You, dear readers, may remember that I've only had about 4 hours of Portuguese classes in my life. It's my job to teach languages, so learning them isn't that hard for me. However, the vast majority of my Portuguese acquisition has been through listening and speaking (since I live here, duh).
The result is that I can't spell. I'm terrible. I feel like an illiterate child. I apply English and Spanish rules.I have to read complicated things out loud to understand them.
My first couple of months here, I kept hearing people say what I thought was "se está com fome?" and "o que se está fazendo?" My Spanish brain was like "What the heck is estarse?!" (For the non-Portuguese speakers reading this who aren't laughing yet, when Brazilians speak very fast, they say "se" for "você", which means "you".)
It took me a while to figure out that /i/ and /u/ are not semivocales like they are in Spanish. (That means you don't have to write accents on words that end in -ia, but you do have to write accents on words like "fácil".)
I figured out pretty quickly that unstressed midvowels are raised (that means it's written as "e" or "o"
I really suffer with the s, ss, x, ç, c mess. But at least Brazilians have problems with this, too. So I don't feel so bad. The most common rule that Brazilians seem to remember from elementary school (akin to the "i before e except after c!" that Americans love to recite) is that a "c" before a, o, or u is written as "c", but a "c" before e or i is written as "ç" (that's easy enough: ç before front vowels and "a" is a front vowel in Portuguese). This rule is particularly nice because it shows through the spelling that, from Latin to Portuguese, there was a famous /k/ -->[s] / V+front change.
A big problem I have is writing what I hear
Here is a quick lesson in the sounds of California English.I've got 2 main back vowels: /oʊ/ (like in "toe") and the famous western /ɒ/ (like in "father").
The popularity of these vowels marks California English and is what people use when they tease us. Sometimes my students get it right and I hear my accent being parroted back to me.
All right. All American English has 2 more back vowels: /ʊ/ (like in "luck)" and /u:/ (like in "you").
But Portuguese has exactly 1 of these vowels: the /oʊ/.
And Portuguese has the torturous minimal pair of /o/ (like in Spanish, and like in "povo") and
Those of you who have studied Spanish can relate. You know how you suffer to pronounce the perfect Spanish "o"? Now imagine that some words use Spanish
Knowing all this is helpful. At least I can recognize my problems. But I can't change my brain. I can't go back in time and ask my mother and grandparents to play Portuguese tapes or hire a Portuguese babysitter to train my tiny baby brain to distinguish between the sounds. The result is my accent and my complete lack of spelling abilities.
I know that some of you are raising kids here (or have raised kids here). I need those books that are used to teach kids how to spell. Like a Hooked on Phonics kind of thing, except in Portuguese. Do you know of any?
Before you jump in to attack, yes, I KNOW, English spelling is no walk in the park. It's even older and more inconsistent than Portuguese. I teach the language and empathize with my poor students. So instead of grouchy comments like "English is harder!!! Your suffering is irrelevant!" We can try fun comments like "I had similar problems in English, like the difference between the words "hungry" and "angry"." See how that works? :D Compassion, not hostility!