The Andes, Iguazu and La Ley: what more could you want?

Recently I had the chance to travel to South America – mostly to Brazil, so that was great for my Portuguese, and to a lesser extent in the Spanish-speaking part: Chile and Argentina, to take in the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls (Iguaçu in Portuguese), which, let me tell you, are spectacular. Below are a couple of pics I took with my iPhone, which got a soaking during the day.



Iguazu Falls … multi-layered and magnificent . Photo: Bernard O’Shea

I was also very lucky to have a window seat while flying over the Andes mountains at sunset (heading east from Santiago to Rio de Janeiro). At the top of this post, and below, are two of the photos I took on that memorable journey.



While I was in Chile I was excited to find out that my favourite Chilean band – in fact, my favourite Spanish-singer artists in the whole wide mundo – La Ley, had re-formed and brought out a new album this year, called Adaptación, their first since 2003.

Here’s my favourite track from it.

There are 12 songs on the album, two of which are in English. The opening track is also appealing. Here’s a studio clip of it.

I hope you enjoyed this visual and aural foray into South America.


How’s your Brazilian slush fund looking?

FIFA World Cup South Africa

Remember the vuvuzelas at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa 2010? What will we see in Brazil in 2014? (Photo credit: Craig Strachan)

Bernardo still holds hope that he will soon win the lottery and will actually be able to afford to go to the World Cup in June 2014 in Brazil, where he will be able to practise his Portuguese with the locals, and his Spanish and Italian and possibly his French and Romanian with all those visiting fans. No doubt when Bernardo arrives in Brazil people will find him charming and pleasant to talk to and will want to buy him a beer or two. Possibly even a meal. As long as they don’t expect him to buy them anything in return, all should be fine.

Bernardo had an anxious time earlier in the week wondering which team he would support if Portugal and Romania (two of his favourite countries) were drawn together in the play-offs that will decide the last four European teams to qualify for the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil next year. What would you prefer, two of your sentimental picks being paired together, thus guaranteeing that at least one will be there, or would you want them kept apart in the hope that both could make it – but also having to face the danger that none of them will make it? Have faith in your two favourites, that’s what Bernardo says.

Before the last round of group matches, Portugal had been certain of a place in at least the play-offs, but Romania had to beat Estonia and rely on the Netherlands not losing to Turkey to progress. On a nail-biting night, Romania won and Turkey lost.

Bernardo also had to face the possibility that France, a country he likes and one that is very relevant to this blog, would be drawn against Portugal. Bernardo was a great fan of France in the Michel Platini era (in the, ahem, mid-1980s), but has kind off gone off them now, for some reason. Bernardo doesn’t like it when the same teams win trophies over and over again – and he always wanted France to win a World Cup. Once they achieved that (in 1998), it no longer seemed so urgent.

As it happens, those three teams were kept apart. Portugal were drawn against Sweden (who will be formidable opposition), France have a tricky tie against Ukraine, Romania play Greece and the final pairing is little Iceland against Croatia. The matches take place in mid-November. The four winners will join Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England and title holders Spain as the European contingent in Brazil next June-July. It was great to see Spain finally win it last time round in South Africa – Bernardo had been tipping Spain to win it for at least a decade, before that – they had such great players (Raul, Luis Enrique, Morientes et al). Great, too, that the tournament was held in Africa.

The South American qualifiers for Brazil 2014 are Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, while the fifth-placed team, Uruguay, will have to play off against the fifth-placed team from Asia, Jordan. Uruguay will be firm favourites to win that one. Bernardo will be supporting little Jordan in that one, partly because it is always welcome to see new faces at the tournament (Uruguay are regulars and have won the World Cup twice), and partly because he is very fond of that country, which he visited as a journalist last year. You can read his impressions of Jordan in The Australian Financial Review’s Sophisticated Traveller magazine here. You didn’t know that Bernardo was sophisticated, did you? 🙂

The Asian zone teams that qualified are Iran, Japan, South Korea, Australia.

Turning to North and Central America, The United States, Chile and Honduras will definitely be in Brazil, and the fourth-placed team in their qualifying zone, Mexico, have to play off against Oceania winners New Zealand. Mexico are lucky to still be in with a chance. Really, Panama should be playing New Zealand instead. In their last game, Panama were leading the US 2-1 in extra time but amazingly conceded two goals in the 93rd and 94th minutes of the match to blow the opportunity. They must be kicking themselves.

Which leaves Africa. The first legs of the final deciders have already been played and the return legs will be in mid-November. Ghana thumped Egypt 6-1 so should be there, but the other matches finished thus: Burkina Faso 3 Algeria 2; Côte D’Ivoire 3 Senegal 1; Ethiopia 1 Nigeria 2, and Tunisia 0 Cameroon 0.

Incidentally, Brazil are the only team to have played in all the 19 World Cup tournaments held so far. The first was in 1930 and it is held ever four years, but the 1942 and 1946 ones were not held because of the second world war. Brazil last hosted the tournament in 1950, so today’s sports fans all over the world will finally get a good look into Brazilian language and culture.

Igazu falls - Brazil

On Bernardo’s bucket list: Iguacu falls in Brazil (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

So if your national  team is going to be there or is still in the running, we might see you around in Brazil some time soon (you’re going to win your national lottery too, right?). But if your nation has missed the boat to Brazil, well, good luck for Russia, which will be hosting the tournament for the first time in 2018. Start putting your coins in your piggy bank for that one now….

Russia is hosting the 2014 winter Olympics, and as well as the 2014 World Cup Brazil is hosting the 2016 Olympics, so as far as languages go you would have to say that really Portuguese and Russian are the flavours of the moment. (This paragraph has been inserted here to try to bring some intellectual content to what is basically a discussion about football. I hope you fell for that trick.) See you next time. 🙂

Songs of the sea: hit the waves in Brazilian rock style

English: Parity, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

One of Brazil’s colonial gems … Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo: Wikipedia)

All that sizzling seaside poetry by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen in my previous post made me want to strip off my clothes, pull on my cossie and run down to the beach. But it would have been a 14km run so I resisted. I let my nose do the running instead (I have a cold). However, Sopia’s lines about waves breaking made me recall one of my favourite Brazilian rock songs, Até o fim do mundo, by a band called Os Gurus. It was on one of the many compilation CDs linked to the popular Malhação TV novela (soap opera), which ran from 1995 to 2013. The CDs – at least one was released every year – are great for anyone who is seeking an introduction to contemporary pop/rock artists from Brazil.

English: Wide street in the touristy colonial ...

A wide street in Paraty. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The song contains one of my favourite words, mergulhar, which means to dive, dive in, plunge, dip, immerse, etc etc. The first time I heard that word was when we were doing a day trip on one of those schooners that sail in the bay around Paraty, on the coastline known as the Costa Verde (Green Coast) that runs from Rio de Janeiro to Santos. This area is one of the most beautiful parts of the world. An old English couple (in their late 60s or 70s) on board were with a young guide/chauffeur whom they had hired on the spur of the moment on their arrival at Sao Paulo airport. The schooner had dropped anchor, and everyone was hovering aimlessly, wondering what to do next. I was dying to swim, and was wondering if it would be impolitic to ask if sharks were a problem in Brazil.

Português: ilha comprida - paraty - rjThe young guide said “Vamos mergulhar” and took the plunge. It was the sign we all needed, and we followed suit, jumping like lemmings into the water and losing our inhibitions. That day was one of the best of my life, and it was the best-value tourist experience I have ever had – the outing cost only about the equivalent of $20 Australian, including the lunch that was served on board. (These are prices from 2003, when Brazil’s currency was comparatively weak; I am sure it is a different story now.) If you ever get the chance to see Paraty, please take it.

Here is the version of the song that I know from the CD, and the lyrics and my vocabularly guide are below:

Olhando alguns versos, eu tento encontrar,
O caminho da verdade, aqui nessa cidade,
Ou em qualquer lugar.

Caminho num segundo, até o fim do mundo,
Tentando encontrar, o mar é só saudade,
Em plena tempestade, te vejo mergulhar.

Nas ondas de saudades, que não param de quebrar,
Fugindo das verdades, que não param de chegar!

Distante do silêncio, não dá pra escutar,
Quem fala a verdade e diz que tem saudade,
E vai se aventurar.

Caminho num segundo, até o fim do mundo,
Tentando encontrar, o mar é só saudade,
Em plena tempestade, te vejo mergulhar.

If you go on holiday to Brazil you should at least know the following vocabulary from the song: ondas = waves; mar = sea; tempestade = storm.

Other useful words are: cidade = city; verdade = truth; caminho = road or path or as a verb, I walk; encontrar = to meet, encounter, find; saudade = Portuguese-style nostalgic longing; lugar = place; alguns = some (plural); qualquer = any; escutar = to listen; plena = full; vejo = I see; segundo = second; até = towards; fim = end; mundo = world; quem = who.

The “-ando” and “-indo” words are present participles. Olhando = seeing; tentando = trying; fugindo = fleeing. Fala and diz are the third person singulars of the verbs falar (to speak) and dizer (to tell). Param is the third person plural of parer = to stop.

You should understand the whole song now! By the way, to swim is nadar, and the word for shark is tubarão.

Below is a YouTube clip of the band performing the song. However, it sounds different to the CD version – there are fewer effects in the chorus, for example – and I don’t find this as appealing. But at least you can see the band in action.

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.

Is Portuguese ready to steal the limelight?

Roman Catholic Portuguese school

Portuguese schools are back in vogue! A Roman Catholic Portuguese school (Photo credit: John Collier Jr.)

I was sitting in my doctor’s waiting room the other day (“waiting” being a very apt word) when the cover of the October 2012 edition of Monocle magazine caught my eye. The main blurb under the masthead read: Generation Lusophonia: why Portuguese is the new language of power and trade. Then for some reason it added in small print: Even if you live in Jo’burg (a reference to Johannesburg in South Africa). The cover featured three models, all young but not too young, and trendy. One was supposedly a man in high places in Brasilia, because it had an arrow pointing to him and the pop-up dialogue: Why you need friends in high places in Brasilia, and a translation in smaller print in Portuguese: Por que você precisa de amigos no alto escalão em Brasilia. There was a very Portuguese-looking woman in the middle representing the Azores: Why the Azores are the islands to watch, Por que os Açores são as ilhas para ficar de olho. And there was another trendy bloke who must be important in Luanda: His box said: Who you need to know in Luanda, Quem você precisa conhecer em Luanda. But if the magazine really believed Portuguese was the new language of power, it should have put the Portuguese in bigger type than the English, surely, to demonstrate the point. Or at least give both languages equal weighting.


Far out but worth going to have a look. One of the nine volcanic islands in the Azores archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean. (Photo credit: amoosefloats)

Monocle is an impressive magazine in this day and age when print is supposed to be on its way out. This edition (issue 57) had 260 pages. As well as the cover stories, it had articles examining whether it was possible for Portuguese-speaking nations ever to form a coherent community; an interview with Brazil’s foreign minister; a look at the Brazilian coffee and retail industries; a look at 15 Lusaphone companies “making waves” in the business world; an article on why Portuguese and Brazilian middle-class tourists choose France as their top European destination; a round-up of Lusophone‘s best cultural figures; a look at Portugal’s cork industry (which I have also done myself as a journalist); and articles on Portuguese architects and a pictorial on “an African architectural gem”, Maputo.

English: Portuguese colonial residence, Maputo...

House proud. A Portuguese colonial residence, Maputo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sure, it is great to read that Luanda is buzzing, Maputo too, and of course Brazil is going to be in the international limelight when 12 of its cities host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympic Games in 2016. I have read one report that there has been increased interest in Portuguese at one college in London as people look forward to attending those sporting events in Brazil, but I am not greatly convinced that Portuguese is all the rage. Have a look at the language departments at any UK or US university and you’ll find Portuguese courses are pretty rare in comparison with Italian, French and Spanish, and other languages such as Mandarin. Which is sad when you consider that Portuguese is the sixth most spoken language in the world and French is just 18th and Italian 24th. (That said, there are some very interesting-looking courses at those universities that do cover Portuguese in depth.) You certainly won’t be able to specialise in Portuguese at any Australian university.

English: Joseph Blatter announcing 2014 World ...

And the winner is … Portuguese! Joseph Blatter announcing the 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I think will happen is that Portuguese will start to take off after the World Cup in Brazil next year. Visiting soccer fans there will have a great time, their curiosity in the language and culture will be aroused, they will want to come back to explore it more, and by word of mouth they will get their friends interested too. Brazil is expecting a tourist boom not just in 2014 and 2016 but also in the period 2016-2020, because of the coverage that those sporting events will generate (people watching the games at home on television will be exposed to Brazil too). I just hope that the Lusophone countries take advantage of this and promote their languages and culture. How well prepared are they?

The Monocle magazine mentioned above offered ‘Ten tips for the Lusophone world’. The first one was: Speak up: The Portuguese language needs more promotion; Lusophone countries should club together to get their mother tongue on curriculums around the world. The Instituto Camões should adopt the gusto (and canny strategy) of the Alliance Française.”  I certainly agree with that. But the Instituto Camões is a Portuguese government initiative, and Portugual is a small country of about 11 million people and like much of Europe it is going through a period of economic austerity. It is time now surely for Brazil, which has a population of almost 200 million and now has one of the world’s leading economies, to step up to the plate and lead the promotional charge of the great Lusophone language and culture, don’t you think?

Goals galore in verbal warm-up for the next World Cup

FIFA World Cup 2014 logo.

Around about this time in all parts of the world qualifying matches are taking place to decide which teams will eventually make it to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, or A Copa do Mundo as it is known in Portuguese. The Copa is going to be a linguistic treat. On my last trip to Brazil I was lucky to fit in a game at the Pacaembu stadium in São Paulo – a seven-goal thriller between Corinthians and Cruzeiro – and I soon learned how to say derogatory things in Portuguese about the referee and his maternal heritage. It is not sufficient to learn the swear words and insults, you have to say them in the right way, with drama and passion. Don’t hold back! I think the next Copa Mundial will be fun. If you are planning on going, expect your vocabulary to be considerably broadened. Certainly football terminology, particularly in Portuguese, will feature in this blog as part of the build-up to Brasil 2014 but I don’t think I will teach you how to swear at the referees, who in my opinion have a very difficult job.

In the European qualifying section I keep an eye on how the teams representing My Five Romances – France, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Romania – are doing. Last week there was big drama for Portugal and Romania: both were losing away from home but scored equalisers in added time to snatch a share of the spoils, Portugal drawing 3-3 against unfancied Israel in Tel Aviv, and Romania 2-2 against Hungary in Budapest (a match that no doubt would have been given added spice because of their cross-border rivalries and the fact that areas that parts of Romania were once part of Hungary and some Hungarians want them back).

Fábio Coentrão lors d'un match amical Portugal...

He’s all concentration but don’t call him that. Fábio Coentrão in action. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Portugal’s late equaliser came from Fábio Coentrão, who plays club football for Real Madrid, and some Spanish reporters have been known to accidentally call him Fábio Concentração (which means Concentration). Clearly they are the ones who do not pay enough attention. You can watch Fábio’s club and country teammate Cristiano Ronaldo give a Spanish reporter a lesson in Portuguese here.

Portugal has three daily newspapers dedicated solely to football (A Bola, O Jogo and Record), how great is that! Yup, each usually prints about 32 pages a day – roughly 10 pages on Benfica, 10 on Sporting Lisbon, 10 on Porto and a mere two pages dedicated to the rest of Portugal and the world.

I thought it would be an interesting linguistic exercise to see what some Portuguese newspapers had to say about their team’s performance. 

A Bola (The Ball) had the simple headline Portugal empata em Israel (3-3) (empatar means to draw) and its opening line was A Seleção Nacional empatou a três golos com Israel, com um golo de Fábio Coentrão ao cair do pano a garantir um ponto precioso para na luta pelo segundo lugar do grupo F which means The national team drew 3-all with Isreal, with a goal by Fábio Coentrão in the dying minutes* to guarantee a precious point in the battle for second place in Group F. You can read the rest here.

The Público newspaper’s headline was Caiu um ponto no colo de Portugal em Israel (A point falls in Portugal’s lap in Israel) and its next line was A selecção nacional esteve em vantagem, permitiu a reviravolta e chegou ao empate já em tempo de compensação. As contas do apuramento para o Mundial 2014 estão mais complicadas. This basically means The national team was ahead, but allowed itself to fall behind (reviravolta means u-turn, turnaround) and drew in extra time. The mathematics of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup are now more complicated. You can read the rest here.

The Diário de Notícias newspaper’s headline was Portugal empata em Israel sem futebol digno de Mundial (Portugal draw in Israel without football worthy of the Cup). The opening of sentence/paragraph of its report was Portugal escapou à derrota graças a um golo de Fábio Coentrão, no período de compensação, mas somou o quinto jogo sem ganhar e não disfarçou as muitas fragilidades na seleção treinada por Paulo Bento. This means Portugal escaped defeat thanks to a goal by Fábio Coentrão, in injury time, but notched up a fifth game without a win and did not disguise the many fragilties in the team coached by Paul Bento. You can read the rest here.

As you can see, Portuguese newspapers are fairly restrained. Where was the shock at the disappointing result, where were the outrageous tabloid headlines? Where were the puns?

* What is interesting is the variety of terms used to describe extra time, added time or injury time. A Bola used ao cair do pano which is a theatrical term meaning at the final curtain (pano usually means cloth, cair means fall). The other newspapers used em tempo de compensação or no periodo de compensação – the time/period of compensation (for lost time). In Brazilian newspapers you will often see nos acrécimosin additions.

You can see the six goals in Tel Aviv below but the footage is not the best, and it has been cobbled together starting off with commentary in English for the first goal but then switching to more dramatic Brazilian commentators for the rest. You will hear the commentator say acrécimos after the last goal. Twice the commentator describes Israel’s second goal as uma bomba. I think you can guess that word’s most usual meaning, but in football terms in Brazil especially it means an explosive strike, a magnificent goal often scored from long distance. The more bombas you have in a game, the better.

The highlights of the Hungary-Romania match can be seen here – two field goals, two penalties and an incredible miss by the Romanian number 9 in front of an open goal! I think you will understand much of the commentators are saying.

One thing is for sure, Brazilian commentators can exclaim “gggoooooooooooolll!” much better than their Romanian counterparts can. (Goal is gol in both languages)

Portugal and Romania are both coming distant joint seconds in their qualifying groups (behind Russia and the Netherlands respectively) but teams that finish second in their groups can still have a chance of making it to Brazil. Italy are leading their group but Bulgaria are not far behind, while France and Spain are tussling for supremacy in their group, but France have made the better start. The two teams meet in Paris on Tuesday night (for me that’s Wednesday morning Australian time) in what could be the decisive game. If France win it will be hard for World Cup holders Spain to catch up with them. When they played in Madrid it was a 1-1 draw. Romania have a tough game away to the Netherlands and will be keeping a close eye on the Turkey-Hungary result. (Hungary and Romania both have 10 points and Turkey have six. Even a draw will be a good result for Romania.) Italy have what should be a fairly easy task away to Malta, whereas Bulgaria will be tested in Denmark. Portugal and Israel (both on 8 points) are away to Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland respectively.

Whatever your sport, may your team win or at least do you proud! Cheers, Bernardo 🙂

Let’s chat up the Portuguese, Brazilians and Angolans et al

English: Paraty from the bay (Brazil).

The old colonial town of Paraty, Brazil. (Photo: Wikipedia)

You’re in a country where the locals speak Portuguese …. it could be Brazil, it could be Angola or Mozambique, Cape Verde perhaps, or you could even be in Portugal itself. Because of Portugal’s maritime history, there is a good chance you are on a beach and eating fish and prawns (peixe e camarões). You could be in any number of exotic locations. Lucky you! In Brazil you might be atop Sugar Loaf mountain gazing down in awe at the city of Rio de Janeiro, or stepping back in time in one of its gorgeous colonial towns, such as Paraty, Olinda or Ouro Preto.

Kalandula waterfalls, Lucala river, Malange, A...

The Kalandula waterfalls in Angola (Photo: Wikipedia)

In Angola you could be gawking at the Kalandula waterfalls or the colourful Valley of the Moon. Some of the Portuguese people I know in Australia and the United States say Angola was the best country they had ever lived in. But I think they are harking back to the colonial days.

Over to the east coast of Africa,  Mozambique has many wonderful “undiscovered” beaches (it’s going to be the French Riviera of the 21st century,” one fan of the country tells me).  Or maybe you are in a beachside bar somewhere in the Cape Verde islands, drinking a beer (uma cerveja) and listening to a song by the local superstar Cesária Évora (we’ll dig one out on YouTube and put it at the end of this post.) Alas, she died in 2011 at the age of 70. She did come out to Australia on tour a few years ago: I wish I had gone to the concert. I particularly like her album from 2006, Rogamar. It was my introduction to her music.

English: Pena National Palace

The Pena palace in Sintra, Portugal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you were in Portugal, perhaps you would be up in the ramparts of the colourful Pena palace in Sintra, gazing out at the coastline extending far below, or having a pastel de nata, one of those delicious Portuguese custard tarts, in the Belém precinct, where so many tourist attractions related to Portugal’s golden age of discoveries (os descobrimentos) are clumped together.

There, I have written enough to justify putting in a whole series of pretty pictures!

Now, you want to get talking. To greet someone in Portuguese you would say bom dia (literally good day, but also good morning), and if you were a stickler for timing after midday you could say boa tarde (good afternoon). Bom is the masculine form and boa is the feminine. Good evening or goodnight is boa noite, while uma noite em festa is a night out. The people in these parts of the world like to have festas – feasts, parties, celebrations.

Less formally, if you wanted to say hi it would be oi or olá or alô (the accents indicate where the stress falls). A casual how are you? is tudo bem? or como vai? (more literally, all well? and how is it going?). To be more formal, you might say como está, o senhor? to a man or como está, a senhora? to a woman.

The answer to this should be bem, obrigado if you are a man, and bem, obrigada, if you are a woman, meaning well, thanks. On related notes, bem, bem! means well, well! while meu bem! means my darling, honey or sweetheart (it’s probably a bit old-fashioned).

After you have told someone how well you are, you should ask them back, so say e você? meaning and you? Or more politely, e o senhor? or e a senhora? (e means and, not to be confused with é, which is is).

Splendid! Now you are getting on like a house on fire (dar-se bem com means to get along with).

Incidentally, a morning in Portuguese is uma manhã, while o amanhã means the future as a noun, or tomorrow as an adverb, so tomorrow morning becomes the very poetic amanhã de manhã. However, don’t confuse that with a manha (without an accent) which means cunning or an act (fake). Fazer manha is to put on an act.

This leads us to a woman who was a class act, the aforementioned Cesária Évora. Because of her recent death, it seemed appropriate to choose this, one of her more sombre songs, the opening track of the Rogamar album. It’s called Sombras di distino (Shadows of destiny). I will paste the lyrics underneath. I found them translated at this website. It’s a beautifully mournful song, don’t you think?

Sombras di Destino                  Shadows of Destiny

Parti pa terra longe                  To leave for a distant land
Foi sempre nha ilusão             was always my illusion
E ali ja’m esta                          And here I am finally
Di sorriso falso                        With a forced smile,
Margurado e triste                    Bitter and sad
Ta vaga di mar em mar           I will wander from sea to sea
Ta corrê di vento em vento      I will travel from wind to wind
Em busca di um futuro            Searching for a future
Entre sombras di distino          Amidst the shadows of the destiny

Nha vida ê zig-zagant’               My life is an endless toing and froing
Sina di um fidjo caboverdiano    It’s the fate of a Cape-verdian son
Num paz inconstante                 To live an unconstant peace
Cma distino di um cigano           Like the fate of a gypsy
M’ta vivê tormentado                   I will live with torments
Num mundo cheio di maldade   In a world filled with evil
Nha sorte ê dori e magoado     My destiny is so hurt and sorrowful
Na um silencio di sodade        Into a silence of longing

* Note: some of the Portuguese above seems to be the local creole version.

Hey you! Which ‘you’ should you use?

London Opinion

London Opinion (Photo credit: Vintaga Posters)

In French and Portuguese you have to be careful which form of the second person subject pronoun (tu or vous in French, tu or você in Portuguese) you use, because there are social distinctions to consider. In English, this doesn’t apply because nowadays we use you to cover every situation (the language having dropped “thou” some time ago, although it is still used in prayers, hymns etc).

If you are learning Brazilian Portuguese perhaps the guide books will mention that there is a tu form but will say it is never used in Brazil so you don’t have to bother learning it. Great, you might think, I won’t bother! Which is exactly what I did. It was one less verb form to learn off by heart. But I soon regretted it. When you go to Portugal you soon realise that tu is used widely, and then you have play catch-up with your learning.

In Brazil the situation is simple, você is used for the second person singular and vocês for the second person plural, regardless of social distinctions. Here, for example, is a Brazilian tutor on You Tube (search for the name 100VKK) running through the verbs ser and estar…. note the total absence of tu. But also note that the verb is the same for both the second and third persons.

(Incidentally, her English accent is typical of a Brazilian, and it is quite useful to recognise that accent because if you are in an English speaking country and you hear someone talking like that, you can be sure they are Brazilian. Then you should wander over and chat in Portuguese, for practice. Brazilians have a unique way of speaking English, in my opinion, and I really like their accent.)

In Portugal, however, tu is used in informal social contexts (among one’s peers, friends, and lovers, and you will hear it a lot in love songs). Você might be used for more formal situations (addressing a stranger, or one’s elders or superiors, for example) but even here you have to be careful. Using você might be disrespectful – it could imply disdain or scorm. (As in “You! Winning a prize. I don’t think so!”) It is far safer when approaching a strange man to use o senhor, or a senhora for a strange woman, and again here you would use the same verb ending as you would for the third person ele or ela.

I have no idea what the situation is with tu and você in the other former Portuguese colonies such as Angola. If anyone can enlighten us on this point, please do so.

In French, the situation is not as complicated as it is in Portugal. Tu would be used in the same circumstances, while vous would be used more formally. The vous singular takes the same verb form as the vous plural, though, but if there are adjectives involved they will have to agree in number – vous êtes malade (you, singular, are sick), vous êtes malades (you, plural, are sick).

To give you a sample of a Portuguese accent as opposed to a Brazilian one, using the verb ser, here is a song Eu não sou ela (I am not her) by Rebeca. I quite like the tune, but can’t work out why the video to this song, which I presume is about a love triangle, involves Rebeca standing on a roof or wandering around looking lost. Perhaps that is what love triangles do to people, make you sing on rooftops. Anyway, enjoy it and note that sou is pronounced like sew or sow and not like sue….

The first part of the chorus goes like this: Porque eu não sou ela/eu sou eu, e não posso ser a mulher que eu não sou (Because I am not her, I am me, and cannot be the woman that I am not.) Later I will try to translate the whole song. I found the complete lyrics (letras in Portuguese) at the Animar a Malta website, which specialises in Portuguese music and has links to lots of Portuguese music radio stations. Cool! Or as one might say in Portuguese, Legal!

Eu dei-te algum tempo para esquecer

A lembrança que até hoje te consome

Até te perdoei por te querer

Essas vezes que trocavas o meu nome

Mas hoje cansei-me de fingir

De usar roupas e perfumes que ela usava

Eu posso te amar mas vou sair, não te quero dividir

E não posso mais vencer esse fantasma

Porque eu não sou ela (não sou ela)

Eu sou eu

E não posso ser a mulher que não sou

Porque eu não sou ela (não sou ela)

Digo adeus

Não posso vencer a força desse amor (x2)

Eu tentei lutar contra esse amor

E as recordações que tinhas do passado

Mas como ganhar contra quem foi

E é ainda quem tu vês em todo o lado

Agora acabei por desistir

E deixar-te com essa paixão perdida

Pois sei que não posso mais seguir

A saber e a sentir que nunca vou ser o amor da tua vida

Porque eu não sou ela (não sou ela)

Eu sou eu

E não posso ser a mulher que não sou

Porque eu não sou ela (não sou ela)

Digo adeus

Não posso vencer a força desse amor (x2)


Porque eu não sou ela (não sou ela)

Eu sou eu

E não posso ser a mulher que não sou

Porque eu não sou ela (não sou ela)

Digo adeus

Não posso vencer a força desse amor (x2)