July 23, 2012 | Portuguese

Eyeball Mishap, Grammar Suffers

I scratch my cornea, which is bad for studying and also seeing.

Sigh. I didn’t mention this previously, but I scratched my cornea about 10 days ago. No idea how. It hurt like hell and made reading a pain. So relatively speaking, I have been doing more Pimsleur lessons than usual and much less grammar than I would normally do.

That means a lot more oral practice and a lot less reading and writing practice. That bothers me.

The day the scratch happened I ended up lying in bed with the shades drawn, hiding under the covers with my eyes closed and sunglasses on. Any light at all was painful. Darkness was also painful. Basically, my advice is, don’t scratch your cornea because it hurts like hell and renders you virtually useless in the real world.

On My Way to Practice Languages at NYC & Company Information Center Today

On My Way to Practice Languages at NYC & Company Information Center Today

While huddled under the covers, I did tons of Pimsleur. It was not very pleasant to do it with the feeling of gravel on my eyeball, but I don’t know what I would have done without it. I hate just lying there being in pain and doing nothing. Minutes seem like hours that way.

Now that I am doing more grammar again, I can’t help noticing that it is a lot easier than it was a couple of weeks ago. That’s because through the Pimsleur lessons, I have a much better idea of how to pronounce things.

When people tell me they can read a language but not speak it, I am generally mystified. If I don’t know how to pronounce words, I strongly dislike trying to read them. My brain completely rebels against that. I need to know how to say each word, even if it is only silently, or it hurts my brain.

Back to specifics: one word I have learned for “boy” in Portuguese is rapaz. Is that etymologically related to “rape” in English? I did some online scouting and so far haven’t been able to figure it out.

I love that in Portuguese you can say vamos visitar (we are going to visit) where in Spanish you would have to say vamos a visitar. It feels so gloriously lazy to skip the before any number of infinitive verbs that you could be about to do.

Portuguese is like Italian in the way it treats possessives. You say la mia amica (my female friend) in Italian, meaning “the my friend.” I found that very strange when I first tried Italian, but now it is comfortably familiar. In Portuguese it is a minha amiga, also “the my friend.” A, as I have mentioned, is the feminine form of “the” in Portuguese. 

The pronunciation of minha is challenging for me. It is not MEEN-ha, as you might think, but rather, the nh in Portuguese seems to be like the ni sound in the middle of minion, except you never quite get around to hearing it, at least not in my Pimsleur lessons, so it’s more like a tease than something explicit. Almost but not quite pronouncing things is hard!

I like how learning a foreign language sometimes helps your vocabulary in your own. For example, I am not too good with fancy colors in English. I can’t normally remember what vermillion is. But vermelho in Portuguese is red, which is a good clue.

I only recently learned how to write “no”: não. My Portuguese development is happening in a weird order.

Comments (1)

Tim • Posted on Sun, December 09, 2012 - 8:45 pm EST

It’s funny you mentioned the “a+infinitive”. My Portuguese teacher went crazy correcting a classmate and me because we kept adding the “a” inappropriately. He was saying that that makes it the progressive form, like -ing in English.  So to him it wasn’t just a sloppy mistake that sounded like Spanish; we were actually saying something different, which was apparently confusing and irritating to his ears.

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