No, it’s not that I can’t jog over to the Gap to pick up a t-shirt when I need one.
No, it’s not that my life will most likely be absent of the Real Housewives series. (Probably for the best. Although I only indulge in New York and Orange County, it’s still like eating french fries. You know you shouldn’t do it, but you really want to. You do, and you always regret it when you’re through.)
It’s that I need to learn Portuguese.
I actually know more Portuguese than my Brazilian relatives think I do. I understand just enough to know if they’re going to ditch me in a bad neighborhood, or if they’ll be making something for dinner that I don’t like so I can load up on the appetizers. Thing is, up until now, it’s kind of nice not to understand what’s being said all the time. My trips to Brazil have been vacations, so for me, as I sit by the pool, sipping a caipirinha, the Portuguese conversation in the background is like white noise, nice and relaxing. Couple it with the sounds of the ocean, and I’m practically asleep.
Of course there have been times that I regretted, and been embarrassed by, my continued lack of local language knowledge (after being married to a Brazilian for nearly eight years). Many of the older friends and relatives are excited to talk politics and economics, but find it difficult to carry on an entire conversation in English on these complex topics. So often I find myself staring into my drink, as if I’d never seen the inside of an Economist or Financial Times, while the interesting discussions are taking place.
Well, now, I have no choice. It’s learn the language or face a life engulfed in communication isolation.
It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’ve had both group classes and private classes. I have many CDs and books on the language. I now have a high-tech program on my laptop. I don’t know if the barrier has been lack of time, or maybe my bad Spanish gets in the way. Perhaps some deep rooted fear of new languages. Maybe I need to get a language psychologist before I start… (I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t speak Portuguese yet, I’m in language therapy.) Or maybe… I’ve just been language lazy.
Actually, most of the people I’ll interact with do speak English. And I’m sure they’ll appreciate a chance to practice it. The only ones that won’t will be the ones taking care of my daughter, cleaning my apartment, and making me coffee in the morning…hmmm… I think I’ve found my motivation.