For a long time I have enjoyed reading, I can remember hiding under my covers witha flashlight to finish reading a book after my partents told me to go to bed. During the past few months I have had more time to read than I normally do. Reading has been a great help for me here in Brazil. First is that it provides some comfort because it is very familiar to me because it is in English. Second it provides something to do that is not studying Portuguese. Third, I am rereading lots of books that bring back great memories for me. The series pictured is the Redwall series which I first read as a child with my dad and then reread multiple times as I grew up. I have great memories reading these books at the house I grew up in, while in college and now in Brazil.
Over the past couple of months I have begun to help coach football. There are some great opportunities which helping coach football provides. The first is that of being able to practice my language skills. I feel especially able to learn a simple phrase and then go to practice and use it repeatedly. I also understand the game and am able to listen to what is said and pick up different words which will help me later during class.
The second thing which is important is that I feel like I am able to get to know some people in a more organic way. The guys know that I am here as a missionary and know that I don’t speak Portuguese very well but I am able to still help out. There are mistakes that I make in speaking Portuguese but the guys are able to help correct me. The most recent one that I can think of is that I told the guys that they should not have ice cream the day before the football game when I wanted to tell them that they should not drink beer the day before the football game.
The drawback to coaching from the sideline is that I am more emotionally involved with the game that is being played. It is different than being on the field and being able to personally affect the outcome of the game.
A great way to enjoy some fellowship and practice my language skills is to have people over to my house. It is a great opportunity to get to know some people from the church and to do that I need to speak Portuguese. I have found myself able to speak Portuguese easier the more that I have people over. One of the draw backs of having people over is that I get tired and after having people over. It normally takes me at least an hour to wind down after having a family over for an evening but on the upside I normally get a good nights sleep after.
Another bonus to having people over is that I get to cook for not just myself Most single people I know find it difficult, to some extent, to cook for themselves. Most recipes that I know are for 4 people and you end up putting in the same effort even if you only make one serving. However, when I have people over I get to think about different foods that I am craving which I would like to share with my guests. Recently I have been craving American comfort food (Bacon Mac & Cheese, with grilled beef) and Thai food (Chicken Satay and Curry Pasta) which are two of the recent meals that I made for my friends.
My skills in Portuguese seem to be growing every day. I am a slow learner but try to learn something new every day. I have seen my conversation skills grow markedly every week recently. When I listen to Portuguese I have a simple inner monologue going. I first am listening for all of the words that I understand which have been said. Then I am telling myself the different possibilities of what was said based on the context and words I recognized. The next part of the monologue is normally do I understand enough to respond. If I do then I will think to myself do I have the vocabulary to say a response that makes sense. Finally I think about if I actually want to respond.
This internal monologue has gotten better each and every week as I understand more vocabulary. Here is some of the progress that I have made. When I had only been in country about a month and a half I went to a wedding. At this wedding we had some great table conversation which I really didn’t understand much of at all. I was able to pick up a few words here and there but I do remember two specific words that were actually only one word. The words were “de coracao” which means “the heart” I thought that they were talking about the heart of the matter in my internal monologue. It lead me to actually respond that I understand. Later I was told that the word I heard was “decoracao” and actually means decoration.
A few months later the internal monologue is different when I talk with a guy after the church service. We were able to talk about cooking food, talking about missing another missionary on furlough, and how nice the church/dedication service was. This conversation went so well that when I expressed how my Portuguese has not been progressing as well as I wanted. During this conversation making a story to accompany the words that I was able to follow was easier.
One day in the future I hope that I will not have to fill in as many words in the stories that I tell myself during a conversation in Portuguese.
When I was getting prepared for being a missionary I read a story about the cube culture and ball culture. There was a cube from the cube culture who wanted to reach the ball culture with the gospel. Over time the cube tried to adapt in order to reach the balls in the ball culture. Years after trying to adapt the cube visited the cube culture and found out that he was not like the other cubes, he had changed. The other cubes looked at him like a ball and upon returning to the ball culture they looked at him like he was still a cube. When the cube looked at himself in the mirror he found that he looked similar to a cube and similar to a ball but unlike either one. The cube had turned into an egg.
I think about this story represents me right now. Not that I have changed into something different yet but I feel it coming. I would say that I am definitely feeling like cube in my mind right now. I want to reach a different culture but am having difficulty do to language and cultural differences.
My current battle is in my mind and thoughts. I definitely think like a cube and am noticing some of the differences in the way that I think and act vs. Brasilians think and act. When I see a difference I have to remind myself not to judge the difference as being negative or positive but to simply acknowledge the difference. This battle is centered in my mind and thoughts right now and I am working on trying to not let my negative or positive thoughts influence my reaction.
There are two major difficulties which I have faced in learning Portuguese. The first is figuring out how to study a language again. I did not begin with the best language learning skills or abilities. I believe that I have let that color my study of Portuguese. It is easy to come up with excuses as to why I am not doing as well. However, I have begun to embrace studying more. There are a couple of ways that have really helped me in my language acquisition. The first is the use of quizlet. Quizlet is a free app which has allowed me to study vocabulary by typing in the words and mixing up how it is presented. Working with this has helped me more than traditional flashcards. The second is the use of white boards to write out the different things that I am trying to learn. If I can see and hear the words than I tend to remember them better.
Besides how to study I have also had a great difficulty learning one specific section of language school. That section is groupos. Groupos are a series of questions and answers that I have to memorize and repeat in a time limit. There is a catch, I only have to remember the groupo until I have completed it. I find it very difficult to memorize, perform and then forget. I am thankful for my current teacher helping me with this by giving me flash cards to match.
The highest priority that I have right now in Brazil is learning Portuguese. It has been a difficult road so far and will continue to be more difficult. I have struggled so far with learning Portuguese and I don’t expect it to change much. However, I am not going to give up.
I am determined to persevere in learning Portuguese. I appreciate some of the new sugguestions which have helped me to learn. One of these is to write out what I am trying to learn so that I can visualize it.
It helps me to be able to see the words and concepts. The other thing which is helping is being able to hear the words/sounds properly in my head. I feel like I can imitate words and speak Portuguese better when I can see and hear the words/sentences in my head.
One week into language studies and I feel like I have ridden a rollercoaster of emotions. I was so excited to begin language studies a week before I thought I would. I had figured that I would begin on March 6 but I began on February 23 instead. This put me almost 2 weeks ahead of schedule. My expectations were shattered the first couple of days, I had been told that I would begin with the sounds that different letters make but I had also figured that they would give me a couple of phrases which would be helpful in daily life. That was not the case. We worked on sounds for the first two day’s and I was only given 3 phrases that seemed to be helpful in daily life over those days. This is where I bottomed out on the roller coaster. I was so frustrated and angry with things.
After a good conversation with one of my team mates I began to feel better about what was happening in language school. It was after the fourth day that I read something and my teacher said that I did a good job at reading, although I did not understand what I was reading. I began to think that I can read things well, this was probably the high point of the first week of school.
I started to study even more and try to get the different pronunciations correct. One of the hardest parts is listening to the different sounds which are similar as I study at home. It is difficult enough to hear the difference with my teacher there but listening to the difference in the sounds when they are both in my head is hard. One of the things that I have found which helps is listening to my previous day’s lesson and specifically my teachers pronunciation of different words.