Charting a couple's move from London to Portugal, tales, adventures and moving advice

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Archive for the ‘Learning the language’


Butterflies, buds and bellies – Portugal in spring 7

Posted on March 03, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Lou) Last week was definitely an interesting one. Both Ben and I have work stacked up in front of us, which is great as we save up for the (ever closer) impending arrival of our little bundle of joy later this year.

Portugal in spring - buds and flowers are everywhere

Portugal in spring – buds and flowers are everywhere

The alternately cloudy, sunny and blustery weather has suited our indoor lifestyle, which has consisted of working all hours and spending time in the kitchen making the most of fresh produce such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and flavourful young carrots.

For me, the routine was broken by my regular monthly check up at our local Centro de Saúde (health centre). The day didn’t start too well, when I got in the car and turned the key, only to hear a click and then silence. However, the resulting taxi that I had to get to the Centro de Saúde meant an opportunity to practice my Portuguese, which is something that always pleases me. (The new car battery that we had to purchase later that day wasn’t quite so pleasing.)

On the way to the health centre, I chatted to the taxi driver about the weather, about the traffic and about the health centre’s services for pregnant women. After a few minutes of conversation, he asked me,

“You’re not Portuguese, are you?”

Portugal in spring - pink sky at night

Portugal in spring – pink sky at night

A simple enough question, but nonetheless a landmark in terms of our settling here. He hadn’t asked if I was English, but instead was uncertain as to whether or not I was Portuguese. It might seem the tiniest of distinctions when under scrutiny, but if felt as though I had taken another step towards true integration into Portugal – something which has become increasingly important to me now that we are expecting our first child here.

I shall ignore the fact that two days later the proprietor of a local seafood shop at the market was utterly incapable of understanding my (I thought) perfectly enunciated request for a dressed crab, lest it detract from the above victory.

After the check up with the doctor (all is well) I took advantage of the combination of carless-ness and sunshine to walk home rather than paying for another taxi. As I waddled my way chubbily along, I was treated to the site of buds and catkins on the trees, while butterflies danced through the warm air. Clearly nature has noticed that spring is on the way.

Portugal in spring - pretty white flowers

Portugal in spring – pretty white flowers

Another incident occurred when I popped to our local shop a day or so later. After chatting with the shop owner and another customer for a couple of minutes – they were kindly sharing Portuguese tips for how to deal with labour and giving birth – I realised that I was holding up an English tourist and her daughter, who were queuing behind me while we nattered. I paid for my goods and took my leave.

It was only when I got home that I realised the significance of the occurrence – I used to stand behind the Portuguese ladies chatting in the shop, not understanding their conversation and tapping my foot impatiently, waiting to be served while they talked and laughed. Yet suddenly, I had become one of that group of women happily chatting away in Portuguese and caring nothing for things like speed of service – a far cry from the London-fuelled impatience and lack of linguistic understanding that I used to exhibit when we first lived here.

While these may seem like minor incidents, I am left with the feeling that I have, almost without realising it, become more of a local of late. It’s something that has crept up on me unawares. I’m under no illusions that I still have a long way to go in terms of truly becoming Portuguese. My grammar is poor, I find unnecessary bureaucracy maddening and I haven’t yet dared to buy clams from the man with the bucket who sells them in the car park outside the supermarket. Still, it seems that I’m getting a little bit closer with each day that passes.

Portugal in spring - river path

Portugal in spring – river path

If you would like to know more about our early days in Portugal and how we got to where we are now, please feel free to check out our book:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same
US Readers will find it here.

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New Year, New Horizons – Portugal 2014 4

Posted on January 12, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Lou) Having lived in Portugal for over four years now, it’s fair to say that some aspects of daily life in our new country have become routine. Certain interactions that would have invoked serious anxiety (mixed with excitement, of course) when we first arrived are now carried out without a moment’s thought.

A new era begins

A new era begins

2014, though, is going to be a year that is in many ways as nerve-wracking as our first months in Portugal – if not more so! It will be a year of firsts for us, as we navigate the unknown seas of having our first child and of yet more Portuguese bureaucracy as we go through the process of sorting out all of his paperwork.

With the news a few months ago that we were expecting a baby, we began our journey through the Portuguese state healthcare system. After a very bumpy start (numerous fruitless trips to the local Centro do Saude and being reduced to sobbing in frustration in the car park), I finally got to see my GP. From that point onward, things began looking up in terms of my experience of the medical profession.

Though the administration side of seeing the doctor still fills me with dread as each appointment approaches, the care that the bump and I have received from the medical staff has been truly excellent. Waiting times can be lengthy, but this is understandable once you get as far as the doctor. At each appointment so far, I have spent time with both the nurse and the doctor, with my face to face time with them ranging from 15 to 30 minutes.

New footsteps in the sand are eagerly/nervously awaited

New footsteps in the sand are eagerly/nervously awaited

It is a far cry from the five minute turnaround time I was used to in the UK. I’m still in two minds as to which system is better – one where you have fast access to the doctor but where your time with her is limited (as in the UK) or one where access is slow but you have as long as you need with the doctor, to ask as many questions as you feel you need to (as in Portugal).

Seeing the nurse has been an excellent experience for me personally, as she doesn’t speak any English. This forced me to learn a great many medical/birth-related Portuguese terms very quickly in order to communicate fully with her, which was excellent practice for when the big day arrives, as I have no reason to think that the midwife who eventually deals with me will happen to be fluent in English.

Portuguese language learning - all sorts of new words are now needed

Portuguese language learning – all sorts of new words are now needed

We still have four months to go, during which time we will no doubt experience many Portuguese ‘firsts,’ just as we did when we originally moved here. Many of those moments will be daunting, others will bring a sense of triumph, while yet more will no doubt result in a few more tears of frustration. I, for one, can’t wait.

If you would like to know more about our experiences of moving to Portugal, feel free to check out our book :-)

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

US readers can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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The Simple Life – Lou’s Update 8

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s a time of change for us at the moment. With summer behind us and a baby on the way, life is looking rather different than it did three months ago.

Autumn is the time for perfect sunsets

Autumn is the time for perfect sunsets

The change in the weather has meant we are enjoying long walks now that the sun has lost the ferocity of its mid-summer heat. We have been stretching our legs around our local villages, towns and beaches, relishing the peace that the Algarve offers now that the tourists have gone home for another season. Our walks have treated us to beautiful sunsets, desolate beachscapes and the reward of coffee and cake in near-deserted cafés.

Walking around the Algarve at this time of year has reminded us of the simple life that we came here for in the first place. We swapped a London commute for strolls in the sand and, while we do sometimes miss the convenience of life in the big city, the Algarve is now our home through and through. I can’t imagine any circumstances that would cause us to swap back.

Deserted beaches abound at this time of year

Deserted beaches abound at this time of year

This week also afforded us the chance to test out our blossoming language skills, when we were invited to a friend’s birthday dinner. The guests were half English and half Portuguese and it’s fair to say that we held our own in terms of conversation during the meal. It was a real triumph compared to how we would have managed even six months ago. It finally feels as though we are really getting somewhere with the language, which has given us a lovely confidence boost. Of course I’m also hard at work learning all sorts of pregnancy and birth-related words in Portuguese at the moment!

Perfect walking weather

Perfect walking weather

Our friend’s birthday dinner was a chance to enjoy life in Portugal at its finest. A huge table of us sat outside in the (extremely chilly) evening, feasting on prawns, grilled meat, bacalhau com natas and other savoury treats. The food was simple and delicious and followed by some fabulous Portuguese desserts. I confess I used the ‘eating for two’ excuse to consume a giant slice of tarte de natas. The meal was lengthy and packed with entertaining conversation and laughter – a truly wonderful experience and exactly the kind of thing we moved here for in the first place.

Enjoying the solitude

Enjoying the solitude

The next few months are going to bring even more changes for us as ‘the bump’ gets bigger and we prepare for the arrival of the newest member of our family. The pregnancy has refocused us and, despite the hateful hours spent on medical administration matters, made us realise that we are precisely where we want to be to bring up a child. The year ahead is going to be a rollercoaster, but I can’t think of anywhere else that I would rather be.

If you would like to know more about our move to Portugal to enjoy the simple life, why not check out our book?

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

US readers can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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Portuguese Language Learning – an Update from Lou 10

Posted on September 02, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It seems hard to believe that we are approaching the four year anniversary of our move to Portugal. I can still clearly remember driving to and from work in the weeks before our move, endlessly repeating phrases from my Portuguese language learning CD as I sat in traffic on the A3.

Portuguese language learning - my two essential grammar books

Portuguese language learning – my two essential grammar books

Our language skills have come a long way over the past four years. When I arrived in Portugal I could ask for a beer, count to twenty, order a tosta mixta and point to something and say ‘I would like this please.’ It was a limited selection but, along with a few additional phrases, it served us well in our initial nervous and faltering attempts at conversation.

This week, I’ve had the opportunity to realise just how far my Portuguese language learning has progressed. The lady in our local shop asked me what I did for a living. I was able to tell her and spend the next two minutes chatting about my job. When I left the shop, a car pulled up and asked if there was a supermarket in our village. I gave the driver two options and then directed him clearly to his chosen shop. Later in the week, a customer in the supermarket came up to me while I was queuing and asked if the checkout I was at was about to close. I informed her that it was not.

These three small interactions may not sound like much, but they combined to make me realise how confidently I can now chat to strangers in my second language. I’m still far from fluent and many situations still leave me feeling frustrated when I have to revert to English, but the number of these is gradually reducing.

Portuguese language learning - not perfect, but getting there

Portuguese language learning – not perfect, but getting there

Another triumph in my Portuguese language learning has been my progress with reading. Though I still struggle with hearing and speaking Portuguese at times, my reading skills have advanced enough that I have just finished reading my first ‘proper’ book in Portuguese that I haven’t read previously in English – Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.

As an avid reader, it used to make me sad in Portuguese bookshops that my choice was limited to the tiny English language selection. Now, I feel confident in buying Portuguese books and being able to read them. Granted, I read much more slowly in Portuguese than in English, but I’m sure that I’ll get faster as time goes on.

My efforts to learn Portuguese have ranged from CDs in the car, to school exercise books aimed at five year olds, to grammar books in English that explain the intricacies of the language. We took a handful of lessons a year or so ago, but preferred our own methods of learning and didn’t continue with them for more than a couple of months.  I’ve also read progressively more grown up books, going from the Ruca children’s books, to Enid Blyton, to Stephen King, to Alexandre Dumas.

Portuguese language learning - from children's books to classics

Portuguese language learning – from children’s books to classics

The next book on my shelf to tackle is As Pupilas do Senhor Reitor by Júlio Dinis. I bought it a little over a year ago, but the first page made me realise it was too advance for me and it’s been on the bookshelf ever since. I’ll be interested to see whether I find it quite so daunting when I try it again later today.

I am under no illusions – I know I still have a long way to go, but it seems that my far-off dream of one day speaking fluent Portuguese may be getting just a little bit closer.

***

A quick addition to this post in response to one of the comments – if I had to recommend the course that I found most useful during my early days of learning Portuguese, it would be the double CD/book combo course Teach Yourself Portuguese: Coursebook & 2 CDs:

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Five Things you may not Know About Portugal 12

Posted on June 26, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Even though we’ve now lived in Portugal for around four years, we still keep discovering new things, especially relating to customs and culture.

As our recent blog survey revealed that people like hearing about cultural differences, so in today’s light-hearted (and affectionately intended) post, I’m going to discuss five quite random things that I’ve learned about the country recently. These are the kind of things you probably wouldn’t find out during a holiday in Portugal, so may therefore come as a surprise.

Nearly all restaurants do take-out

This is something my wife and I have only recently discovered. Nearly all the restaurants in our local area have a ready supply of takeaway containers and will happily prepare anything on the menu for takeaway.

This is pretty life changing really, but also quite expensive as there’s rarely a discount involved. However, as Portuguese food portions are so large, we often share a main dish, which redresses the balance.

We took restaurant take-out to the ultimate level a couple of weeks ago, when we brought home a full fried breakfast from one of our favourite local hostelries to stave off a particularly stubborn hangover – at 6pm. This was the ultimate in decadence.

A fry up in bed in the evening - true decedence

A fry up in bed in the evening – true decedence

Portuguese people always know their place in the queue

A Portuguese queue differs substantially from its British equivalent. A queue in Portugal is more of a disorganized huddle, with multiple lines and entry points.

Don’t be fooled, however. Every single person knows who got there when and who should be next. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife: she nearly got lynched last time she went to the IMTT office.

It’s rude to sit down with people who are eating

This is one we learned just recently from Portuguese friends. We had arranged to meet several people in a local bar / restaurant for dinner, but one had already eaten. When he arrived, he didn’t come and speak to us at the dinner table but lingered in the bar area. When we questioned why he was “being funny,” we were told that, in Portugal, it is the height of rudeness to join people at the dinner table if you’re not eating yourself.

Dont join the table when people are eating

Dont join the table when people are eating

It’s weird to swim outside “swimming season”

A hardy attitude towards having a dip in the sea is a very British character trait. I personally spent many summer afternoons as a child shivering my way into the grey North Sea.

Even though the water in Portugal looks far more inviting, it’s all the Atlantic, and all pretty cold outside of August and September.

There’s also an official “swimming season,” which changes from time to time but is typically from May to September. Swim outside the official season and you are clearly mad or, at best, a tourist.

Inviting - Yes - but wait for swimming season

Inviting – Yes – but wait for swimming season

It’s sometimes hard to tell whether Portuguese people are arguing or not

Now we have more Portuguese friends, we are exposed to lots more Portuguese speaking and, thankfully, have begun to understand far more of the language.

As a result, we can often follow conversations between Portuguese friends and now know that excess volume and animation doesn’t necessarily mean that a fight’s about to kick off. Usually, they’re just having a good chat. Usually.

Can anyone suggest any more of the less obvious cultural differences? If so, please share them in the comments box below.

Would you like to find out more about our first few years in Portugal? If so, please buy our book:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

Readers in the US and Canada will find the book here - and it should also be available from all other country-specific Amazon sites.

Image credits: michaelseangallagher, Wikimedia Commons

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How to Speak Portuguese – Lou’s Ten Portuguese Language Cheats 13

Posted on March 21, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Life in Portugal can be tricky enough when you’re trying to negotiate the endless paperwork or identify strange looking cuts of meat in the butcher’s, let alone when you try and work out how to speak Portuguese.

How to speak Portuguese - be prepared to study hard

How to speak Portuguese – be prepared to study hard

The difficulty with learning Portuguese is that what you say and hear doesn’t seem to correspond much with the written language, especially when you live in the Algarve where people have a heavy accent. With accents peppering the words and changing both the sound and the emphasis, Portuguese is a hard language to master. We have been here for nearly 3.5 years now and are still nowhere near fluent, although I do feel that we are learning more every day. In our case it doesn’t help that we both work from home, rather than having jobs where we spend all day with people speaking Portuguese.

If you are moving to Portugal soon or even just holidaying here, here are my top ten (tongue-in-cheek) Portuguese language cheats that will hopefully help you out.

Speak fast

When you are uncertain of what you are saying in another language, it is natural to speak slowly and try to say each word perfectly. If you do this in Portugal, you may well be met with a blank look. Instead, speak as fast as you can, pretending that you are speaking flawless Portuguese. You will have a much better chance of being understood.

Uma imperial

Uma imperial

A beer please!

‘Uma imperial se faz favour.’

This means ‘a small beer please.’ In most bars you will get a lovely, small glass of beer. Given how hot the Portuguese summer is, ordering a succession of small beers means you don’t end up drinking the too-warm second half of a pint. In some touristy areas, even if you ask for an imperial you will be given a pint (‘uma caneca’) anyway, so that the bar can charge you more.

This phrase is often usefully followed by ‘mais uma, se faz favor’ – ‘one more please!’

Obrigado/obrigada

To say ‘thank you’ in Portuguese, men say ‘obrigado’ and women say ‘obrigada.’ The gender of the person to whom you are speaking does not matter. This is FACT, even though some Portuguese people will try to tell you that’s not how it works.

Can to be this

‘Pode ser isto’ – the literal translation is ‘can to be this,’ but this rather awkward phrase is actually used to mean ‘can I have this,’ so you can use it in shops, cafés, restaurants and anywhere else where you are able to point to the item that you desire.

Pode ser isto - useful for buying all kinds of things

Pode ser isto – useful for buying all kinds of things

If in doubt, smile and nod

When we first moved here, even basic interactions could be a struggle, despite six months of me obsessively playing Portuguese language CDs in the car anytime I drove anywhere before we left England.

There were many times when neighbours, shop assistants and others that I interacted with tried to make pleasant conversation about the weather, football or other random subjects. At first I would freeze in such situations, looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights while my fellow conversationalist painstakingly repeated the sentence in a futile attempt to make me understand. The result was usually an awkward silence while I blushed and felt stupid.

These early struggles allowed me to develop the smile and nod policy. Now when someone speaks to me and I don’t understand them, I don’t panic, I just smile and nod. Astonishingly, 90% of the time this is accepted as an appropriate and satisfactory response on my part. Although I still have no idea what has been said to me, instead of just feeling tongue-tied and stupid, I use my nodding time to replay the sentence in my mind and try to catch the key words that will make it all become clear.

Of course, this policy is far from fail-safe and it is absolutely not to be used when dealing with government officials, lawyers or anyone else where you could be agreeing to something serious without realising it!

Instantly get rid of excess waiters!

Instantly get rid of excess waiters!

Warding off additional waiters

‘Já pedi’ – this means ‘already asked,’ and is a handy phrase for using in bars or cafés where you have already ordered but you spy a second waiter approaching with a notepad and an eager look in his eye.

Write it down

If you need to deal with officials in Portugal who don’t speak English, it’s often helpful to write down your request and take it with you on a piece of paper. That way if you bungle the pronunciation and they look confused, you can just hand over your pre-written request and – provided your handwriting is neat – be understood.

This approach was essential when we were trying to obtain our atestado document to prove that we lived in our village and had to ask two local residents to sign our form (apparently in the village council’s eyes the rental agreement for our apartment was not sufficient proof that we lived there).

I’ve also successfully used this method the first time I ordered a large takeaway and the first time we had to exchange our empty gas bottle – knowing that my grasp of Portuguese was at the time insufficient for these (now mundane) conversations, I took along my trusty piece of paper, which on both occasions saved the day.

Write it down

Write it down

After-dinner conversation

‘A conta, se faz favor.’

In Portugal you are welcome to sit and relax once you have finished your meal in a restaurant. You can enjoy the company of your friends or family and engage in after-dinner conversation, without the staff desperately trying to get you out of the door so that they can turn the table. This is part of what makes dining in Portugal such a pleasant experience. However, for those ready to pay and leave, it can be a little frustrating. If that’s you, use this phrase, which means ‘the bill, please.’ Of course you could also use the internationally recognised mime of writing on your hand!

Have a glass of wine

It’s astonishing how much more confident a glass of wine can make your attempts to speak Portuguese. After three glasses I’m unfailingly convinced that I’m fluent, much to the dismay of my Portuguese friends.

Confidence in a glass!

Confidence in a glass!

And if all else fails…

‘Desculpe, não entendo.’

If all else fails, you can resort to this phrase, which means ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand.’
Our efforts to speak Portuguese have been overwhelmingly well received. Even when we get in a muddle and mispronounce things or say something silly, the fact that we have tried always goes down well. Even if you have no plans to work out the full intricacies of how to speak Portuguese, a few choice phrases will ensure you stand out and earn you service with a smile wherever you go.
Boa sorte!

If you want to hear more about our adventures with the Portuguese language, why not check out our book: Moving to Portugal

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr

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I REALLY Need to Learn Portuguese 8

Posted on January 09, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Confession time.

I’m rather ashamed to say that, after over three years in the Algarve, I still cannot speak Portuguese particularly well.

Don’t get me wrong, I do get by, but I think the naïve, pre-expat me thought it would be much easier than this.

Well, let me tell you, it’s not. After three years, I don’t really think my Portuguese skills match those I had in French when I took my GCSE. And, on the subject of those French skills, they’ve now left me completely. Whenever I try to speak French now, I just come out with bad Portuguese.

Learning Portuguese isn't Easy

Learning Portuguese isn’t Easy

So, what should I have done differently? Well, first and foremost, I should have looked for language trainers before I left. Sure, the books and CDs helped a bit, but they tend to teach you a “Queen’s English” variation of a language, which sounds little like real people actually speak it.

I should also have dedicated a lot more time to learning Portuguese. Yes, you do “absorb” the language once you arrive, but absorbing means that after three years I understand a bit of the news, the occasional radio advert and snippets of people’s conversations. It doesn’t mean I can speak any more than pigeon Portuguese.

I really do wish that I’d spent every spare minute in the run up to our move absorbing Portuguese. I should have typed “where should I take Portuguese classes in London?” into Google back in 2009! Because I didn’t, I’m still playing catch-up.

This is the year I get it sorted. I can’t have the Portuguese version of Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” taunting me from my bedside table any longer. I’ll be fluent one day—just you wait!

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Portugal A to Z Project – M, N and O 4

Posted on April 03, 2012 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

M is for Mopeds

Anyone who knows me personally will know that these had to get a mention. After all, they are my current favourite toy (move over iPhone, you’re no longer the new kid on the block).

A few weeks back we took delivery of the two shiny electric scooters you will see in the photograph. These are the perfect transportation between apartment, café and beach (but not bar – you wouldn’t want to wobble too much on these little things!)

Electric Mopeds in Portugal

Electric Mopeds in Portugal

These electric mopeds seem to be becoming increasingly popular in our area. Restricted to just 25km/h, they have pedals and are legally treated as pushbikes. You don’t need license, registration or insurance and, best of all, you can ride them on the lovely network of Algarve cycle paths.

Above all, I’m now a southern-European; I could hardly NOT have bought a moped now could I? ;-)

N is for Nobre (Hotdogs!)

OK, so my choice for “N” is perhaps a little weak. But these inexplicably popular and rather nondescript hotdog frankfurters were the first thing that sprang to mind – and, if I’m being honest, I couldn’t think of anything else!

All Portuguese supermarkets have a surprisingly large section of tinned hotdog sausages. While we often go months without eating them, there is usually a tin of this Nobre brand in our cupboard ready to be thrown in a burger bun with fried onions and mustard when a particularly troublesome hangover rears its head.

Nobre Hotdogs in Portugal

Nobre Hotdogs in Portugal

We have also encountered Nobre hotdogs at tourist attractions such as Zoomarine Algarve. These come with little thin potato chips inside that make for a surprisingly agreeable, crunchy addition. So, there you have it. N is for Nobre.

O is for Olhão

I have chosen Olhão for my “O” for two reasons.

First of all this town in the East Algarve is quite unique in that it is still essentially a working town that remains stubbornly untouched by tourism (although a very posh hotel and spa at the western end of the seafront is doing its best to change that).

Olhão is a down to earth kind of town with lots of restaurants and shops, and also an agreeable place to walk along the waterfront. From here, ferries run to the beautiful beach islands of Armona and Culatra – where a five minute walk can provide you with peace and tranquility, even in the peak of the summer season.

Ilha da Armona - Accessed from Olhao

Ilha da Armona - Accessed from Olhao

My second reason for choosing Olhão is that the word itself separates the men from the boys in terms of Portuguese pronunciation. While phonetically, an English speaker may be tempted to say “Ol-how,” “ão” with the accent over the “a” in Portuguese make a “yaow” sound (“yaow” as in “how,” not as in “sow”).

So, what you are looking for is “OL-YAOW” – go on, practice it!

Now you’re in the mood for Portuguse, perhaps it’s time to learn a bit more? Here’s how we started off!

Get Talking Portuguese in Ten Days (Teach Yourself)

Image credit: Visitar Portugal

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A to Z of Portugal – Letters J to L 2

Posted on March 13, 2012 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

J is for Junta (de freguesia)

The Junta de Freguesia is the equivalent of a local parish council in the UK. The junta itself usually refers to the town or village hall. In many small villages the junta shares a building with the local post office, so is a place you end up visiting fairly often.

I am tempted to be cynical and use the fact that the Junta is an official building to head off on yet another rant about Portuguese bureaucracy – but I won’t. I will instead say that, in our experience at least, the local junta represents the friendly end of the Portuguese bureaucratic experience.

A Junta de Freguesia in Portugal

A Junta de Freguesia in Portugal

One of the key pieces of paper a new Portuguese resident needs to get from the junta is a form called an atestado. This is often required when applying for Portuguese residency and requires two local voters to vouch for the fact you live in the town or village. It is worth getting an atestado, as the need for one seems to randomly pop up in all kinds of situations!

K is tricky

The letter “K,” strictly speaking, is not part of the Portuguese language. Although it is included in the Portuguese alphabet (and said, phonetically, as “kappa,”) it is only found within words loaned to the language from other tongues.

So there you go, I don’t really have a “K,” but you got some free language trivia. Perhaps “K” is for “Kop Out.”

L is for Lisboa

I actually thought of a few different things for the letter “L,” including lingueirão (razor clams), Lagos (our favourite town in the West Algarve), and laranjas (oranges). But, how can I not choose the country’s beautiful capital city?

Looking over the Tagus from Lisbon

Looking over the Tagus from Lisbon

Lisboa (or Lisbon to the rest of the world), is now the place we head to for many of our short holidays (you can read about one of our trips to Lisbon here, and also find out about neighbouring Sintra and Cascais here).

Now we have been to Lisbon several times, it’s wonderful to have built up a general sense of direction in the city and got used to using the subway system and local trains. Together with being able to speak semi-understandable Portuguese, this makes us feel a lot more “local” in the city – and it’s a wonderful feeling.

As I am mentioning Lisbon, I feel I should draw readers attention to the wonderful book, “The Moon Come to Earth” by Philip Graham, an American who spent some time living in the city and who I interviewed in this post. His book can be found at the link below:

The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon

This time last year – we were deliberating as to what to do about a car of our own, and beginning to enter a “worn down by read tape” phase – you can read the post here.

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How to Speak Portuguese 9

Posted on February 27, 2012 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

We don’t really know how to speak Portuguese properly yet, even though we have been here over two years. Sure, we cope day-to-day and have even managed to read some novels in Portuguese, but our ability to speak and comprehend plateaued after the first year and our progress stalled.

Many people say that you can never properly understand a country and its culture until you can speak the language, so we decided a couple of weeks ago that it was time to arrange proper lessons and finally learn (properly) how to speak Portuguese.

Today we had our first lesson. Our tutor, Andrew, is a local expat who has spent several years intensively learning the language. The fact he is English means he understands the key differences in the two languages, and this gives him the ability to identify the key areas we will find difficult.

I only wish we had started to do this sooner. Within ten minutes of the lesson beginning, I realised that I have been violating the correct pronunciation of words that I have been using confidently for the past two years!

We are taking lessons along with three members of our extended family who live locally. We are all at different levels of existing knowledge, but we quickly decided to all start from the beginning together, when it became clear that even the more confident amongst us had been getting some of the basics wrong.

How to Speak Portuguese

How to Speak Portuguese

Two of our party have already been having classroom based lessons at a local school, but the kind of teaching Andrew delivers already seems to be a better way to learn how to speak Portuguese. Large classes containing mixed nationalities and abilities tend to move at the pace of the slowest learners, and one of our party commented that the ability to ask questions of someone who shares our native language is invaluable in the context of making everything make sense.

Within the first lesson we have all already began to learn how to conjugate verbs, which I think is key to learning any language – indeed, it is the way I learned French at school. Once verb conjugation is mastered, you have the ability to look anything up in a dictionary and get your point across – from there, your pace of learning is only held back by how quickly you can increase your vocabulary.

I am very excited to finally be learning how to speak Portuguese properly. I am also excited that I can order my coffee and cake tomorrow with the correct pronunciation – and I have high hopes for a positive reaction from the lady in the local cafe!

Just one lesson in, I can sincerely give a high recommendation for Andrew’s inexpensive and well-structured private lessons. He is based in the East Algarve and travels to us to teach us in the comfort of our own home. If you are in the Algarve and want to learn how to speak Portuguese properly, I would be delighted to provide his contact details.

Here are a couple of learning aids for those keen to pick up the language:

501 Portuguese Verbs (Barron’s 501 Portuguese Verbs)

Rosetta Stone Version 4 TOTALe: Portuguese (Brazil) Level 1, 2 & 3 (Mac/PC)

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