August 10, 2010

University Vocabulary in Portuguese

 Oi gente! Elena Como has submitted a great post (full of "false friends") on talking about college in Portuguese. So aqui está the first ever guest post here at Portuguese Tips:

photo: Ananda Lima
University Talk
Elena Como

 Before I studied in Brazil, during my junior year abroad at PUC-Rio, I learned a lot of Portuguese vocabulary. I remember that my Portuguese teacher at UC Santa Cruz gave us a number of ways to discuss what we majored in at the university. So I arrived at PUC and spoke about my area de concentração. And the Brazilians thought I was a graduate student. That also caused confusion, because estudante de graduação is actually an undergraduate in English. Graduação sounds like it should refer to a graduate student, but it's actually used for undergraduates. (Graduate students are called pós-graduados).

What's wrong with translating the idea of a major into "area de concentração"? It's a cultural problem--Brazilians don't really do general education, not like Americans, anyway. So they don't talk about having an "area de concentração" unless they are graduate students with a focus or concentration. Instead, Brazilians speak about their major or department the same way they would talk about their work: eu faço matemática (I am a math major), or eu estudo matemática (I study math). Faculdade means department, and it can also be used the way we use the word "school"--sort of a general way of referring to where you study.

Speaking of school, another confusion I encountered was the false cognate in the word "school." In American English, young people often use the word "school" to refer to university. In Portuguese, escola doesn't ever mean college or university, it means elementary school (and colégio is high school). So people would look at me funny when, at age 20, I would say "Eu vou para a escola." All of these terms came pretty quickly when I was living there, but it's easy to make these kinds of mistakes when the actual educational system is quite different. So to all of you who are going back to school, tenham um bom semestre!

Elena Como is the founder and president of Atlântico Books, an importer, distributor, and publisher of Portuguese-language books, CDs, DVDs, and downloads. Atlantico Books serves Portuguese students, teachers, and translators.

*I have not received anything in exchange of this post, i.e., this is not advertisement.

August 8, 2010

Learn Portuguese with these great online games

 As well as a lot of natural conversation, I love mixing games into my Portuguese classes! Since you are using this online, here are two very cool places where you can find a bunch of online games to practice Portuguese (great resources for teachers also):

  • Português em Badajoz - This site, created by Portuguese teachers in Badajoz (Spain) has a bunch of links to great online games/quizzes. The descriptions are all in Portuguese, so you may have to poke around a little bit for something that is just right for you. Some of the quizzes (e.g. Os contrários in Jogos de associações or these games by Instituto Camões) will be great for beginners. Other games (eg. Espaço Lusofonia) will be better for intermediate or advanced students.
  • Ludo-tech - This site also has a great collection of games (all created by the writers of the site). It seems like some of the games may have been designed to teach Portuguese children (whose first language is Portuguese to begin with :-)), but most of them can also be useful for second language learners (like this vocabulary quiz).
Note: You will see some Portuguese from Portugal (as opposed to the Portuguese from Brazil which is present throughout most of this site) in some of the games above... but, although there are differences, these varieties are very similar and this shouldn't be a problem for you.


August 3, 2010

Learn more about Brazilian Music and Culture: Choro

Pintura por Cândido Portinari (domínio público)

Most of my students have heard of samba and bossa-nova*... but it is much harder to find those who know what Choro ou Chorinho is. Well, if you are like them, you need no longer miss out on this beautiful style of music.

Choro means 'cry'. It is the noun as in "um choro triste" (a sad cry) (so the first 'o' is pronounced like an 'ô', not like an 'ó'... as opposed to the verb spelled the same way, but pronounced with an ó) ... but the rhythm is most often very happy and upbeat (there seem to be a couple of different ideas on why that is the name, and since I don't know the answer, I won't go it to it). Here is a Brazilian advertisement that makes a joke based on the name of the style, where you can also hear an example of chorinho (don't worry if you don't get the joke!):

Chorinho is considered the first popular urban style of music created in Brazil (originating in the 19th century) and it is stil played in Brazil today.

If you are in New York City,  you can go to a Choro concert right here in the city! The Choro Ensemble is playing at Zinc Bar tomorrow night (04 de Agosto)!

To learn a little bit more about chorinho, read one of these articles:
To learn about the instruments used in chorinho, see my other post with a vocabulary lesson about musical instruments in Portuguese.

To enjoy the music (and hear a little bit of Portuguese), you can watch the documentary "The sound of Rio: Brasileirinho"(imdb). If you are an advanced student, it may be good listening practice. You may try it even if you are a beginner, as there is a lot of music and not too much talking anyway:

*If you are an upper-intermediate or advanced student and really love Bossa nova, you should check this book out!

Hope to see you at Zinc bar!

Vocabulary lesson: Instrumentos Musicais em Português

Bom dia! I was preparing a post about chorinho and thought that it would be a good idea to introduce you to the vocabulary of musical instruments in Portuguese first.  I also have a couple of very nice students who are musicians who may find this useful.

If you are a beginner, don't worry too much if you don't understand a lot of the words in the readings and video, just get as much as you can. If you are an intermediate student, this may be perfect for you. If you are an advanced speaker of Portuguese, you may still learn a new word or two... and I follow the links to some readings that are more advanced.

Parte I: Os Instrumentos Musicais

Aqui estão alguns instrumentos músicais:

 violão, violino, piano e flauta

Esses intrumentos são parecidos (similares), mas são diferentes:

Note que a guitarra é elétrica e o violão geralmente é acústico. O cavaquinho é bem pequenininho.

Aqui estão outros instrumentos:

trombone                       saxofone                       clarineta



                 pandeiro                                                                                 sanfona

O pandeiro é muito importante no samba e a sanfona é muito importante no forró.
O Slash (dos Guns and Roses) toca guitarra e o João Gilberto toca violão.
Você sabia que o Woody Allen toca clarineta?

Responda as perguntas (answer whichever ones you can):
a. Você toca algum instrumento musical?
b. Você tem algum instrumento musical?
c. Qual é o seu instrumento favorito?
d. Qual dos instrumentos acima é maior (mais pesado)?
e. Qual dos instrumentos acima é menor (mais leve)?
f. Qual instrumento o Kenny G. toca?
g. Dê o nome de um instrumento que é importante no samba.
h. Dê o nome de um instrumento que é importante no jazz.
i. Dê o nome de um instrumento que é importante no rock.
j. Dê o nome de um instrumento que é importante na bossa nova.

Jogue esse jogo sobre instrumentos. Fale o nome dos instrumentos em voz alta.

Opcional: leia esse artigo sobre instrumentos importantes na música brasileira (if you can, don't worry if don't understand everything. Beginners may just read the name of the instruments matched with the drawings) .

Desafio (challenge): play a game of forca (hangman), where all words are instrumentos músicais. (Don't worry if you don't know all of the words in the game: I and a lot of Brazilians wouldn't know all those words ourselves!)

PARTE II: Os instrumentos do Choro

Essa parte é sobre os instrumentos importantes no choro. Para saber um pouco sobre o choro, veja as links no meu artigo sobre o choro.


Leia o artigo Os instrumentos do choro (if you can, don't worry if don't understand everything. Beginners may just read the name of the instruments matched with the drawings).

Advanced students: leia este artigo.

Conecte o nome do instrument com a foto:

Violão de seis cordas: _1__

cavaquinho: ___
flauta: ___
pandeiro ___

O seguinte vídeo sobre um instrumento importante no choro, no samba e no pagode. Adivinha qual é o instrumento!

Aqui está o vídeo, com perguntas para responder (the host of the quiz doesn't support Portuguese characters, so there are no acentos in the quiz :-( ). Click here to see the complete test.

(If you are a my student in a class or private lessons, ask me for a code to share your results or grab it from our private wiki).

Gente! O Eduardo Sant'Anna não é incrível?

Opcional: leia as partes do violão e escute o vídeo de novo. Você consegue reconhecer alguma parte?

 Now that you know the names of the instruments used in chorinho,  enjoy some of the music!

July 12, 2010

Practice your Portuguese Watching Brazilian Movies at MoMA!

Another great opportunity to watch Brazilian Movies in New York City! Starting this week until the end of the month, MoMA will be showing movies by both new and established Brazilian filmmakers on their Premiere Brazil! Festival. It is a great chance to get expose to the language and different aspects of Brazilian Culture. I will certainly be watching some of the movies with my students. You should go too!

Even if you are not going with a teacher/ class, here are some tips to get even more of the experience (you can apply them to other Brazilian movies you may want to watch too). The idea is to get your mind prepared to the themes, vocabulary and the accent of the movie beforehand, so that you can make the most of it:

  1. Choose the movie you want to watch. I recommend you choose based on your interests (i.e., whatever looks more fun for you)... but if you want to worry about other things, remember that movies that are very urban, with gangs etc. (like City of God) are possibly more challenging (which can be good if that is what you are looking for). You can also see if there is any information on the description about the region where the movie is set: if it is set in the same region as your teacher/ materials are from, it may be easier to understand (materials often show features of São Paulo and Rio accents). If it is set in a different region, it may be harder, but also very interesting! If my students want to watch more than one movie, I usually suggest that they try and choose movies that look like they will feature different types of language (e.g.: a rural setting and an urban setting or a move set in the Northeast and one in São Paulo), to widen their exposure.
  2. Look at the cover/a picture/poster of the movie. Try and imagine what the movie is about. Make a couple sentences describing what you guess the movie is about (in Portuguese).
  3. Find a description of the movie from its promotional materials, read it out loud. Underline any words you don't know and either look them up or ask your teacher to help. Now, write or say your own short description, without looking and in your own words (in Portuguese).
  4. See if you can find a movie trailer and some clips of the movie. Listen to it a few times to get used to the accent. Try and repeat/ act out one of the scenes out loud. Repeat any words that you liked or where you found the pronunciation different or interesting.
  5. Think about what you know of the story so far and formulate a few questions about parts of the story that you don't know, so that you can answer them after the movie? Write a small list of questions down. These can be any questions, for example Qual é o relacionamento entre a mulher loira e a morena no poster do filme? (What is the relationship between the blond woman and the brunette woman in the movie poster?), Porque a mulher loira está correndo naquela cena do trailer? (Why is the blond woman running on that scene on the trailer?). You can see if you can answer your questions after the movie.
  6. Read the questions under number 7 below ("7.Review the movie") to see some aspects of the movie that you may want to notice (optional - you may just want to enjoy the movie instead).
  7. Enjoy the movie!
  8. Review the movie. If you have a teacher or a friend who speaks Portuguese, discuss the movie with him or her. there are may things you can talk about, here are some suggested topics (you should discuss it in Portuguese, of course):
    1. Plot and characters: Summarize the plot. Say what you thought about the story in general, about each of the main characters. What was your favorite character? How did you feel during the movie (assustado, triste, feliz, emocionado)?  Did the movie make you rir ou chorar (laugh or cry)? If so, in which scenes? Did you like the ending? Would you have changed it?
    2. Photography: Was the movie visually appealing? Was the 'look' of the movie (dark and heavy? Light and airy?). What were your favorite scenes (visually) in the movie? Can you describe one of the scenes, places or settings in the movie? (e.g. an old house)
    3. Cuture: Did you learn anything new about Brazilian culture? Was there anything that you found interesting? Was there any habits/ actions practiced by the characters that you didn't understand?
    4. Language: Was the language easy or difficult to understand?  Did you recognize and words or expressions that you already knew? Which ones? Do you remember any new words/ expressions that you found interesting? Was the accent of the characters similar or different from what you are used to? If so, did you notice how the accent was different (e.g., the pronunciation of the 's', intonation etc.).
  9. Write about the movie. Write a summary or review of the movie.
 ... or if you don't want to focus on learning so much this time, just go and enjoy the movie!

July 1, 2010

Brazilian Music at MoMA Nights thoughtout July

One more for those of your learning Portuguese in NYC: MoMA Nights will be featuring a bunch of Brazilian artists this month! The events are being kicked off right now (as in the time of writing) by the awesome Nation Beat (I only heard about it now and have to head off to teach :-() and will continue through to the end of July. You can see the events scheduled here.

June 28, 2010

Portuguese for the world Cup -Part 1: Basic Conversation Soccer Terms

Even if you are in the US, chances are that you have heard about the hype about the Copa do Mundo (The FIFA Soccer World Cup). Whenever the Copa comes up, it is also likely that you hear at least some talk about Brazil (since Brazil is the only country to have participated in all world cups, the only one to have won 5 times and the top country in historical ranking... ok, I'll stop now...). .. Even if you are not crazy about futebol, it is nice to add a little soccer vocabulary to your Portuguese, since it is so present in Brazilian culture.

The game (Brazil x Chile) is starting really soon, so I will make this a quick starting post, with more coming later. Here are a couple of terms you may hear if you go watch it in a bar or a Brazilian friend's house to get you started:

1. Basic terms:

Copa (do mundo) - world cup
Futebol - soccer

Partida/ jogo - match/game
Assistir - watch
bola (de futebol) - (soccer) ball
jogador - player

1. Make sentences with each of the words above, until you have used all the words (not necessarily in the same sentence). If you are a beginner, you may still be able to make very simple sentences slightly modifying the examples. Example: 

Kaká é um jogador de futebol.
Eu não assisto todos os jogos da copa do mundo.
O meu amigo tem uma bola de futebol.

2. Answer if you can:
a. Que é o seu jogador favorito?
b. Você está assistindo os jogos da copa do mundo?
c. Qual foi a sua partida favorita?
d. Você tem uma bola de futebol?

2. Torcer (para)

The verb for cheer is torcer (use it with para to say who you are cheering for). E.g.:

Torcer (para):

Para quem você está torcendo?
Who are you cheering?

Eu estou torcendo para o Brasil.
I am cheering for Brazil.

Eu estava tocendo para o México.

I was cheering for Mexico yesterday.

You can also use this verb to say which team you support in general:

Na copa do mundo, eu sempre torço para o Brasil, mas a minha esposa torce para a Argentina.
In the world cup, I always support (cheer for) Brazil, but my wife supports Argentina.

Eu torço para o Lakers.
I support the Lakers/ I'm a Laker's fan.

a. Make 2 sentences saying which teams you support in any sport you like. 
b. Make 3 sentences saying which teams people you know support.
c. Practicing asking someone which team they are cheering for.

3. Soccer terms:

If you know a little bit about soccer you may like to know these terms. I took them straight from this nice article (which teaches English soccer terms to Portuguese speakers):
  • EscanteioCorner kick
  • ÁrbitroReferee
  • TécnicoCoach ou Team Coach
  • AtacanteStriker
  • Zagueiro Defender
  • LateralWinger
  • Goleiro Goalkeeper
  • Meio campo Midfielder
  • Impedimento- Offside
  • Lateral (cobrança)Throw-in
  • Penalti Penalty kick
  • Torcedor Supporter/fan
  • BandeirinhaLinesman
This exercise is only recommended for those  into soccer and it may be a nice prep before watching a game (assuming Brazil wins today :-)).
1. Do a little research and describe in Portuguese sentences, using the terms above:
     a. The Brazilian team in a recent game;
     b. Either (i) the team you support (if not Brazil); (ii) a team you recently watched, or; (iii) the team who is next playing Brazil.
    O Dunga é o tecnico do Brasil.

This should give you a little bit to start speaking a little Portuguese on the next game... For now, see you after Brazil x Chile!

June 7, 2010

Brazilian Film Festival in NYC

Portuguese students and Brazilianites of NYC, this week, you have a chance to watch a bunch of Brazilian movies at a Brazilian Film festival! It is going on right now and it only lasts until Saturday:

Such a shame I am going to be away! Otherwise I'll do a field trip with my students for sure...


May 25, 2010

Brazilian Music and Architecture at Central Park!

I'm back! To get us started, here is a little cultural event where you can listen to Portuguese (if you are in the city). It is free and ourdoors! Here is a blurb about it from the Summer Stage music series:

The 8th Annual Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil, featuring live sets from Os Paralmas Do Sucesso and Maria Gadu, followed by a screening of Oscar Niemeyer – Life is a Breath of Air
The 8th Annual Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil, featuring live sets 
from Os Paralmas Do Sucesso and Maria Gadu, followed by a screening of 
Oscar Niemeyer – Life is a Breath of Air
When: Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 7:00PM
Where: Central Park/Mainstage

Brazil’s finest from the fields of music, architecture and film meet in the heart of New York City.

Os Paralamas do Sucesso formed in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1970s, and are now considered one of the “Big Four” bands of Brazilian rock. They have always incorporated reggae and ska into their sound, and have over the years continued to expand their soundscapes with intricate horn arrangements and Latin rhythms. The lineup, unchanged since 1982, includes Herbert Vianna on guitar and lead vocals, Bi Ribeiro on bass, and Joao tildeo Barone on drums.

Brazilian guitarist, singer and songwriter Maria Gadu is an emerging sensation to watch. She began her career as a child and went out to garner attention with her stunning interpretation of “Ne me quitte pas” by Jacques Brel. She has been featured on several soundtracks and her self-titled debut release has already created an international buzz.

The closing night film of The 8th Annual Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil is the documentary OSCAR NIEMEYER – LIFE IS A BREATH OF AIR . Is it possible to tell a story of a nation through its architecture? Life is Breath takes its cue from its subject, renowned and influential architect Oscar Niemeyer-- the great icon of Brazil’s Modern Architecture movement-- highlighting the poetry of his forms as inspired by his country’s majestic geography and soul.
(212) 360-2777

 Being a kid in the 80's I can't help it but like Paralamas (even if it is not your thing, they were huge in Brazil, so it may be interesting anyway)... being from Brasilia, I liked the Oscar Niemeyer movie a bunch... (though the format is not for everyone). 

February 24, 2010

Sing Happy Birthday in Portuguese again... this time with the help of a cuuuuuute dog!

After seeing my post on singing happy birthday in Portuguese, the owner of a gorgeous golden retriever contacted me for help on the song. They wanted to send a video of happy birthday to the puppy's cousin in São Paulo in Portuguese! (Isn't it fun to be a blogger? How else would I get fun messages like these! ).

Unfortunately, I was away and that e-mail address was a little messed up, so I didn't see the note until it was too late... but it looks like they didn't need me anyway! Here is Golden dog's productions awesome video:

Or you can see it on their You Tube channel, here. (thanks for the video, Simon and Simon's owner!)

February 23, 2010

80's Portuguese concert in NYC again!

Quick note for those in New York and interested in a pop-cultural experience. Gig Brazil is guys are having another 80's Brazilian Rock concert this Saturday at Sullivan Hall. I am not sure I'll be able to go this time (bummer), but last time I had such a great time! Check it out if you are up to some very different Portuguese practice this Saturday night!

February 22, 2010

Expand your Portuguese through reading and music: A great book for advanced speakers

I am always on the look out for books for my advanced students that are interesting so that they can practice their reading. The only thing is that some books that I love and some of the classics can be very difficult to read for foreign language speakers and they end up giving up!* During my last trip to Brazil I found a great book for advanced learners called "Noites Tropicais", by the music journalist Nelson Motta.

The language in the book is really natural (more similar to spoken language than many books I find). As well as looking out for the abscence of language features that are mostly formal and looking for informal language while reading it (like "pulando feito pipoca"), I test drove the book by giving it to my husband (an advanced speaker) who could read it without too much trouble and really liked it!

The story is super-interesting if you like Brazilian music. The book tells the story of Brazilian music from João Gilberto until the 1990's, from a very personal perspective (the author was right in the middle of the music scene the whole time and was good friends with a lot of the musicians). Because of that, it mentions the story behind of a lot of the songs that we know and love. So you can spice up your reading by pausing to listen and have a good look at some of the songs mentioned in the book (learning through music can be very nice and break up your routine). [I have set up a Pandora station (free!) with songs *mostly* by the composers mentioned in the book. To access, click here (login required) or go to "create station" and start typing "Noites Tropicais", it should find the station and suggest it to you as you type it.]

You can see a good summary from the publisher here and a nice review here. These are in Portuguese, so if you can understand the gist of these articles well, you are in a great position to read the book... If you can't understand most of the summary and review, keep practicing (and following the blog :-)) and try again later.

As of right now, you can get the book from Amazon or you can get it through Atlântico Books, a boutique book importer which specializes on Portuguese books. There is also companion CD (or you can listen to the Pandora station, which is free :-)).

*I think is a great goal to be able to read the stuff with more complicated language (and worth it!), but I definitely don't think your first Portuguese book should be one of those (just like I don't think English learners should start by reading Shakespeare!). I recommend reading books with more current/ natural language first and then moving on to harder stuff later... even if your Portuguese is really good!

** This post is for my lovely student of the month, Thomas, who is going to read the book with me!

February 17, 2010

Impersonal expressions in Portuguese

***Warning: grammarphobes may want to skip this article. If you want to learn some of the points here more implicitly, you can practice the expressions here or here. I am adding a category 'avoid if you don't like grammar' so you can stick to the less heavy stuff.***

One of my students asked about impersonal verbs this week, so I thought I would share this with you in case you have similar questions...

...But wait. Don't Brazilians like to get personal? Fear not, you can hold on to the friendly Brazilian stereotypes :-). I don't mean impersonal in the sense of unfriendly or cold. This post is about impersonal in the sense of lacking person agreement (the different person conjugations) on the verb. If you have no idea what I am talking about, don't worry. I'll explain. (If you know what I am talking about you can skip the re-cap :-))

A. Re-cap: (Person) Verb Conjugation 101

Remember that for beginners it can sometimes be tricky to remember all those different verb endings? For example, take the verb falar (to speak) in the past (you can also look at ser and estar):

(1)Eu falei
(2)Você/ele/ela/a gente falou
(3)Nós falamos
(4)Vocês/eles/elas falaram

See how the verb endings are different depending on the subject? These different forms depending on the subject is what I am calling person agreement/ person conjugation. Compare with the English translation, where the verb doesn't change at all:

(1) I spoke.
(2) You/he/she/we spoke
(3) We spoke
(4) You/they spoke

That is because English shows no person agreement for the verb 'speak' in the past and Portuguese does.*

B. Impersonal verbs

If you have trouble remembering the endings you may like this. Not all verbs have different forms for different persons like the ones above. There are verbs that don't have different endings for different subjects... because they have no subject at all!

If you look up 'impersonal verbs' on a grammar, you will probably get the typical impersonal verbs, like some verbs describing the whether:

Nevou muito em Nova Iorque ontem.
(It) snowed a lot in New York yesterday.

The verb nevar in the simple past is always nevou. There is usually no nevei, nevamos, etc. Similarly, in English you can't use different subjects. You can only say 'it snowed', but not 'I snowed', 'we snowed'. Etc.

So we see two properties of impersonal verbs in Portuguese from the example:

Impersonal verbs:
(1) There is no subject
(2) There aren't different person conjugations.

There are other 'classic' impersonal verbs (e.g., haver/ter (= English 'there is') , meaning to exist). There are also plenty of other expressions that are not these classic impersonal verbs that are grammatically impersonal. Here are a couple of examples of informal examples that we saw on this blog:

We saw one on the last post on cair a ficha (meaning something like 'to click'), notice how the verb cair doesn't change depending on the person:

Eu não estava entendendo nada, mas ontem finalmente caiu a ficha!
I wasn't understanding anything, but yesterday it finally clicked.

Nós não estavamos entendendo nada, mas ontem finalmente caiu a ficha!
We weren't understanding anything, but yesterday it finally clicked.

Eles não estavam entendendo nada, mas ontem finalmente caiu a ficha!
They weren't understanding anything, but yesterday it finally clicked.

The verb dar in the expression dar para (meaning something like 'to be possible (for)') is also impersonal (even though the second verb is):

Não deu para eu chegar cedo ontem.
(It) wasn't possible for me to arrive early yesterday.

Não deu para eles chegarem cedo ontem.
(It) wasn't possible for them to arrive early yesterday.

Não deu para nós chegarmos cedo ontem.
(It) wasn't possible for me to arrive early yesterday.

We will certainly be seeing some more examples of impersonal verbs come up on this blog, though we won't be discussing the grammar so explicitly every time (grammar tips are good in small dosis).

1. Read the blog posts on the expressions 'cair a ficha' and 'dar para' if you haven't already done so (take your time. Don't do everything today!). Do the one exercise there.

2. Google the following phrases to get more examples of these expressions (use the double quotes). Copy 6 sentences that you understood:
a. "deu para eu", "dava para eles", "não dá pra eu", "não da pra elas" (note: pra is an informal reduced version of para)
b. "choveu", "neva", "ventou"
c. "caiu a ficha", "cai a ficha"

3. Write six sentences of your own with the expressions in 2a, b and c.

*English does have some person agreement, but it shows up in only a few cases. If you look at the verb 'speak' in the present (or any regular non-modal verb), you can see that there is a different form of the verb that depends on person. We say 'I speak' and 'she speaks'. This is an example of person agreement. Another example is the verb 'be'. In this case we also have different forms (am,are,is) for different persons, even in the past ('was', 'were').

February 15, 2010

Portuguese Expression: "Cair a Ficha"

1965 duas tribos Originally uploaded by cavern club
Used with permission by photographer

Caiu a ficha
is a very common slang which literally means for a 'the token dropped'. It means something like 'it dawned on me/someone', 'it clicked', 'I/someone got it' to start understanding something that may have taken a while to understand:

O professor explicou várias vezes o problema eu não entendia. Quando ele finalmente mostrou um exemplo, caiu a ficha.
The teacher explained the problem several times and I didn't understand. When he finally showed an example, it clicked/ I got it.

It is often used in the sense of 'taking a hint':

Eu sempre digo que estou ocupada quando ele me convida para sair, mas mesmo assim não caiu a ficha que eu não quero sair com ele!
I always say that I am busy when he asks me out, but even then, he hasn't gotten it yet!

The source of the expression becomes a little clearer if you know a little bit about Brazilian public phones. These are known as orelhão, litererally 'big ear' because of their shape (see the picture above by cavern club... can you see how it is kind of shaped like an ear?).

Back in the day, to make a call on a public phone, you needed to buy a phone token (we didn't get to use quarters like here... maybe because of the inflation, they would probably have had to change the phones too often to accept different shaped coins!). When you placed a call the token would stay up towards the top of the phone until someone picked up on the receiving end. When they picked up, the token would drop into the phone (at that point you could not get it back).

Caiu a ficha?

P.s.: I just got told that they have the same expression in hebrew! Something like "the token fell" (nafal ha asimon).

February 10, 2010

Type Portuguese Accents on the got with Easy Online Editor

I have a previous post on how to type Portuguese accents on a Mac or Windows with a Brazilian keyboard (if you are going there make sure to read the comments from very helpful readers)... but say you are not using your own computer (or not coordinated enough to type those alt combos) and you just want to type a quick couple of sentences, with all those lovely accents... You can use a simple online editor like this one.

As Tomasz Szynalski, the creator of the utility, put it on an e-mail he sent me, "[t]he idea is to spare users the pain of installing and switching keyboard layouts, memorizing Alt-codes, etc. Some people use it to quickly type a short piece of text (like a Portuguese name or address), others use it to write personal or business letters to Portuguese speakers."


February 9, 2010

Tô Voltando

Long time, no post! After crazy year and a bit with a real lot going on (job, language work plus this), I can finally reserve a little bit of time to add to this blog! ... regular posts are coming up!

Meanwhile, here is the song "Tô voltando" (I'm coming back) :-)

Intermediate and advanced students can look at the lyrics here.