So most of my linguistics friends and even some of my non-linguistics friends know about interference via shift, which is when a community learns a new language from other non-native speakers, thus learning the "second-language learner" version as the native version. A famous example is Chinatown in San Francisco, where kids learn English from their parents, who learned English from their parents who were not native speakers. In this way, they learn a Chinese-influenced English, even though English is their first language or one of their first languages. It's a common situation with the French and English in Africa (has anyone seen Blood Diamond, when Leonardo DiCaprio changes his English when he gets further into the jungle?), and even in southern California with Spanish-influenced English (has anyone heard people say things like "I barely finished eating right now"to mean "I just finished eating," or when Spanish speakers tell their brothers and sisters, "my mom wants to talk to you"?) Anhyhoo, this is how new dialects are formed. Pretty fun, right?
The situation in Brazil is a bit different, since people are still learning English as a second language, and not from birth. However, even the most advanced speakers here studied largely under other Portuguese speakers. This made for very confusing conversations during my first few weeks here, as people were using phrases and words in ways that I never use them. But when I started hearing things over and over again, and when I started learning more Portuguese, I could trace back these differences between Brazilian English and my English. I don't want to call them "mistakes," because English here is becoming popular enough to be used between even native Portuguese speakers, and they can understand each other perfectly. But I do point out the differences to my students when they use the words and phrases below. I just say that most Americans use a different phrase or word, but that Portuguese speakers understand their form.
So here's my list of the new English that I've had to learn. Most of the differences can be traced back to Portuguese words and false cognates (words that look like an English word but that have a different meaning). It may entertain some of the Portuguese speakers who read this:
1. combine = to set a date/time for something. ex: "Let's combine a dinner date" or "I want to combine my next class." (From the Portuguese "combinar")
2. I guess = I think. ex: "I guess the answer is "c," teacher." This one was really confusing at first, as these phases can often be used in the same context, but with a different connotation. It's because both phrases in Portuguese use "eu acho que..."
3. reunion = meeting. ex: "We have a reunion with the boss at 3:00pm." me: "We just saw her yesterday." Also a false cognate with Portuguese.
4. education = upbringing, and educated = polite/well-mannered. ex: "It's important for parents to give their kids a good education." me: "do you mean that parents should home school their kids?" the word "educação" in Portuguese carries this extra meaning.
5. congratulations = happy birthday. This one was totally strange for me at first. It's also more of a cultural difference than a linguistic connection. People use the Portuguese word for "congratulations" to wish people a happy birthday. I joked with Alexandre that people are congratulated for surviving another year.
6. jump = skip (as a metaphor). Ex: "Let's jump this chapter in the book. The students already learned the material." Languages choose different metaphors for situations like this, and it just so happens that English and Portuguese chose different metaphors.
7. Is everything okay? = How are you doing? People use this to open conversations because of the Portuguese phrase, "tudo bem?" which functions like "how are you?" at the beginning of almost every conversation. I point this one out to my students a lot, since "is everything okay?" has such a different meaning for American speakers.
8. Good morning (at the end of a conversation) = Have a good day. This one was hard to get used to.
9. he had a problem = something came up. ex: "oh, your student called. He had a problem, and he can't come to class." This phrase initially made me feel unnecessary worry for people.
10. The guys = the people. ex: "you're teaching the guys in room 2 today." However, the class has girls and guys. This logical change comes from people who have heard the phrase "you guys" and who assume that the word "guys" means "people," or is at least a word for guys and girls.
11. to lose = to miss (as a metaphor). ex: "I lost my class because I slept too late" or "I lost my bus because the driver didn't see me." In Portuguese, both words translate as "perder" (just like Spanish!).
I've also had to completely give up on expecting any difference between make/do, leave/let, and expect/hope/wish. All of these groups have only one translation in Portuguese.
I'm sure my Portuguese (which is influenced by both English and Spanish) has just as many changes (problems). Many Spanish words have an archaic or overly formal meaning in Portuguese, so people think I learned Portuguese from a guy from Portugual 100 years ago. Haha. I also will never master the difference between 'ser' and 'estar' in Portuguese or Spanish. Also, Portuguese throws a real wrench in the situation by adding 'ficar' to this paradigm. So in Portuguese, I have to decide between ser, estar, and ficar for the word "to be," and I don't get it right very often. It doesn't help that no one has been able to explain the proper use of "ficar" to me. Oh, and I throw in the word "como" in my conversation every 5 seconds. You know. To replace "like." ;oP
My point? This is my blog and I can write about all the nerdy linguistics stuff I want. Haha. Just kidding. The real point is that all of the people who try to argue that a second language should be learned without the first language (i.e. the "English through English" and "English Only" programs in the US) are completely unrealistic. No one, especially teenage and adult learners, learn a new language in isolation. They will always compare it to their first language. They will always translate. This is one of the many reasons I dropped out of a certain sub-par joke of a grad school that shall remain nameless... I wanted to do a thesis that examined the difficulties that Spanish speakers have with learning English as an argument for using the first language in the second language classroom, but every professor told me that the first language shouldn't be used in the classroom and that they didn't want to be my adviser. Either that reason, or that they simply "weren't interested in it." But I digress. Teaching languages is fun. Learning languages is fun.
Now I challenge all of you to try to write a paragraph in Brazilian English. I only expect Jamie to do it, but I offer the challenge to all of you anyway.