Posted in English

New Year, New Uwu

Feliz Ano Novo, fellow slaves to the grammar. May 2023 bring us all the linguistic wins we so richly deserve!

We were in France for the new year. France is a country to the south of us where they speak a language that’s a bit like portuguese but not as good. We’ve only been here a couple of days to see in the new year and it has been lovely, but we’re waiting for the Eurostar to take us home. The announcer has just told us that owing to the bad weather, the platform is slippery and “please take special care of it”, which I just find delightful, imagining myself tucking the platform into bed, giving it some camomile tea and a foot massage and tiptoeing out of the room. Aww, so cute!

As usual, it’s hard work, communicating in French. I used to be reasonably fluent so long as the conversation didn’t get too heavy. Now, every time I open my mouth, portuguese verbs elbow their way to the front of my tongue, shoving French conjugations out of the way. Sometimes I can get pretty far into crazy mishmashes of the two and it leaves me feeling a bit awkward. My daughter is better but she is a bit self-conscious too. She does a great job in what she plans to say but doesn’t like to speak spontaneously. We have a competition of who can go longest without “getting Englished” – in other words, making the person we’re speaking to just start speaking to us in our own language because it’s easier.

There’s no reason to be self-conscious though. Speaking someone else’s language is absolutely a compliment to them. It shows you’ve made an effort, and it’s basically always appreciated, whereas just launching into English is arrogant and douchey, so just go for it, and if it doesn’t work out, well, no worries, try again. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, short of picking the wrong words and accidentally buying twitter or divulging your location to the Romanian police, the worst most people can imagine is being laughed at. Is that really likely though? Would you ever laugh at someone from overseas speaking your language? And even if someone laughs, is it going to be malicious laughter? Again, it seems unlikely. Sometimes you might just trigger someone’s delighted reaction at an odd combination of words, like the French train announcer who’s concerned about the wellbeing of the platform, but that’s ok. Keep a sense of humour about it, and you’re all good.

Posted in English

Pantomime Dane

I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my favourite “hack” for conversarion: tell them you’re Danish. If, like. Me, you’re pale and un-iberian-looking, you obviously can’t pass yourself off as a local, but you don’t want people to clock you’re an English speaker because then they’ll be unhelpfully helpful. So pretend to be Danish because nobody speaks Danish. Then you can swear you have no knowledge of other languages and they’ll just have to talk to you in Portuguese. Or run away. I definitely recommend having this trick up your sleeve for an emergency.


Anyway, when we were in France, my daughter, who is learning French at A-level, used the same trick and told them she was “danoise”. I was really proud of her putting herself out there and talking to people. She did really well.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Talk Talk

I wrote a short text about speaking. Thanks to csc_3 for the help with this one.

A minha cunhada visitou a irmã dela ontem, o que me deu oportunidade de falar português. A minha mulher costuma* falar inglês em casa, mas quando a família se junta, a conversa passa para português. Falei bem (na minha opinião!), mas estou consciente de ter feito** alguns erros de concordância e tal. Preciso de falar mais.

*dammit, I seem to have some sort of weird mental block about whether to write “costuma” or “customa”

** Hm, when I originally wrote this, I was trying to say “I was conscious of making errors” while I was speaking but by the time the corrector finished straightening out the grammar it said “I am conscious of having made errors” which is also true but I was trying to describe my feeling of self-consciousness in the moment so the meaning has changed slightly.

Portuguese people be like…

I think this lack of speaking practice is a problem I really need to get hold of. As I said a while ago, when I was feeling gloomy, speaking another language is a challenge when you’re an introvert who doesn’t really live for conversation in any language. But I need to make the effort to find a place to get some serious speaking time.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Apenas Um Minuto

Before my B2 exam I tried playing “Just A Minute” on video to get used to speaking fluently under pressure since the exam has an oral component, conducted on video and it’s my weakest link, so into the exam prep plan it went. At the time I didn’t think much of it and editing it for YouTube seemed too much of a faff, but then yesterday we heard that the presenter of the show, Nicholas Parsons, had died, so I decided to dust it off and post it online. I was glad I did. My grammar is all over the place – absolutely terrible – but I quite like the video as a whole, especially since my daughter agreed to help so you can hear her in the background.

Posted in Portuguese

Só Um Minuto

notebook_image_997296Existe um programa de rádio, cá em Inglaterra, chamado “Só Um Minuto”, que consiste num jogo com quatro jogadores. O objectivo do jogo é simplesmente isto: falar sobre uma tema durante um minuto, sem hesitação, sem desvio, e sem repetição.

Ou seja, se uma jogador repetir uma palavra (com excepção de palavras pequenas tais como “e”, “para” ou “uma” – e o título do tema é permitido também) um outro jogador pode interromper o outro e assim ganha um ponto e continua o discurso. Se desviar do assunto, também perde a iniciativa a um outro jogador e finalmente, se hesitar (uma pausa notável entre duas palavras ou um “hum…”). No final* do minuto, quem estiver a falar ganha mais pontos e depois os três seguem para o próximo assunto.

Pode ser muito engraçado (depende dos concorrentes, claro!)

O meu único motivo para mencionar isto é que penso em tentar fazer um jogo a sós para praticar português falado, e tentar eliminar as pausas no meu diálogo! O que achas? Será um bom desafio?

Caso algum estudante de inglês tenha interesse neste programa, está aqui uma edição especial de televisão

*”No final do” or “ao fim dum”

Thanks to Sophia (again) and Israel. Good luck with all those people singing in you later this evening, Israel.

Posted in Portuguese



Ainda continuo gravar videos sobre livros que já li, no Youtube. A minha esposa – e a minha professora – zombam-me.


– Como corre a sua vida como Youtuber? perguntam eles, e eu rio ligeiramente e acrescento-os à lista de pessoas com que não falo quando o canal estiver patrocinado por e eu for rico e famoso.

Não, quando jantar com a Zoella e o Pewdie Pie e o Owen Jones, não vou convidar-los acompanhar-me.

Não pretendo publicar todos os vídeos aqui, mas o canal tem um novo nome:

28 Days Leitor

Vem visitar se quiseres! O exercício é muito útil, e ando a aprender muito.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Tag | Divertida – Brace For More Videos!

Well, my campaign to be a famous youtuber with the multi-million euro sponsorship deal with Bertrand Livros is going pretty well. I had a go at a tag questionnaire the other day, and it was really good fun, and passed a boring afternoon in the hotel. Since I didn’t have any of the books I was slagging off in the room with me, I held up the one book I did have: “Europe in Autumn” by Dave Hutchinson and just acted as if it was a different book each time.

The thing I like about it is that it makes me prepare. In a normal conversation, I can speak with varying degrees of fluency, depending on how warmed-up I am, but I only say each thing once, and any mistakes I make hang there in the air like helium-filled turds. But in this setting, I prepare in advance, jot down some useful phrases and can take a couple of practice runs; I don’t read the notes out to camera, but I do have a rough roadmap in my head of where I’m going and what backalleys I’ll need to take to get there, so it’s a different kind of speaking, if you see what I mean. The fact that I seem now to have a small cluster of friends who are all very nice and share my interests in books is a huge bonus too, of course!


As usual, it takes me a while to get warmed up. The first couple of minutes are pretty painful but it gets better.

At one point I use the english word “Now” instead of “Agora”, which is unfortunate because it sounds like “não” and it completely reverses the meaning of the sentence.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Jonas O Copramanta #SeptemberThrills

Here’s the first book review. It’s not as bad as I remember it being while I was recording it. There are some real howlers though: “He didn’t die anyone” is a particular cringemaker for me but there are others just as bad. I’ll put a tidied version of the text (of the review only, not that intro) below.

Esta semana, li “Jonas o Copromanta”, um romance Brasileiro de Patrícia Melo. Quando comecei acreditava – ou seja esperava – que fosse um policial mas enganei-me, porque não é nada disso, sim uma espécie de romance literário, bem diferente de algo que já li anteriormente.

O enredo descreve a vida dum funcionário da biblioteca nacional do Rio de Janeiro. Tem uma obsessão incomum. Crê que pode adivinhar o futuro, e receber mensagens do Deus por “ler” (entre aspas) as suas fezes, que ele pensa têm forma de algum alfabeto antigo. No início do livro, acabou de ler um livro escrito por um autor bem conhecido, que se chama Rubem Fonseca. O livro é sobre o assunto da “copromancia”, e ele fiquei convencido que o escritor plagiou-o por método de espiando nele e roubando as suas ideias. Conforme o enredo desenvolve, a monomania dele aumenta, e começa a perseguir o escritor. Como disse, este livro não é semelhante aos outros livros que já li. Tentei pensar num outro romance que tenha um estilo, ou um ambiente semelhante. Um livro americano de John Kennedy Toole, chamado “A Confederacy of Dunces” tem tanto loucura quanto este, e “American Psycho” compartilha com ele um sentido duma protagonista que parece normal às suas colegas mas tem um mundo inteiramente diferente dentro da sua mente. Claro que não é um semelhança forte. O Jonas não assassinou ninguém é não tinha uma cabeça no frigorífico. Mesmo assim, acho que podemos traçar certos paralelos entre os dois. Mais uma coisa que me interessa foi o nome da protagonista: Jonas é um nome dum profeta do testamento antigo que foi engolido por uma baleia. Foi mencionado em “Moby Dick”, um dos meus 3 ou 4 livros preferidos de sempre.

Confesso que não entendo cada detalhe mas gostei da história em geral. Achei-a imprevisível, esquisita e bem engraçada. Vou dá-lo quatro estrelas no Goodreads. Até agora, a média das notas* é duas e meia, e o único comentário simplesmente diz “Um monte de estrume com o perdão do chiste”. É claro que pessoas que falam português melhor de eu têm uma opinião mais baixo. Vocês têm sido avisados**!


*=According to Ruben, who kindly corrected this for me, “The average mark” isn’t a thing (at least in Brazil), but “The average of the marks” is OK.

**=”You have been warned”. It’s a literal transation and I don’t think it’s really an expression used in PT, so probably not something I’ll repeat.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Vamos Ler Thrillers #SeptemberThrills

I’ve really on a reading kick at the moment. My poor smartphone has been gathering dust for hours at a time 🎻. More worryingly, I can’t stop buying them, no matter how the TBR shelves groan under the weight, suspended above my head while I sleep, threatening to kill me with a nocturnal literature-avalanche.

Some of my favourite Portuguese Booktubers are doing themed challenges and I thought I’d tag along and carry on the momentum from finishing the chunky-ass thriller I’ve just put back on the shelf. I’m going to read some books in both languages and try and write/say something about them in Portuguese just because it’s more fun than doing exercises.

I haven’t done many videos and don’t intend to make it a regular thing (I know, I know, the Lord is merciful) but it’s fun to do, and I learn how to use the video editing software as well as stretching my Portuguese speaking skills a bit. I’m quite happy to see how much better this is than the last one, but there is still a lot of umming and ahhing, and a lot of really horrible errors that even I can see, so god knows how it comes across to others! In other words, there’s a long way to go… Useful trends to pick up are that I use “por isso” more than I think is really natural, seem to be using “no” instead of any other em-related word, and “isso” for all my demonstrative pronouns for some reason, even when I know the thing is masculine and I’m actually holding it in my hand. The other thing that’s starting to bother me is how lazy my accent is. I never used to worry about it before because I was more concerned about understanding the mechanics of the language but I’m at a stage now where I ought to be able to roll my Rs properly and make a proper -ão sound that isn’t a disgrace to humanity. I think I might go back to the Portuguese With Carla blog and really do it properly, making an effort to say everything out loud and teach my mouth to be less flat and british.

No, I’ve no idea what that first few seconds is about, but it took me about two hours to make, so I hope you enjoy it!


While writing this, five people (five!) have commented on the video. I don’t know why this should surprise me since I posted it in public on a social network using a hashtag, but I suppose I thought it’d be like the last one and get seen by three people over a period of about six months. I’m simultaneously happy to be so warmly received and blushing slightly at the attention.

Posted in Portuguese

Video Day