Mais devagar, por favor!

I arrived in Lisbon with a humble knowledge of Portuguese. In other terms, I knew that the difference between obrigado and obrigada, which means thank you, is the gender of the person who speaks. Apart from this I didn’t know much more. As I am very interested in learning new languages, I signed up for a Portuguese course at the university in Lisbon. In the first weeks I learned a lot! Not only have I learned that Portuguese is quite similar to Spanish, although the Portuguese people find it difficult to admit, but I have also increased my Portuguese vocabulary. The similarity of Portuguese and Spanish can be explained by their similar evolvement. Both languages form part of the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin. The closeness between Spanish and Portuguese gave me the opportunity to advance quite fast, as I had learned Spanish for several years. Often, I am told that I speak Portingnol – a mixture between Spanish and Portuguese.
Still, one of the first sentences that I learned was: “Você pode falar mais devagar, por favor?” – “Could you please speak slower?” This is due to the fact that the Portuguese accent of Lisbonetas is known for being difficult to understand. Since the inhabitants of Lisbon often “swallow” part of the words, many of them, including me, don’t even understand what they are talking about. Sometimes the Portuguese language even sounds like Russian! But as time went by I got used to this accent and started to pick up the essential information. I guess this progress has two main reasons: One is that my Portuguese level has very much improved in the last months and the other is that I simply got used to the unique way people talk. I have the impression that once you get used to the accent of Lisbon, you will be able to understand almost every Portuguese accent!  As around 260 million people all over the world speak Portuguese, a profound knowledge of this language will give me many opportunities for my future career. It opens the way for possible jobs on some Islands in Indonesia, in States in India and in the special administrative region of China, Macau. Portuguese is spoken all over the world, because of Portugal’s expansion in colonial times.

During my time in Lisbon I learned that it is not very important that you can build a grammatically correct sentence but that being able to express yourself is essential. Sometimes, when I find myself in a situation where I don’t know the words in Portuguese I try to use other ways to express myself and most of the times the people understand me. Sometimes this “communication” ends up mixing Portuguese, Spanish and body language.

Apart from learning Portuguese I also improved my English skills, because there are many foreign students, and hardly any Swiss students at Nova University of Business and Economics. Therefore, I only use English and Portuguese in my daily life. This gives me the opportunity to improve two languages at the same time!  Additionally, all the courses I was able choose at Nova are taught in English. This gives me the opportunity to improve my academic English as well. To boost my academic English I had already chosen a course in English at my home university in Bern. Next to written exams, my courses at Nova also demand oral presentations and writing term papers, so my academic English skills have increased even more.

Rheija Hug

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