A Taste of my own medicine
Learning to speak a foreign language is often a question of trial and error, of bravely experimenting with new words and praying that the listener doesn't look blank and shrug in confusion, or even worse burst out laughing. All too often a slight change in spelling, pronunciation or stress can radically change the meaning, making the language a minefield to be negotiated with the minimum of embarrassment.
Right from the start I knew I was in trouble; in my very first Portuguese lesson I was faced with the words 'homem' and 'mulher', so I confidently said to the teacher 'ah...eu sou um homem e você é uma mula'. Not long after the secretary at my school told me that the class register was 'na sua pasta', so thinking this was an example of the local sense of humour replied 'eu prefiro bolonhesa'. In fact food has been a constant source of humiliating gaffes; after a couple of months I ventured into a sorvetaria and couldn't understand the bemused reaction when I asked for 'um sorvete de cocô'. At least I didn't shout it at the top of my voice, as my friend did in a bakery, when after watching several people jump the queue she lost her temper and loudly demanded 'quatro pauzinhos'. She soon got her revenge, however, when my neighbour came to my house and asked me 'você tem um T?' (um adaptador), 'sure' I replied as I went into the kitchen and starting looking in the cupboard, 'qual que você quer, normal ou camomila?'
Not quite as embarrassing as after I had stuffed my face at a churrascaria and announced to my friends that I had eaten 'muito castelo' (not 'costela'), or when passing the revolving roast chicken outside a supermarket and I exclaimed: 'aquele frango assustado deve ser uma delícia!'
Another area that always seems to cause foreigners problems is health; on one occasion my friend went to the doctor holding his stomach and told him that he had 'muitos problemas de destino'. Perhaps because he had eaten too many castelos! Not to be outdone, I went to the drugstore with a nasty rash on my arm and asked for 'uma tomada para passar no corpo'. ...perhaps the best of all was the divorced American I know whose son now lives with his mother, who complained that 'a minha filho está com muito saúde de mim'.
Sometimes it is a question of adding an extra syllable where it doesn't really belong, like the time recently that I was discussing a well known corruption case and I thought this a perfect opportunity to impress people with my advanced vocabulary, so I gave the opinion that the man arrested by the police was just a 'bigode espiatório'. (...)
So next time you worry about making a fool of yourself when you speak English, just remember that the gringos have suffered more than you imagine.
By Ben Parry Davies, autor de 6 livros, todos publicados pela Editora Campus: "Inglês em 50 Aulas", "Como Entender o Inglês Falado", "English Test - Como Fazer Sucesso em Provas de Inglês", "Inglês que Não Falha (1 e 2)" e "Como Ensinar Inglês aos seus Filhos".
Fonte do artigo: Brand New Routes