Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Time to Dust off the Rosetta Stone

We have been here 307 days, and I am proud to say that my Portuguese is coming along nicely. I have ordered food, shopped, gone to the doctor, presided over the Young Women group at church, and even taken a telephone survey. (Tom says I probably shouldn't do those anymore.) With the help of the ever reliable and accurate Google Translate, a little deft hand gesturing, and my natural ability to pick up on a new language, combined with my keen memory, I pretty much have been able to communicate all of my needs.

Yes, there have been times when I have given an assignment to one of my girls or presidency members, and they have arrived at the assigned time-totally prepared--(with something totally different than what I asked for)--but I feel like at least I am teaching them to fulfill assignments, right?

Then, there was the time that I asked a friend what I could bring to her house for lunch and she said, "nada" (nothing), but I thought she said, "salada"....When I said, "What type of salad?" (in Portuguese), she looked at me a little funny, and then said, "Sure, you could bring a salad if you want." I  realized my mistake, but I couldn't correct it. And so, I brought a salad. It was a delicious fruit salad; fruit salad goes with everything, so no harm done.

And, never mind the time that I ordered one hundred brigadeiro candies for Marissa's birthday party, but somehow, when Tom picked up the order, it was filled with two hundred candies. Or the time that I ordered twelve rolls and got a bag with two. Everyone likes brigadeiro, and I didn't really need that much bread, anyway.

Yesterday, I bought a cake for our anniversary. I saw one that looked like it had whipped cream with a cherry swirl, but it wasn't clearly marked. Tom really likes cherry, so I thought it would be special. So, I went to the girl working behind the counter and asked her what kind of fruit was in the cake; if it was cherry. She gave me a really funny look. Then, she looked at it, and told me that it was "red fruits". I said, "Yes, but do you know what kind of  red fruit? Is it cherry?" Again, the strange look, and she told me she didn't know. So, I took a chance and bought it. It looked good. It was on my way home that I realized what I had said. The word for cherry is "cereja". The word for beer is "cerveja". Guess which one I said? I may or may not have sounded like I had already enjoyed a little too much cerveja before picking out my cake.

But, probably my finest hour of linguistic success was last week when the missionaries came over for lunch. I was complaining to them about the things I can't find here; how I had to come up with a different recipe for my cake since I couldn't find Baker's cocoa. I tried to say that I couldn't find cocoa powder without sugar. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized my blunder. (Recognition of errors is the first step to becoming fluent--or, at least, this is what I keep telling myself.) I actually told them that I couldn't find powdered POOP--without sugar...(!) Tom reminded me that this is a hard item to find in the United States, too. The missionaries gave that strange look for just a moment, as I tried to correct myself. Then, we all had a good, hard laugh. I'm sure I provided subject material for the letters home that week.

Okay, so I may not be perfecting my language skills, but I am getting good at recognizing that telltale look that people give when I have just said something off the wall. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to take that look off of peoples' faces. (Do you know how hard it is to back track in another language, when you weren't successful with your first attempt at communication?!) At least I can rest assured that I am furnishing some humor, and contributing to the positive image of immigrants and foreigners everywhere.

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