Posted in English


I had a Portuguese lesson via Skype today and during a conversation about current events, tried to use the phrase “narwhal tusk”. My teacher had read about the idiot on London Bridge but hadn’t heard that specific detail so she couldn’t help. I checked Linguee for “tusk” and Linguee, which seems to base a lot of its natural language processing on the contents of translated EU policy documents and not so much on old Tarzan novels, thought I meant a kind of fish called a tusk, so it gave me the word “bolota” which is the word they use apparently. Sadly, bolota more commonly means acorn, so there I was, blathering on about a whale’s acorn. Yes, that’s it, this polish guy grabbed a whale’s acorn, you see, and went to attack the terrorist. What mental image must she have had?

I suppose it could have been worse. Donald Tusk features heavily in those same EU documents and pops up from time to time in the Linguee results, usually without translation, although in at least one “Prime Minister Tusk” is translated as “o Primeiro Ministro turco” which is a massive cock-up if ever I saw one.

In case you’re wondering, Narwhal is just “o narval” and tusk is “a presa”. So as Wikipedia says “Os navais machos são distinguidos por uma presa helicoidal longa e feta que, na verdade, é um canino esquerdo superior alongado” so now you know.

Posted in English

Time for a Change of Strategy

I’ve been having a bit of a rethink lately. I’m not making the progress I should, really. I did what I sometimes do: listened to some language-learning podcasts, namely The Fluent Show with Kerstin Cable.

I think the main things I need to do are:

  • Pay more attention to start times (I have drifted into a habit of starting late)
  • Warm up properly (starting a lesson directly from work or from some other aactivity is never healpful. My brain has to already be in Portuguese mode)
  • Ask my teacher to be more interrupty. In general, I don’t like to be interrupted too much because it disrupts my flow, but have a feeling I am maybe being allowed to develop bad habits as a result of saying so, and maybe
  • Get more structure – look at exercises in the lessons and follow them up between lessons instead of just pursuing a completely separate curriculum as soon as the call ends