the view from Portuguese class

I love Portuguese class. I’m completely stimulated, stumped, and constantly surprised by this language, and the hour and a half goes far too quickly. It’s both fascinating in the abstract—the rhythm of conjugating verbs, the puzzle of forming a new sentence—and also so applicable, so relevant… so urgent. I climb on the ônibus to go home, head buzzing and full, and it’s everywhere, billboards and street signs and cell phone conversations. I’m on the bus for an hour to get to Boa Viagem, and an hour to return, and this, too, flies by, as I remember words I forgot, browse through my dictionary, work to remember new ways to communicate. And then I get off the bus, arrive back to the apartment, and I actually have to communicate, out in the much more vast and messy world of people and mutterings.

Portuguese class, on the other hand, is controlled, methodical, precise, and it’s got an ocean view. Miranda is my profe, a thirty-or-so Brazilian who runs the language school Brave Idiomas, and seems to teach all of the six languages the school offers. This seems like a lot of language to fit into one person, but he certainly knows his Portuguese, and he very patiently answers my endless questions and pretends not to understand me when I start speaking in Spanish, which is often. I do believe he thinks I’m crazy, given how often I’m surprised or amused by Portuguese—joelho, what a great word for “knee,” I exclaim—but he keeps it under wraps.

Because I love Portuguese class so much (and because yesterday I hit a wall in which I no longer enjoyed interacting with the world at the linguistic level of a toddler), I’m also going to meet with Adriana, a Portuguese tutor, twice a week at the university library to practice conversation. I ventured to downtown Recife to buy my Portuguese textbook at Liveria Cultural, the expansively beautiful, air-conditioned, and immaculate bookstore where Bem-Vindo a Língua Portuguesa was held in reserve, and I found the place where I shall go if I ever need a moment of silence, to escape Brasil, to wander in awe at words and all the things I could learn.


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