Posted in English

Are You Normal?

I really challenged myself yesterday by participating in a live discussion about whether or not covid has brought about a “New Normal”. Regular readers might remember I tried to join in a workshop about the suffragette movement in Portugal a few weeks back but I got cold feet when I realised I’d have to speak on camera and not just listen. Well, this time, I was better prepared!

People photo created by mego-studio -
Proposed new design for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

The teacher started out with an introduction and asked us all to write down our personal answer at the outset. Then the format was based on a series of video and audio recordings. She’d show us a different point of view and then we broke into discussion groups to see whether the new angle had changed our minds at all. At the end we summed up by seeing how our opinion had changed over the course of all the stages.

My subgroup consisted of just three people. I started out by apologising to the other two for the fact that my mastery of Portuguese was perhaps a little less than ideal for the level of discussion, and I hoped they wouldn’t mind me tagging along. Amazingly one of them asked would I like them to conduct the discussion in English! I am used to waiters and shop assistants offering this courtesy of course, but the level of generosity in offering to do it in an hour-and-a-half long discussion speaks volumes for how welcoming the Portuguese are to visitors, tourists and immigrants. Imagine some English speakers in the UK making a similar offer to a french guest who dropped in unexpectedly, for example.

I thanked her for the offer but declined of course. Even if I wasn’t trying to gain familiarity with the language, the level of egotism I would need to expect them to go to such trouble would just be off the charts!

I actually managed to hold my own pretty well, I think. I mean, I struggled with some aspects. One of the videos was hard to follow due to the Brazilian accent, and I hadn’t really warmed my brain up beforehand so I wasn’t especially articulate, but that’s OK. I listened to the other participants, tried to give my own opinion (slightly stiltedly) asked a couple of questions, described how my point of view had changed . I didn’t amaze and astound the group with my laser-like insight, but I did OK. I didn’t disgrace myself. I’d class that as a victory of sorts!

If you’d like to be involved, the list of courses is here. Obviously only consider this if you are a confident listener and speaker. I’m at B2 level and I was struggling, so don’t even think about it if you’re a newbie.