#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 21
The idea of a collection of daily words describing how you felt for 30 days of social distancing and isolation feels really meaningful to me and something that I think I’d really appreciate having in 10 years. Think outside the box of what you might typically write!— NaNoWriMo (@NaNoWriMo) March 31, 2020
I have began to learn Portuguese again.
I had forgotten how much fun it is to learn a new language, to discover new ways to speak and express the world around me.
Did you know that a fox is uma raposa and a bowtie is um laçarote? But that in french, a fox is un renard and a bowtie is a un noeud papillon (literally a butterfly knot. Isn’t that a wonderful way of describing the item?)? I probably will never need those words, but they are a delight to say.
A lot of the vocabulary I’m learning in Portuguese I already know. After all, I am French and have learned Spanish at school. So it’s not hard to make out what a lot of words are. But some, like uma raposa and um laçarote are completely foreign. I repeat them over and over, letting them roll on my tongue, trying them out until they begin to sound familiar.
I enjoy the sound of them, picturing their shape in my head. I have learned long ago that the best way to learn a language for me is to let go of translation. I do not understand uma raposa as a fox. I picture a fox instead. I do not understand estou come fome as ‘I’m hungry’ (literally ‘I am with hunger’) but as the rumbling of my stomach. I am trying to understand a language, to apply it to the world I live in.
This is an unfamiliar way to learn a language. I use to be taught at school by translating, by comparing and making bridges between languages but this only leads to thinking about a language in a way that is not its own.
English and French for example behave differently. It is only when I stopped translating that I became more familiar with English. I was forced to think in the language to make my sentences work. I needed to understand the mechanics of it to apply it. As a result it took me years to be able to fluently navigate between English and French. They used to be compartmented spaces in my head, each belonging to its own box.
And now, I am creating a third box. I will never be fluent in Portuguese the way I am with French and English but it doesn’t matter. I am not learning Portuguese to move to the country. I am learning to discover a culture I like and to be able to converse with people more easily when I visit. But this is secondary. I do not visit Portugal very often. The last time I was there was three years ago and while I would like to visit more often, it is difficult when you are trying to fly a lot less. Instead I want to read in Portuguese, I want to be able to follow a film or a series in Portuguese. It is not the same as getting to know a place by living in it but reading and listening allows me to discover a different perspective on the world and in a way, it allows me to travel without leaving my house.
That’s a really nice way of going about learning a new language. I am currently working very hard on my Swedish (mainly though because I need to get to a high enough level to be able to work in the language) and while it is not my first aim, I am making use of my newfound language ability to watch films that are only available through a streaming service I get via my library that are only available with Swedish subtitles. I have watched a Georgian film and want to watch films in Farsi and Finnish which are not on Netflix. I do not speak those languages, some I might want to delve into later (just for fun), but some I don’t, I still want to watch those stories and knowing Swedish helps me to enjoy them when I would not have been able to otherwise and I love it.
Are you finding Swedish difficult?
For me, with Portuguese the most difficult part is speaking. I’m giving myself a few more weeks of self-study before I look for a someone to chat with online. I always find speaking to be the hardest part.
Your library streaming service sounds brilliant 🙂 I love that they have so many different films from different culture available. It’s such a great way to discover new cultures and ways of thinking.
Swedish is quite easy. I’ve been studying it for near 3 years at this point. I’ve already got French, English, and German and Swedish is germanic grammar with some vocab from there, some French vocab and some English vocab with some more influence from Old Norse. So I already have a lot of ground covered. The grammar is also quite easy. So it’s more a question of learning the words and then speaking. It is also something I have more trouble with. I am taking classes though and even though it’s an online one, we have speaking assignment. Last week, I had to record a poetry analysis orally.
Sweden is really great for the multicultural aspect. I am also lucky to be in Gothenburg which is the international city of Sweden (I mean Stockholm also is, but in a capital city sort of way rather than as a multicultural trade crossroad).