July 27, 2012 | Portuguese

Italian Under Assault!

Portuguese is siphoning off my skills.

Now that I drink only one espresso a day, I consistently fall asleep early and wake up early. I am no longer a vampire.

Verdi Square at Six-Something in the Morning

Verdi Square at Six-Something in the Morning

Some New York Early Birds

Some New York Early Birds

I wake up so early I have to wait for my favorite coffee shops to open. Only Starbucks is open at 6 a.m., and I have had it with Starbucks. To bide the time, I have recently been doing Pimsleur lessons sitting in Verdi Square.

People entering and leaving the subway station there sometimes look at me strangely. It does appear that I am talking to myself, after all.

It’s funny to watch the early-morning flow. I have realized a lot of doctors get up really early.

The other day at NYC & Company’s midtown information center, I spoke Portuguese to a family of tourists visiting from Brazil. The husband spoke to me initially for a bit, then came back later with his wife and child, and they waited patiently for me while I helped someone else in Spanish. He (the husband, I mean) was determined to wait for me. I was honored that some value had been attached to my still sparse communication skills.

During that particular volunteer shift I also spoke Spanish, French, one sentence of Dutch, one sentence of Hebrew…and horrible Italian.

It has now become clear to me that Portuguese is absolutely destroying my Italian. My Spanish and French went fine, better than normal even, I felt. Especially the Spanish, which is a lot more like Portuguese than Italian and one might think would be more vulnerable.

But Italian has decades less history in my brain. I never touched it until 2009. And there are numerous similarities between Italian and Portuguese.

It is as though the Portuguese words are giant boulders on the path leading to my Italian vocabulary.

That first week of Portuguese Pimsleur lessons I spent hours trying to override the vowels I knew from both Italian and Spanish. But Italian is the real victim. Spanish has escaped, so far.

If I want to keep Italian alive right now, I think I will need to co-study it. 

Comments (2)

Jared Romey • Posted on Tue, August 21, 2012 - 1:16 pm EST


That’s funny you say Portuguese is destroying your Italian.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m doing Pimsleur Italian at the moment, albeit slowly.  I’m seeing how it and my Portuguese are mixing together a bunch.  I’d say may Italian needs to improve a whole lot more before it does any real damage to my Portuguese though.  I will be interested to see how both languages affect my Spanish, if at all, as they improve.

Sounds like you just need to stop working and study languages full time while you travel the world!!


Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, August 21, 2012 - 7:29 pm EST

Jared, your last line made me laugh. :)

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