Italian Tiziano Ferro had also recorded his songs in Spanish and, to a lesser extent, French. Cover of "Io Canto" Another Italian who has done very well with Spanish is Laura Pausini. All bar her first two albums (and her one and only English effort) were also recorded in Spanish. Here are the Italian and Spanish versions of some of her more popular songs, starting off with the luscious Tra Te E Il Mare (Between You and the Sea), which peaked at No. 4 in Italy in 2000.

The Spanish version is, in my opinion, more powerful, perhaps because 999 seas have been added to it – the song title is Entre Tu e Mil Mares (Between You and One Thousand Seas). Or maybe because it was the first song I had heard by her and I thought she was Spanish!

More uptempo is this No. 1 hit from 2006, Io Canto (I sing) …

and its Spanish equivalent Yo Canto. In this video clip she is interviewed on Spanish TV before doing a live version of the song. What do you think of her Spanish? Not bad, eh. She does that lispy thing much better than I do.

Finally, here are the two versions of her last big hit, another No. 1 from 2011 entitled Benvenuto in Italian and Bienvenido in Spanish, both of which,, of course mean “welcome”. I didn’t choose a clip with lyrics in them, I chose the ones shot in Amsterdam because the city looks very exotic.

Which of the two languages do you prefer these songs in? I waver between liking the smoother Italian and preferring the more forceful Spanish. If I was energetic I would paste all the lyrics to these songs here and perhaps give an English translation, but it is late on a wet chilly winter night in Australia, I have had a few slices of spicy chorizo pizza washed down with three glasses of a nice cabernet sauvignon, and that is hardly the recipe for intellectual activity. Some other time, maybe. 

Flaunts n’ taunts are all the rage in Brazil

When you go to Brazil you don't need to pack many clothes. But do bring lots of feathers. That way you will be well under your allocated luggage allowance.

Boots and all: When you go to Brazil you don’t need to pack many clothes, apart from lots of feathers. That way you will be well under your allocated luggage allowance.

The good news this week, as far as this blog is concerned, is that Australia finally qualified for football’s next World Cup, to be hosted in Brazil next year. Or Brasil, as the country is called in the Portuguese language. This means that here in Australia we will get a lot more coverage of Brazilian culture, language and society – hopefully beyond the stereotypical view that it is the land of samba and carnival – and we should get some good armchair travelling in too as broadcasters provide television footage of the 12 host cities and background scenes. If we hadn’t qualified (I use the term “we” because I always like to claim some of the credit) then we (um, I)  would have felt deflated and probably our (um, my) interest in the Portuguese language would have waned, certainly in the lead-up to the event. Once kick-off comes I doubt anyone with a love of football and Brasil can remain aloof.

This protesters message is "Health and education ... the Cup no"

This protester’s message is “Health and education (yes) … the Cup no”

In the meantime, Brazil is currently hosting the Confederations Cup (a contest between the champions of soccer’s six regional confederations, plus the World Cup winners and the host nation, which is usually the country that will host the next World Cup) and is generating unwanted publicity because there have been massive protests across the country against recent hefty increases in the price of public transport, and the cost of staging these international sporting events. The police have responded with teargas and rubber bullets, and there have been accusations of police brutality. The Brazilian authorities have been very naive: one of the main laws of political deviance is that you never announce anything unpleasant just before you are about to go into the international limelight. The authorities should have kept quiet until the Confederations Cup was over and then hit the pesky public with the fee increases. D’oh!

Bend it like Bedlam: the warm-up to the World Cup in Brazil. A protester uses his football skills (using the left foot, no less) to kick away a teargas canister. Brazil scores an own goal!

Bend it like Bedlam: the warm-up to the World Cup in Brazil. A protester shows off his football skills (using his left foot, no less) to kick away a teargas canister. Brazil scores an own goal!

So, what other countries will be in Brazil in 2014? The four qualifiers from Asia are Japan, South Korea, Australia and Iran. No surprises there, although poor old Uzbekistan (one of the “-stan” countries that I have a soft spot for, for no logical reason) were unlucky. They had the same number of points as South Korea but an inferior goal difference, and will now have to play off against Jordan (another country I am fond of, owing to a previous visit) first, then the winner of that match will play off against the fifth placed team in South America.

In the other regions there are still many qualifying games to play and a much clearer picture should emerge by September and October, but this is how it looks at this stage.

  • In South America, the nine nations competing in the qualifiers still have three or four games each to play. However, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile look to have secured the four qualifying spots, while one of Uruguay, Venezuela or Peru will meet the winner of Uzbekistan v Jordan in a two-legged play-off in November.
  • In the North and Central American region, the six teams each have four games to play and anything could happen. But the United States and Costa Rica are on track to clinch one of the three automatic qualification spots. Mexico, Honduras and Panama are vying for the third place, and the fourth placed team will meet Oceania champions New Zealand in November for the right to be in Brazil.
  • In Africa, the winners of 10 qualifying groups will go into five play-offs to decide which five teams will be in the finals. Already into the play-offs are Ethiopia, Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Egypt and Algeria. The other five places will be decided in the next and final round on September 6.
  • In Europe, 50 teams are still mathematically in contention for the 13 qualifying places available. There are nine groups, the top group in each will qualify and the next eight best teams will have to play off to eliminate four. However, the ones that look certain to qualify at this stage are Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

dance posterIf you are going to Brazil for the World Cup or Carnival or the 2016 Olympics, you had better start practising your dance moves. You might be called on in public parks and on beaches to join in an impromptu prance around, and you don’t want to make a fool of yourself. And you should be familiar with not just Samba, but Axé music, Pagode, MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), Forró and other genres too. It is very important that you get into shape and practise your hip movements and pelvic thrusts in particular. Watch these videos and you will understand why.

Hopefully, by the time the World Cup starts a lot more people in the world will have come to realise that in Brazil they speak Portuguese and not Spanish, and public transport will be more efficient and more affordable for the masses.

Beautiful Romania : Stavropoleos Monastery, Bucharest.

This beautiful church gets a one-paragraph mention in both the Lonely Planet (page 37) and Rough Guide (p73) guides on Romania. I guess this reblogged post shows that a picture really can be worth 1000 words but as a professional writer I have to dispute that. I think one of my words is worth 1000 pictures haha.

Brazil 2013, 2014, 2016: let’s get the festa started

Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon, will have a big football stadium to go alongside its big opera house.

Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon, will have a big football stadium to go alongside its most famous curiosity, it  grand old opera house.

Last night an Australian commentator reporting on the World Cup soccer match between Australia and Jordan (the former won 4-0) said: “The World Cup in Mexico was really good but the one in Brazil next year should be even better”, and his colleagues wholeheartedly agreed with him, although I don’t think any of them were young enough to remember the last World Cup held in Mexico in 1986. They certainly weren’t old enough to be drinking tequilas! But there is this idea that the tournament in Brazil next year is going to be one great party, and why not? Brazilians are renowned for their joie de vivre, to use a French term (which would be translated into Portuguese as alegria de viver, alegria meaning happiness).

Of course, whenever a nation hosts a big international sporting event, there are grumbles about the costs involved, and Brazil has had to endure a lot of negative press about the quality of its infrastructure, corruption at football and political levels, its relatively high levels of violence, whether it will actually be ready for the games, etc etc etc etc. There is about one year to go before the competition starts, and here is a typically sober article (“Brazil’s unease is growing“) in The Guardian newspaper outlining the above-mentioned issues. Sure, I can understand that big, spanking brand new stadiums in far-flung cities such as Manaus and Cuiabá and even the capital itself, Brasilia, are bound to be “white elephants” (Portuguese doesn’t have an exact equivalent expression) because there are no local football teams with a fan base strong enough to support them. But I have seen the previously dilapidated (in Portuguese decadente, deteriorado, velho) stadiums in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Salvador, among others, and think that people in the big cities of such a football-mad nation deserve some modern, comfortable facilities, even if the stadiums go to neglect over the next 20 years. Brazil’s football grounds are being dragged into the 21st century. Anyway, it’s going to be a party, and who cares about money and misery, right? That’s what parties are for, to escape these things.

Japanese Fans

Bound for Brazil … Japanese football fans  (Photo credit: StewieD)

There have been a good many World Cup qualifying matches in most parts of the world in the past week or so, but we are still a long way from knowing which teams will be there next year. Brazil, as the host nation, will be involved, of course, but at this stage the only other team that is officially, definitely, mathematically guaranteed of a spot is Japan. Travel agencies and language schools around the world must be on edge, hoping that their nation makes it so that they can take advantage. And the various travel guide book publishers, too, must be awaiting the outcome, so they know which language versions of their Brazil guides they should publish more of, although the fact that Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 2016 Olympics means their books are a pretty safe bet regardless.

Futuro Beach, Fortaleza, Brazil

This is all the infrastructure you need for a good time in Brazil.  Futuro Beach, Fortaleza. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We will get a glimpse of the football infrastructure in Brazil for the rest of this month when the country hosts the 2013 Confederations Cup. Brazil, Japan, Mexico and Italy will contest Group A, while Spain, Uruguay, Nigeria and Tahiti play in Group B. It is not often you get to see Tahiti on the world stage. Go Tahiti! The matches will be played in Belo Horizonte, Recife, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Brasilia from June 15-30. The final, of course, will be in the famous Estádio do Maracanã (put the stress on the accented vowels) in Rio de Janeiro on June 30. Wish I could be there. The party is just about to begin.

Striped skunk

Is this striped skunk drunk or sober? (Photo credit: Marie Hale)

A party in Portuguese is uma festa, to throw a party is dar uma festa, and to get the party warmed up is animar a festa. Festas can also mean caresses and fondling (I suppose the one thing leads to another). Uma festa só para homens is a stag party and uma festa só para mulheres is a hen party (literally, party only for men/women). Furar uma festa is to gatecrash a party (furar means to bore, pierce, puncture, penetrate, break open etc). Food is comida, drinks are bebidas. What else do you need? Music is música, to dance is dançar, to sing is cantar. To be drunk is bêbedo, to be blind drunk is completamente bêbedo and to be drunk as a skunk is bêbedo como um gambá. Sober is sóbrio. A hangover in Brazilian Portuguese is uma ressaca, estar com ressaca or ressacar-se is to be suffering a hangover. But ressaca normally means the surf, undertow, flux and reflux, breakers, or a small bay formed by the flux of the tide. It can also mean disgust and displeasure. To say cheers, to your health! is à sua saúde! or saúde! for short.