Posted in English

Course Review – Portuguese for Foreigners, Level C1

Here’s my review of the Portuguese for Foreigners Online Self Study course for level C1, also known as DAPLE, offered by Camões Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua. I finished the course on Saturday so it seems like a good idea to get it out of my head and onto a blog post while it’s still fresh.

Exam prep
What’s she even doing?

The Instituto offers courses at all levels of the CAPLE framework from A1 (beginner) to C2 (God-mode). It also caters for different kinds of packages: this review is just the self study option, but for a further €140, I could have gone the de luxe route and added some tutor interaction. See here for more details about the options. I haven’t done any of the other courses so I don’t know whether or not my opinion of this one applies equally to the whole range. I mean I guess so, but who knows?

The obvious attraction of doing a course created by the organisation that designed the exam curriculum, is that you’re getting it “straight from the horse’s mouth”. You know that they will be teaching subjects the exam board think are important at this level so there’s a good chance they will come up in the exam. That’s great, and I think it’s undoubtedly one of the strongest selling points of the course: it gives you a road map of what you need to know. And it doesn’t just teach you about grammar and vocabulary, it tries to weave those together with the major themes you need to know about. The topics for each of the twelve units are

  • Ourselves and others – interpersonal interactions
  • Carpe Diem – enjoying free time
  • A healthy mind in a healthy body
  • From the field to the city – different ways of life
  • Thinking about the future – training and professional development
  • Giving new worlds to the world – immigration and emigration
  • Science and religion – allies or enemies?
  • New information technologies – solitary closeness and collective isolation
  • Portugal and my country – festivals and traditions
  • Portugal and the arts
  • Portugal today
  • Portugal and the world

I think the course is definitely worth doing for this reason alone: insofar as learning a new language entails learning about the culture, the place and the people, it’s useful to have someone walk you through how Portugal sees itself and its place on the world. Whenever I see lessons about Portuguese culture it tends to be Fado, recipes for cod, o Galo de Barcelos, and all that tourist-friendly stuff. Interesting, no doubt, but this course gets down into how trust works in neighbourhoods where shopkeepers know their neighbours and extend credit where it’s needed, and what is it that makes such trust possible; the migrant experience and the role of Portugal and its former colonies in the wider world. In other words, it goes deeper. It also gives you tools to be able to describe challenges that all countries face, like the rise of social media, the decline of religion and the challenges of international cooperation.

How does this map onto the exam itself? Well, the cultural knowledge will come in handy in the fourth (spoken) part, which seems to be where you’re most likely to describe your knowledge of some cultural or social trend. Even though you’re not speaking in the course, you’re getting used to thinking about the ideas and making use of the vocabulary.

As for the other three sections*, there are audio/video components that are going to be useful in developing your listening skills for the aural comprehension. It’s far, far easier than the aural comprehension section of the exam because of the time available and the relatively simple questions you’re asked, so don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. Likewise, the written comprehension is quite a bit easier than in the exam. OK, the way I’m talking, I expect it sounds like I got full marks and I definitely didn’t, but I feel like I lost more marks through carelessness than because I was unable to interpret an ambiguous or tricky question.

When it comes to the written work, there are some exercises based on grammar but they’re quite minimal. Each new structure it introduces is covered in a very basic way and the students is only really expected to do one question for each, which isn’t really enough to push it into your long term memory.

So summing up: It was €180 well spent, but it’s not a perfect course. But I could have guessed that. No one learning tool is ever going to tick all the boxes and we always need to look at multiple sources. This one has no speaking component, but I could have got that by signing up for the premium course. Or I could use an online tutor on a site like italki or Polytripper or even just ask around on one of the many Facebook groups for Portuguese learners like this one (European only but heavily moderated) or this one (freer and easier but includes Brazilian Portuguese). It’s a little weak on grammar, but that’s what exercise books are for, and a book won’t mark you down if you accidentally make a typo or if spellchecker changes your right answer to a wrong answer. The book I’m about to start using (Português Outra Vez) doesn’t have any audio component but it’s very text-heavy so I’m expecting it to be able to boost my grammar levels up a notch or two using it.

So if you’re considering going in for one of the exams, definitely consider one of these courses as a sort of route map, but don’t make it the whole of your learning plan: be prepared to take notes for further study afterwards. You’ll probably need it.

Oh and one more thing: if you do it, do it in your browser. Don’t bother with the app.

*=If you haven’t already taken an exam, have a look at one of my descriptions of the exam process for more background on what is in each section. Here’s the B1 exam, for example.

Posted in English

Early Impressions of the Official C1 Course

I said, a few days ago, that the official C1 course I was taking through the Camões Instituto de Cooperação e da Língua was being hampered by network troubles. They’ve been sorted out now. It must just have been a temporary glitch. I’m still not convinced though. It’s not hugely expensive as these things go, so I’m not too traumatised or anything but it’s worth setting out the pros and cons for the benefit of anyone who is considering following the same path.

First of all, the pros: the course is designed by the same people who design the exams, so the topics it covers are likely to come up as discussion topics in the exam. So it’s a good way of getting familiar with that kind of vocabulary. It has several hours’ worth of content, intended to be studied week by week, but it’s delivered on demand so you can go faster if you like.

Now the cons: the app is broken. That’s OK though, you can take the course in a web browser and there have been a few times I’ve had to do that just to progress, because I simply couldn’t scroll to the answer in the app, or because it gave me an error message every time I tried to move onto a page. Just don’t even bother with it. Save yourself the headache and do it in the web browser instead.

The actual content isn’t especially challenging. For example, I’ve just done a quiz about health. You’re supposed to start with a text about healthy lifestyles then answer a series of questions like “Physical activity is essential for a healthy life – True/False”. Well um, I don’t really need to go back to the text to answer that, thanks.

The introductory lecture of the Camões Institute C1 course
The introduction to the first unit

Maybe the reason for the ease of the questions is that there’s quite a strong emphasis on culture. The health topic is perhaps not the best example to use, but in the very first section, there’s an exercise about local shops and their role in poor communities. The questions were sort of ridiculous, considered purely as a matter of language. In one, we’re shown a picture of a man, standing in a shop holding a book with people’s names and the various things they’d been given in credit, so he could keep track of who owed what. The challenge was to pick out words from a list that could be used as a caption for the picture. You’re not told how many to pick. I chose “mercearia” and “comerciante” but I should also have picked “proximidade”, “bairro” and “comércio local”

In the next question, you’re asked what makes it possible for a neighbourhood to feel like a large family. And the options are a confiança, o afeto, a proximidade or o tempo. The answer is not given in the text, you just need to think about it. The correct answer is “o afeto”

So… Okay… It felt a little random, and didn’t really challenge my vocabulary skills, but I suppose they’re trying to get you to think of what neighbourhood means in Portugal, and to understand the ties that bind local communities as well as just purely being able to use grammar correctly. So there’s an element of comprehension of the text, but also an expectation that you’ll use empathy to comprehend the actions of the individuals.

So I think my early review would be that the course is worth taking if you intend to take the exam seriously and want to be prepared for the conversation topics, and it’s definitely worth taking if you are considering citizenship and want to get to know the culture. But I don’t think it’s enough on its own, at least to judge from what I’ve seen so far, you’d also need to go through a textbook, because you’ll need something else to really stretch you linguistically and, from what I’ve seen so far, this ain’t it.

Posted in English

C1 Expressions

I hit an exercise that had quite a lot of expressions I hadn’t heard before

Um amigo de Peniche – comes from a British action during the succession crisis of the 1580s. Nine years after the Spanish seized the portuguese crown, a force led by Francis Drake landed near Peniche ostensibly to restore the crown to Dom António, Prior do Crato, but really to prevent the Spanish launching another armada and, in the process, also doing quite a lot of looting and attempting to seize the Açores to sever the route if the Spanish silver trade. So an Amigo de Peniche is a friend who is only really looking out for what they can get out of the friendship and doesn’t really give much in return. Apparently people from Peniche are self-conscious about being associated with treachery and never miss an opportunity to tell you the true origin.

Please stop blaming Peniche for stuff England did
Peniche Truther
Drake, as far as we know, has never tried to invade Portugal
You used to call me on my cellphone, to help restore you to the throne

Um unhas de fome – a grasping, tight fisted person

Um atraso de vida – a harmful or annoying life problem

Um amostra de gente – a very small person

Um mãos-largas – a very generous person. Note that here (and in a couple of other expressions, the article “um” doesn’t seem to match the noun. That’s because this is a description of a person, and the default is singular and masculine, even if they are described as having wide hands – mãos largas – feminine and plural.

Um bom garfo – a gourmet

Um cabeça de alho chocho – if you are an old shriveled garlic head, you’re a forgetful, absent minded person.

Um bota de elástico – someone who dresses, acts, or thinks in an old-fashioned way

Posted in English

C1 Here I Come

I’ve been a bit slack on learning Portuguese lately. I’ve basically been treading water since I did the B2 diploma. In fact, since the pandemic started, I’ve spent as much time on my “hobby” language, Scots Gaelic as I have on my main one. That needs to stop because I am determined to be properly fluent in Portuguese if it kills me.

I’m not very good at abandoning things so I’m allowing myself till the end of this coming week to finish off my remaining Gaelic things, and read any outstanding foreign language books from my TBR and then I am going to commit to portuguese: purge my daily to-do list of distractions, delete Duolingo (It’s too Brazilian) and submerge myself in the language as far as reasonably possible for someone who doesn’t live there. The time for pissing about is over. Go duro or go para casa.

So here’s my list of activities to work on through the autumn

  • Make a new Twitter account, tweet only in Portuguese, pretend to be Portuguese, interact with people, see how long I can get away with it (not long probably, but it’ll be fun to try)
  • Watch one Portuguese movie or series episode per week.
  • Finally finish “A Actualidade em Português*” which is a B2 book meant to finish in 2020 but didn’t
  • Then do one esercise of Português Atual* C1 or one from this course per day
  • Only read Portuguese books (exception for work-related books that I need to read for career development)
  • Listen to mainly portuguese audio. I probably can’t go total on this one but the balance needs to shift towards Portuguese pretty decisively.
  • Memorise one Portuguese poem per week. C-level Portuguese needs you to be able to appreciate literature a bit and I’ve been trying to memorise poems recently, including one by Pessoa and one by Florbela Espanca, which I can still remember weeks later, so this seems like something I can incorporate as part of my language learning.
  • Write something each day on the Portuguese Writestreak subreddit.
  • Follow the Bertrand Portuguese History Course once a fortnight and try to participate as much as possible. It’s starting soon and it’s really good value (only a hundred and forty quid for 20 lessons with current exchange rates and bulk discount) but pretty challenging (see this review of a previous course I did for an idea of how challenging!)

The aim will be to go for C1 or even C2 by about May next year.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “are you crazy?” and you’re right, it does seem pretty ambitious, but I’ve been thinking it through and I reckon I can do it. The key piece is what I wrote at the top there about clearing my daily to do list. Early in the pandemic I started getting up at 5.30 and going through a list of daily chores, including meditation, a big chunk of Duolingo, watering the plants and a load of other bits and pieces. It’s nice because it gives me some free time before my family wake up to do things on my own before work starts and feel productive. If I purge a few things from that and replace with daily items from the list and do some of the larger things like movies in the evening and weekends it should be manageable, time-wise. I just need to keep it interesting: short texts in the writestreak, be ruthless about abandoning boring books so reading doesn’t become a chore, try to be funny on twitter, make sure the films I choose are good… Yeah, I can do this.

Sou capaz!

I have some other things I’d like to fit in, like cooking from Portuguese recipes, following Portuguese exercise videos, finally getting around to reading the bloody Lusíadas, going to a fado concert or two, actually visiting the country itself, and (this is the most ambitious of all) having a conversation with my wife in Portuguese without her running away with her fingers in her ears to escape my horrible accent. But those are probably a bit hard to plan since they either don’t fit easily into my routine or in some cases they’re contingent on the pandemic simmering down. Basically, I don’t want to have something on the plan that I won’t end up doing because then I’ll start to lose motivation. I think the list on its own will do for now. If I manage the others, I’ll consider that icing on the cake.

*=if you’re interested in finding out about textbooks for Portuguese study, I did a page about them recently.

Posted in Portuguese

Exercício PT-PT Nível C1

“Quando está longe do seu país, costuma sentir Nostalgia? De quê?”

Quando estou longe do Reino Unido, e quando a estadia demora muito tempo, sinto saudades* (se é permitido para nós estrangeiros utilizarmos esta palavra a referirmo-nos a nós próprios!) do pão do meu país.

Ainda que a maior parte das nações do mundo tenham pães óptimos (Portugal, França, os Estados Unid… Hum… Ora bem, disse “a maior parte” e nem “todos”), sentimos uma conexão ao pão que comemos quando éramos novos. Dá conforto. É o sabor da nossa terra de mãe, o sabor do nosso lar.

Um escritor inglês disse uma vez “É impossível não amar alguém que te faz uma torrada” e é mesmo verdade: pão e amor andam sempre de mãos dadas.


*=saudades & nostalgia aren’t really the same thing but I don’t think the question makes any sense unless you’re talking about homesickness rather than a longing for the past


Thanks to Jessica for finding my errors. Only one, apparently… 🙂

Posted in English

É Uma Expressão Portuguesa Com Certeza

This beautiful gift was sent to me on Reddit and I went in search of the original. Its a blog post from a few years ago. As I have probably mentioned before, people who mark language exams live a good idiomatic expression, and the author of this piece has constructed an entire blog post out of nothing but expressions. There’s hardly a single word that isn’t part of one. It’s a magnificent achievement and certainly a lot more fun than the C1/C2 workbook I am ploughing through, where fully one third of the book is about expressions.

Posted in English, Portuguese


Expressions from the C1 Textbook that are vaguely animal-related.

Tratar abaixo de cão – to treat someone worse than a dog, ie mistreat someone (“o meu pai tratou-me abaixo de cão” )

Quando as galinhas tiveram dentes – when hens have teeth, ie, it’ll never happen (“Ele só vai deixar de fumar quando as galinhas tiveram dentes”)

Pensar na morte de bezerra – to think about the death of the… I don’t even know the correct English word here. Heifer? Something like that. A female calf, anyway. The expression means to be miles away, thinking about something else and not tuned in to what’s going on around you (“a professora perguntou-me alguma coisa mas está a pensar na morte da bezerra”)

Ficar pior do que uma barata – to be worse than a cockroach, meaning to be angry. This doesn’t seem to be a very common expression as far as I can tell. I can only find one example online and even that is phrased slightly differently from the Textbook example (“a mãe está pior que uma barata com o filho”)

Ser feio como um bode – to be as ugly as a goat… About what you’d expect really.

Não é como vinagre que se apanham moscas – you can’t catch flies with vinegar, ie, if you want to win people over you have to give them what they want. The dicionário informal give a slightly depressing sample sentence “Com este seu gênio não vai arrumar namorado, pois não é com vinagre que se apanham moscas.” You won’t get a boyfriend by being a genius, because you can’t catch flies with vinegar. There you go, girls, there’s some good life advice for you.

Estar com a pulga atrás da orelha – To have a flea behind the ear, ie to be paranoid or to lack confidence (“normandos sempre tão rude, hoje deu-me um presente. É caso para ficar com a pulga atrás da orelha

Cair nas garras de alguém – to fall into someone’s claws, ie to be at their mercy (“O chancelor caiu nas garras da indústria alemã”)

Meter-se na boca do lobo – to put oneself in the wolf’s mouth, ie to put oneself in danger (the verb here can be cair as in the previous expression, if the person has got into danger by mistake instead of through heroism or hubris (“Não percebes que estás a meter-te na boca do lobo?”)

Meter o rabo entre as pernas – to put ones tail between ones legs, ie to admit defeat or accept humiliation (“depois de levar uma pancada de Will Smith, Chris Rock meteu o seu rabo entre as pernas”)

Meter a pata na poça – to put the hoof in the puddle, which is equivalent to the English expression “to out your foot in it”, ie, make a mistake (“Chris Rock meteu a pata na poça ao aludir à falta de cabelos da mulher de Will Smith”)

Posted in English, Portuguese

Brazilian Portuguese

César from the Homo Causticus blog gave me a challenge a few days ago, to write about Brazilian Portuguese. Since this is a blog about European Portuguese, I thought the best way to do that would be to compare the two flavours. I’ve written it in English and then translated each paragraph into Portuguese as I go, just for the challenge. Thanks to dani_morgenstern and butt_roidholds for the corrections, but it’s quite long so if I have missed any errors, that’s all on me.

I quite often see people online asking what is the difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese and sometimes people will reply “there’s no difference, it’s just the accent”. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. The accents certainly are different, but there’s a lot more to it than that. If you’re starting out on your Portuguese journey, you should definitely stick to just one version at first, at least until you have a good grounding in the language, because in addition to the accent you’ll find Brazilian Portuguese has quite a lot of differences in vocabulary, slightly different grammar, differences in spelling, even after the Acordo Ortográfico. They even have different ways of saying “you”. Brazil is a larger country with a more powerful media industry so I think Brazilians are probably less aware of the differences than Portuguese people are because they are less likely to be exposed to TV or movies in the other dialect.

Muitas vezes, vejo pessoas online a perguntar qual é a diferença entre Português brasileiro e Português europeu, e às vezes a resposta é “não há diferença, só há sotaques diferentes. Hum… Até certo ponto, Senhor Cobre*. Os sotaques são mesmo diferentes mas há mais do que isso. Se estiveres no início da tua “viagem” portuguesa, recomendo que permaneces com um único dialeto do idioma até ficares mais confiante porque, além do sotaque, irás achar que o português brasileiro tem diferenças de vocabulário, uma gramática ligeiramente alterada, algumas variações de ortografia (apesar do AO) e até uma outra maneira de usar o pronome da segunda pessoa singular. Brasil é um país maior com uma mídia mais ativa, portanto acho que os habitantes estão menos conscientes da distância entre os dois, porque estão menos expostos aos meios de comunicação do outro lado do Atlântico.

*=This is what sparked this blog post from a few days ago

Accent /Sotaque

Of course, both countries have a range of accents, but in very general terms, Brazilians tend to be a lot easier to understand. They pronounce a lot of things in really surprising ways, but once you tune into it, it’s at least pretty clear. They don’t swallow as many letters, and you don’t find yourself struggling to pick out four or five words that have all been run together. The main thing that sounds weird to European ears is the way Ds and Ts sound when they appear before an E or an I. The D in a word like Divertir, say, sounds like a hard J, or like the DG sound in the English word “edge”. Meanwhile, the T in the same word sounds like the CH sound in a word like “Chips” . Check this page for an example. Brazilians also tend to hit vowels with a bit more emphasis, including the last syllable in a word ending in e. A word like “verdade” for example would be a two syllable word in Portuguese because the final E practically disappears and the D has a pleasing breathy quality to it (I really like it!). The same word in Brazilian has three syllables and sounds like “verDADgee”. There are examples of both on this page for you to compare. The effect is that Brazilian Portuguese has a “bouncier” rhythm to it.

Claro que ambos os países têm um leque de sotaques, portanto não faz sentido falar de “sotaque português” e “sotaque brasileiro” mas, regra geral, os brasileiros são mais fáceis de entender. O seu modo de falar tem aspetos muito estranhos (aos nossos ouvidos anglófilos), mas uma vez que nos acustomamos aos sons e aos ritmos, é bastante claro. Não engolem tantas letras e não deixam as palavras aglomerarem-se umas com as outras, dizendo “quéq tázafazer” em vez de “O que é que estás a fazer”. O que mais marca um aluno europeu é a sua maneira de pronunciar os Ds e os Ts que vêm antes dum É ou dum I. O “D”, numa palavra como “Divertir”, soa como um J duro ou o DG de “edge” em inglês. Os brasileiros também pronunciam os vogais com mais stresse, inclusive a última sílaba duma palavra que termine com E. Uma palavra como “verdade”, por exemplo, tem duas sílabas em português de Portugal. O “E” final quase desaparece e o “D” soa suave e ofegante (adoro!). No Brasil, a mesma palavra tem três sílabas distintas porque o “E” é mais forte. Além disso o “D” antes do “É” muda para DG como já disse: verDADgee. Isso significa que o português brasileiro tem um ritmo mais…hum… saltitante, digamos assim…?*

*Throughout this paragraph I originally used feminine articles for the names of letters “a D” and so on, because the word letra itself is feminine, but apparently when you use the name of the letter in its own you’re really indicating symbol /sign so you use male articles “o D”. I was referred to a Ciberdúvidas article on the subject.

You /Tu

There are lots of different ways of addressing someone in the second person. In European Portuguese it’s usually Tu for informal situations but there are gradations of formality that require “você” ou “o senhor” or whatever, and the verbs all get conjugated in the third person. There’s also this weird pronoun “vós” that most textbooks just ignore. Let’s try not to even think about that one. In Brazil, on the other hand, it’s just você across the board, and you only really need to learn first and third person verb endings. These people learning Brazilian Portuguese have it easy eh?

Há muitos métodos de falar com alguém na segunda pessoa em português. Em Portugal, é geralmente “tu” no dia-a-dia, mas em situações mais formais, usa-se você ou “o senhor” ou algo do género, que exige um verbo na terceira pessoa. Ainda por cima existe o pronome vós que se usa em determinados contextos (embora a maioria dos livros sobre gramática portuguesa para estrangeiros o ignorem) mas nem pensemos nisso. No Brasil, pelo contrário, usa-se sempre você. Aquelas pessoas que aprendem português brasileiro têm uma vida fácil, né?

Vocabulary /Vocabulário

Like US English, Brazilian portuguese has evolved slightly differently and diverged from its European cousin. In some cases, it has retained aspects of the language that the Portuguese have dropped (sorry, I’m not going to give any examples of this because I’d be out of my depth but I’ve been told it’s true). In other cases, they have developed new words over the course of years, based on preference, contact with other languages and just the sheer passage of time. Of course, this is going to be most obvious in slang. My favourite example of diverging vocabulary is the translation of “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. In Portugal it’s called “A Rapariga No Comboio” but nobody in Brazil says Comboio, even though it’s a legitimate word in Brazilian Portuguese, they say Trem instead, and although Rapariga does exist it’s… Not a nice word. So the book is called A Garota No Trem instead.

Assim como o inglês americano, o português do brasil evoluiu diferentemente e afastou-se do seu primo europeu. Em determinados casos, retém aspetos antigos da língua, que já desapareceram do português europeu (desculpa, não tenho exemplos mas ouvi falar disto). Noutros casos, desenvolvem-se novas palavras e expressões ao longo dos anos, por causa de preferências regionais, do contacto com outras idiomas e da passagem de anos. Claro, este fenómeno é mais óbvio no calão. O meu exemplo preferido de divergência de vocabulário é a tradução do “The Girl on the Train” de Paula Hawkins. Em Portugal, o título do livro é “A Rapariga no Comboio” mas no Brasil ninguém diz “comboio”, mesmo que a palavra exista, antes dizem “trem”. E rapariga existe também mas no Brasil, é uma palavra feia. Portanto o livro foi intitulado “A Garota No Trem”

Grammar /Gramática

There are only a couple of differences in the actual grammatical structure, so far as I’m aware, but feel free to shout out any others in the comments. Firstly, in Brazilian Portuguese, the object pronoun basically always comes before the noun, so it’s more consistent. So “I bought it” = “o comprei” in Brazil and “I didn’t buy it” is “não o comprei”, whereas in Portugal it would vary according to context: “comprei-o in most cases, but it flips in negative sentences (“não o comprei”) or a few other contexts (more detail here if this is not familiar).

The other big one is the use of the gerund. Again, I’m afraid this is another area where Brazilian is probably easier than European Portuguese, at least for English speakers. In European Portuguese if you want to say “I’m talking” you say “estou a falar”, which is fine, but falar is an infinitive so if you translate it literally you get “I am to speak”. Brazilians just say “estou falando”. Falando is a gerund, so it is really equivalent to “talking”, in English, so in short, it’s much more like English grammar.

Tanto quanto sei, há apenas duas diferenças de gramática. O primeiro tem a ver com a próclise e a ênclise. A próclise aplicar-se quase sempre em português brasileiro – ou seja, o complemento vem sempre antes do verbo (O comprei /Não o comprei) . Em Portugal, por outro lado, a posição depende do contexto (Comprei-o /Não o comprei)

A segunda diferença é o uso do gerúndio em tempos verbais do presente contínuo. Este é mais um exemplo dum aspecto da língua no qual o português brasileiro é mais fácil (para nós anglófonos) do que o europeu. O brasileiro “estou falando” soa mais parecido com o inglês “I’m talking” ao contrário ao português europeu, no qual se usa o infinitivo, tipo “estou a falar” que soa estranho aos nossos ouvidos.

Spelling / Ortografia

And so finally we reach spelling. Well, that’s easy, the AO has sorted it all, right? Sadly, no, there are still a few spelling variations around. Brazilians seem to like circumflexes (^) more than the Portuguese do but there are far fewer than there once were.

Finalmente chegamos à ortografia. Foi tudo resolvido pelo AO, certo? Infelizmente não, porque ainda existem várias diferenças de ortografia. Acho que os brasileiros gostam mais do acento circunflexo, mas, hoje em dia, não há assim tantas diferenças entre os dois dialectos.

Posted in Portuguese

A Lusofonia

A lusofonia

A Lusofonia é o nome dado aos territórios mundiais onde se fala português. Mas para além disso, existe uma ideia de uma comunidade de povos unidos por uma história e um idioma partilhada*, mesmo que muitas pessoas vivem noutros países. Talvez o melhor encapsulamento desta ideia deja uma citação de Fernando Pessoa “Minha Pátria é a Língua Portuguesa”. Eu também sou cidadão dessa pátria, apesar dos erros que faço!

O autor e poeta Angolano conhecido como “Ondjaki” deu a sua opinião sobre a lusofonia no festival internacional de literatura em 2014. Para o escritor, a lusofonia é uma comunidade de pessoas lusófonas de qualquer país, sejam de onde forem**, mas às vezes, ouve pessoas a falar como se a lusofonia fosse apenas os cinco países africanos. Perguntou porque é que se fala dele e dos outros escritores africanos como membros da “lusofonia”*** mas Saramago nem por isso. Tanto quanto eu entendo, o seu ponto de vista não é uma acusação de racismo ou de colonialismo. Afirma, isso sim, que somos todos iguais perante a língua.

Identifico-me muito com esta visão, como cidadão dum outro país expansionista: os países onde se fala inglês são os países que antigamente “pertenciam” ao nosso império e embora o passado seja o passado e o presente seja o presente, a comunidade linguística deve servir como um lembrete da nossa história partilhada, e é isso que é a chave para a cooperação no futuro.


Lado ao lado com a ideia intangível da lusofonia, existe uma entidade política que representa a zona lusófona. O título dela é Comunidade dos Países da Língua Portuguesa (CPLP) e foi fundada em 1996. Tem o propósito de aprofundar a amizade e a cooperação entre os países lusófonos. Para além dos objectivos económicos (desenvolvimento, crescimento, negócios internacionais), esta amizade consiste em ligações culturais e desportivas. E sem dúvida a saúde da língua em si é importante, portanto a difusão do conhecimento de português faz parte da sua missão.

A organização é regida por um secretariado executivo cujos planos são concretizados por ação a outros níveis da estrutura governativa: o Conselho dos Chefes de Estado,**** e os conselhos dos ministros dos negócios estrangeiros e relações exteriores. Por seu turno, estes conselhos devolvem responsabilidade aos encontros mensais do comité de concertação permanente.

A CPLP tem uma presidência rotativa com um mandato que dura dois anos, para não ser dominada por um único país. Mas apesar disso, há quem afirmem que a organização é dominada pelo país mãis desenvolvido (Portugal) e o maior, e mais rico (Brasil). Da mesma maneira, a Comunidade de Nações (“Commonwealth”) que é a estrutura equivalente da “Anglosphere” (basicamente, a anglofonia) é alvo de críticas de quem veja todas as uniões intergovernamentais como símbolos do passado colonialista. Para mim, tais desequilíbrios são quase inevitáveis, mas não é motivo de desespero. Deve funcionar, isso sim, como um estímulo a trabalhar juntos para eliminar desigualdades e erguer os mais fracos ao patamar dos países desenvolvidos. É esse o sonho.

*I wrote “Compartilhado” in a couple of places but that’s a Brazilian thing and “partilhado” is more usual in PT-PT

** I wrote “sejam onde forem” thinking it meant “wherever they happen to be” but it was changed to “wherever they happen to be from”. I guess the reason for this was my poor verb choice. Sejam and Forem are both from ser, so you can use it in phrases havubg to do with where you are from since that’s a question of your identity. I probably should have written “estejam onde estiverem” since estar is the verb that deals with where you happen to be right now.

*** Talures kindly reminded me that there is another expression – PALOPs – which stands for Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Português, which covers this same group of countries. That’s definitely not what Ondjaki is talking about in the clip but it might be the origin of the confusion, I guess…?

**** The Oxford Comma is as much a pet peeve in Portugal as they are in the English-speaking world but I like them.

Posted in English, Portuguese


Expressions from the C1 course – I’m going to rewrite them here to help me remember them

Acordar com os pés de fora – This is like “wake up on the wrong side of the bed

Abrir o coração – Similar to English; say what you really think, get your feelings out in the open

Abrir o jogo – This one is a bit different from English expressions that mention the start or a game (“Game on” or “kick-off meeting”) It means to reveal details… I guess a game-related metaphor would be “blow the whistle” perhaps?

Abrir os olhos a alguém – Easy one, this. It just means warn someone or convince them of something

À sombra da bananeira – Not bovvered

Agarrar com unhas e dentes – to hold on for dear life

(Dar) Água pela barba – A desperate situation. I misunderstood this when I first heard it. It sounds like someone sweating through their beard, perhaps due to hard work or fear, but according to this blog post, it’s because the prow of a ship is called a barba, and when the water is up to there you know you’re in trouble!

Arregaçar as mangas – Just like in English, roll up your sleeves, get down to business.

Balde de água fria – Disappointment

Barata tonta – a dizzy cockroach. Someone who is acting erratically, or is disorientated

Bater as botas – Beat your boots, equivalent to kick the bucket, pop your clogs, buy the farm

Bater na mesma tecla – keep bashing on the same keyboard key: to persist in saying or doing something to an annoying degree

Baixar a bola – Calm Down

Cabeça de alho chocho – Someone who’s head is like withered garlic is, as you would expect, just someone distracted or forgetful

(dar uma) Calinada – (to say) something stupid or ungrammatical

Tem cara de caso – To gave a worried expression

Cabeça nas nuvens – Just like in English, head in the clouds means delistracted

Coisas do arco da velha – Weird things especially weird old things. My train of thought when I heard this that arco must mean ark, as in ark of the covenant: a chest or trunk where granny kept all her weird old-time junk but arco doesn’t have that meaning in Portuguese. According to the Internet, it just means the old lady’s rainbow.

Comprar gato por lebre – To get swindled. You’re supposed to imahine trying to buy a hare as food and getting sold a dead cat instead.

Cortar as vazas – To stop someone doing something. The relevant meaning of vaza here seems to be as a “trick” in a game of cards such as Bridge, so I guess cutting it would be a strategy to stop an opponent getting an advantage…? Vaza can also mean an emptying or hollowing out of something.

Chorar sobre o leite derramado – To cry over spilt milk

Com a corda no pescoço – With the rope around the neck, ie, under pressure or threat

Com a faca e o queijo na mão – I love this one. Someone is in a position to be able to resolve matters is said to be “with the knife and the cheese in their hand”

Com uma perna às costas – Effortlessly. Equivalent to “with one arm tied behind your back” except in Portugal, its a leg

(ter as) Costas quente – (to have) safety and protection because someone has your back

cravar – literally means to nail something, but as, an expression, to ask for a loan or scrounge something.

Dar/Bater com o nariz na porta – To Look for something and not find it

Dar o braço a torcer – To a it you were wrong about something and change your mind.

Dar com a língua nos dentes – Tell a secret

Dar uma mãozinha – Give someone a hand, just like in English

Dar troco – To answer someone’s comment or insult, to clap back

(Ter) Dor de cotovelo – Another favourite of mine: having pains in your elbow is a Portuguese expression for feeling envious. Not to be confused with “falar pelos cotovelos” which means to talk a lot.

De olhos fechados – as in the case of “com uma perna às costas”, this means you have no trouble doing something. It’s so easy you can do it with your eyes closed.

Engolir sapos – To do something you really don’t want to do. Nuno Markl uses it in describing the attitude of a lot of communist voters in 1986, forced to “engolir o sapo” of voting for Soares because it was better than voting for Amaral de Freitas.

Estar com os azeites – To be bored or annoyed with something

Estar de mãos atadas – as in English “my hands are tied” means I can’t do anything

Estar de/Ficar de trombas – Roughly equivalent to “to have a long face”. In fact, since tromba means trunk, you could probably rewrite the famous joke about the horse walking into a bar in Portuguese but you’d have to make it an elephant.

Estar-se nas tintas – To be completely indifferent to something.

Encostar a roupa ao pelo – Bater em alguém.

Estar giro – to be fun or pretty

Estar fixe – to be cool or good

Estar feito ao bife – knackered. Nobody seems quite sure where this came from but my Brazilian friend said think of a beef that has been tenderused by bashing it repeatedly wuty a spikey mallet. That.

Fazer um negócio da China – Pull off a big great business deal

Fazer vista grossa – To turn a blind eye

Fazer uma tempestade num copo de água – To make a big fuss – a storm in a tea cup, except it’s not a teacup, it’s a glass of water

Gritar a plenos pulmões – To scream at the top of your lungs

Ir desta para melhor – Just like in English, to go to a better place is to die.

Ir aos arames – To get annoyed

Lavar a roupa suja – Washing your dirty laundry is equivalent to airing your dirty linen in public: discussing personal stuff in a public setting.

Levar a peito – Taking to the chest is similar to the English expression ctake it to heart. On other words, take it personally and get offended by something.

(Ter) Maus fígados – to have bad livers means to have a bad temper

Meter os pés pelas mãos – to put your feet in your hand means to get muddled and mix things up.

Meter o rabo entre as pernas – To out your tail between your legs, to submit.

Onde Judas perdeu as botas – Where Judas lost his boots; in the middle of nowhere. See also “cu de Judas”

Pão, pão, queijo, queijo – This is what you say when something is completely clear, unambiguous and well-defined.

(estar com os, ter os) Pés para a cova – To have your feet in the grave is just like you’d say “one foot in the grave” on English.

Pendurar as botas – To hang up your boots is to retire, especially from a sport.

Pensar na morte da bezerra – To think about the death of the calf just means to be distracted

(ser uma, ter uma) Pedra no sapato – To have a problem that needs resolving

Pôr a pata na poça – To put your foot in it, just like in English, except that the portuguese are more specific about “it”. It’s a puddle.

Pôr mãos à obra – Put your hands to work.

Pôr os pontos nos is – Just like in English, to dot the i’s means to take great care over your work

(ficar com, ter) a pulga atrás da orelha – To lack confidence, or be mistrustful

Pôr-se a pau – to be very careful, be on guard

Pôr água na fervura – To put water in the boiling water means to try and calm someone down.

Pôr paninhos quentes – According to the C1 guide, this means to try and conciliate, for example when a friend has acted badly and you are trying to defend them, but when I looked around for the origin, I found Priberam defines “paninhos quentes” as “temporary solutions”, so this would be something like papering over the cracks. Both meanings seem to exist, so… 🤷🏼‍♂️

Prometer mundos e fundos – Make grand promises you can’t keep

Procurar uma agulha num palheiro – Just like English, look for a needle in a haystack

Sem pés nem cabeça – Illogical, meaningless.

Ser um troca-tintas – To be a turncoat, or modify your opinions according to your audience.

Tirar o cavalo (ou cavalinho) da chuva – Everybody’s favourite Portuguese expression, this. To bring your little horse in out of the rain means to finally give up on something.

Trepar paredes – To climb the walls, meaning to be completely desperate

Trocar alhos por bugalhos – To swap garlic for oak apples, meaning to mix up two completely unrelated things.

Ter lata – To be cheeky

Uma mão lava a outra – One hand washes the other, just like the English expression, except when we use it it sounds a bit sinister, implying two people are covering for each other in sometjing dishonest, but the definition is that this is just teamwork, basically. Again, looking around the web, I get the feeling people are using it in a slightly less sympathetic way than the official course definition claims, and more like the English version but I could be wrong.

Vira-casacas – a turncoat, literally!

Voltar à vaca fria – To return to the original subject after a digression.