New Year’s Resolution – em Português

Pode ler em Português ao baixo.

One day last summer, in a tiny Douro village, I stopped at a café with colleagues.  Whilst they drank their coffee, I played with the sugar packets.  They were printed with words and phrases to demonstrate some recent changes in spelling standards, and I realised yet another reason I am struggling with my Portugese comprehension:  The Orthographic Accord.

A few years ago someone decided to change the way everything is spelled, to harmonise European Portuguese with Brazilian.  As the new spellings do away with a lot of letters and accents, more and more words sound and now look on paper the same, even though they aren’t.  For example, on this sugar packet:

Este cão tem muito pelo.  Vais pelo bom caminho.

This dog has a lot of fur (pelo).  You go by (pelo) the good path.

The word for fur used to be pêlo.  But they decided to throw out the accent, so now the word for fur is identical to the preposition pelo (by + masculine definite article, por + o = pelo).

O comboio que vai para o Porto não para no Entroncamento.

The train which goes via (para) Porto doesn’t stop (para) at Entroncamento.

Once again a preposition (para) can no longer be distinguished from another word, in this case the verb para (he-she-it stops) which used to be spelled pára, until they threw out the accent.  It’s still pronounced as if the accent is there, but in writing there’s no difference.

My biggest hurdle in language learning is listening comprehension – I am just plain slow at the work of sorting out the sounds into recognisable words, and often due to vocabulary limitations, I just don’t recognise the words, because I haven’t learned them yet.

Very frustrating, so I tend to focus on my comfort zone of reading, and rely on written language to learn, or double check my comprehension.  Now, with the Orthographic Accord even that is going to be more of a struggle, since I will be less certain WHICH word this really is – the preposition or some other word which has lost the distinguishing marks that helped me figure it out before.

On the other hand, one New Year’s resolution is to get through this and become more fluent by year end.  I need to build vocabulary and I need to sort out my grammar.  To that end, I am doing two things:

First, I am trying to read more on wider variety of topics, not just the Revista de Vinho.  Magazines are a big help as they often use a more conversational tone and vocabulary, they cover a wider range of topics, and if I really cannot figure out the words… at least I understand the photos!!

Second, I am again taking lessons, and will be using proposed texts for bi-lingual blog stories as a basis for practice and discussion.  So … we’ll see.

E agora… em Português…

Certo dia, no último verão, numa pequenina aldeia do Douro, parei num café com alguns colegas.  Enquanto eles bebiam os seus cafés, eu brincava com os pacotes de açúcar.  Neles estavam escritas palavras e frases para mostrar as mudanças da nova ortografia.  E apercebi-me, mais uma vez, da razão porque estou a lutar com o Português:  O Acordo Ortográfico.

Há alguns anos, alguém decidiu mudar como tudo é escrito, para harmonizar e simplificar a escrita do Português Europeu com todos os outros países lusófonos.  Porque com a nova ortografia se perdem muitas letras e acentos, mais palavras parecem iguais embora não sejam.  Por exemplo, neste pacote de açúcar:

Este cão tem muito pelo.  Vais pelo bom caminho.

A palavra pelo (cabelo na pele dos animais) parece igual à contração da preposição por e o artigo o (pelo).

O comboio que vai para o Porto não para no Entroncamento.

Mais uma vez, não se pode distinguir a preposição para (o Porto) e a forma verbal para (como cessar) que costumava ser escrita como pára.  A pronunciação é a mesma, mas na escrita não há diferença.

O meu maior obstáculo é a compreensão oral – quando ouço alguém a falar, tenho de literalmente separar os sons nas palavras que reconheço e, muitas vezes, por causa das limitações de vocabulário, não reconheço as palavras porque ainda não as aprendi.

Muito frustrante, então, tendo a concentrar-me na minha “comfort zone” de leitura e a confiar na língua por escrito para aprender ou verificar novamente a minha compreensão.  Agora, com o Acordo Ortográfico até isso vai ser mais difícil, porque vou ter menos certeza de QUAL palavra se trata na verdade – a preposição ou qualquer outra palavra que perdeu as suas marcas distintivas que antes me ajudavam a a descobrir.

Por outro lado, um dos meus desejos do ano novo é ultrapassar este problema e tornar-me mais fluente antes do fim do ano. Tenho de ganhar mais vocabulário e tenho de melhorar na gramática.  Para isso, estou a fazer duas coisas:

Em primeiro lugar, estou a tentar ler mais numa maior variedade de tópicos, não só a Revista de Vinho!  As revistas são uma grande ajuda porque usam, muitas vezes, um tom e um vocabulário mais coloquial, cobrem uma maior variedade de tópicos, e, se eu não posso descobrir as palavras… pelo menos compreendo as fotos!

Em segundo lugar, estou mais uma vez a ter aulas e vou usar histórias bilíngues no blogue para prática da língua e discussão.  Então… vamos ver!

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About Cynthia

Free lance wine writer based in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
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8 Responses to New Year’s Resolution – em Português

  1. Um post fantástico Cynthia e muito bem visto. Em nome da economia deprava-se um “mater” da cultura de um povo a sua língua. Sim em nome da economia porque saí mais barato a produção de livros, revistas e manuais em todo o universos de língua portuguesa: Brasil, Angola, Moçambique e finalmente Portugal. Apesar de “vivas” sujeitas a mudanças a sua comercialização deixa algumas dúvidas. Bom fim de semana ;)

    • Cynthia says:

      É verdade, que pena que nos perdemos a riqueza das linguas por causa da economia… obrigadissima José, bom fim de semana! bjs!

  2. Very interesting post. Sometimes when people try to learn a new language, they approach it with too many rules and regulations in mind. As children, we don’t know rules and regulations until we enter school. Prior to that our language acquisition is natural and tends to follow patterns and context. Don’t worry about the letters and accents changing. Think context. When you do, you’ll never confuse “fur” with “by.”

    How about these two sentences in English:

    My foot is covered in a red rash.
    My book measures one foot by eight inches.

    We don’t need accent marks on one version of the word foot to tell us what those sentences mean in English.

    Relax into it, Cynthia. You can do it.

    Lately, my problems with foreign language involve people abbreviating things when they’re texting. If you don’t understand, you can’t even look it up because it’s not spelled correctly. :-(

    • Cynthia says:

      I know, Margaret, I know! I have that problem with some emails from the office. Dawn finally cracked over marble head and I realised p.f. was por favor, but the rest… no idea yet. I do try – have no choice – but to go with context most of the time, but even then it can be a guessing game as any one Portuguese word can have lots of different meanings, and I just don’t get all of them yet… but I will! Huge thank you for the encouragement!

  3. What a nightmare! I cant do languages AT ALL. Not knowing a language does make you concentrate on watching people, the emotions and relationships are masked by language, but if you watch you pick up on feelings, so a language barrier can lead to greater understanding. Not so good on mobile and computer admittedly.

    • Cynthia says:

      Very true, Dixie, and that kind of sheer sympathy and non-verbal communication has gotten me through a lot, believe me!! If ever you need to get along in a country without knowing the language, Portugal is the place to do it. People are so kind and infinitely patient and encouraging, I have never regretted the move for an instant, no matter how great my personal language-related frustrations.

  4. Kerry says:

    I still don’t really understand why Portugal had to go and change their language to “match” the Portuguese spoken in Brazil and other countries… the Brits and the Americans seem to understand each other well enough to read each others books… even if one has cheques and the other has checks… isn’t it kind-of the same thing? I don’t see either one of them modifying the way they use the English language, so why the Portuguese felt the need is beyond me! As for trying to understand the new rules, I barely knew what was going on with the old set of rules so the evolution of my Portuguese speaking ability isn’t really affected. Its just as bad as it’s always been!

  5. Anna O says:

    I’ve got a constant playful quarrel going on with one of my students about this spelling agreement. In many languages such revisions are made from time to time, to account for the way the language is naturally developing, in particular as to the way pronunciation changes. Languages in which spelling is not adjusted to speaking end up being very challenging for learners, young and adult alike. (English is one of them – I read somewhere that the last such adjustment was made some time in the 19th century. Need I say GHOTI?)

    Portuguese of Portugal greatly needs such a reform. Why should a word be spelled “actor” and pronounced “ator” when the very similar word “facto” is pronounced “facto”? (Because IT IS VERY IMPORTANT to respect the etymological origin, says my student, but forgets that “conflito” lost its etymological c already).

    I used to be a vivid supporter of the reform but II’m increasingly feeling that for every thing it simplifies it complicates something else. I guess that’s what happens when one goes on for ages to try to agree, a give here must be compensated for by a take here, and in the end anyone involved lost sight of the initial ambition.

    I guess some will say I have no right to voice an opinion over this as I’m not a native speaker. But I argue that quite to the opposite, those of us who’ve been struggling with learning as adults very much ought to have a say in this debate. A language is not only a cultural heritage, it’s a tool for everyday use.

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