Friday, April 23, 2010

Entertaining Portuguese Words

So this post is in honor of my dear friend Kristin, who just loves funny little turns of phrase between languages.

The following is a list of funny words and expressions in Portuguese that make me chuckle (or stutter). I've learned most of them from TV commercials:

intestino preguiçoso - a polite way to talk about constipation; but it literally translates to “lazy intestine”. Haha. But I guess it's not that different from “upset stomach” in English, which is pretty silly if you think about it.

cabeleleiro- : hairdresser/barber/hair stylist-- this word is so hard to say! So is "aeroporto", for that matter.

400 cavalos de força: 400 horsepower .... but it sounds so much funnier if you literally translate it to “400 horses of force” (400 babies!)

está formigando: it's how to describe your limbs when they fall asleep (for example: “minha perna está formigando” means “my leg is (falling) asleep”. But the Portuguese phrases uses the insect, the ant, as a verb. So you're literally saying “my leg is anting”. I remembered this wrong when I first heard it, and later said that I had “formiginhas”: little ants. Alexandre thought it was hilarious and still teases me for saying “formiginhas” instead of “está formigando”.

Mentirinhas: These are cookies, kind of like Nilla Wafters. But they're called “little white lies”. Is that because women tell little white lies to their husbands about how many they ate?

pula-pula: this is the word for bouncy house. But it literally translates to “jump-jump”. It so cute, especially if you put the stress on the first “jump” in English: “Let's go on the JUMP-jump!” I already love the sound of the term “bouncy house” in English, so I can't decide which one I like better.

Any other words or expressions that entertain you in your foreign language? (Have at it, Kristin!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Another Book

So you remember that I wrote that pronunciation book?  Well, I'm working on another one. It's actually going to be much less work because I'm pretty much compiling everything I've written and all the activities I made into one nice organized packet that I can sell to students and use in my classes.

It's basically going to be for students that have been taking a lot of English classes here in Brazil but always feel like they're missing something, that even with years of study they still can't seem to feel fluent or completely comfortable in English, and they still can't really understand TV shows or native English speakers. I'm going to address common problems for Portuguese speakers (like how to use "meet"  and "know" correctly; i.e. how to translate "conhecer" and "encontrar" correctly), and I'm going to include a whole bunch of the activities I've made.

Unlike the pronunciation book (which was meant more as a self-study thing), I'm not going to include the answers. That way, even if someone makes a copy, it will be useless without my explanations and guidance. Because I want to use it IN my classes, I'm also going to include some of the discussion questions and newspaper articles that I use with my students so there can be a lot of conversation opportunities as well.

I'm excited!

In the meantime, I welcome your comments and suggestions for what should be in the book! Portuguese speakers: What was hard for you? If you've visited or lived in the US or Canada, what was something that you (a) struggled with or (b) realized that you learned wrong from your Brazilian teachers?

For the English speakers living in Brazil, what problems do you hear often from students or Portuguese speakers in general. If you're teaching English, what do you focus on with your students?

Now, if only I could figure out how to get it published here. Anyone have any ideas?


Monday, April 19, 2010

My Princess Planner

So at the beginning of the year, my dear grandmother sent me a specific American planner that I used in 2008 and 2009 and loved. It was totally from Big! Lots and cost 99 cents and it's a wonderful, month-view planner.

That being said, I just have too much stuff to remember for my private classes to use a month-view planner. The little boxes for each day are too small. (There are some parts of it that I'm still using, but I needed a day planner too.)

So I went to a couple of stores to find a decent planner. I went to a couple of papelarias (possibly spelled wrong), and even to a store that's kind of like Office Max. All of these places just had like little kiddy planners with lady bugs or anime characters on them and stuff. Even though it's April, I was convinced that I'd find something more grown up SOMEWHERE.

Long story short, I didn't. Alexandre and I went into Wal-Mart and I decided that I was tired of looking and I'd just pick one there. Well. My only 2 choices were a Jonas Brothers planner and a Disney princesses planner.

Come on.

I went with the Disney princesses, obviously. Jonas Brothers? I have my limits. The Disney princess one was also like half the price of the Jonas Brothers one.

Here it is, in all its glory:

Notice that Cinderella's name is spelled with one L. That's so the Spanish speaking market won't pronounce it as "Cindere-ya." Either that, or it's a knock-off. The word Disney isn't anywhere in the thing. And as you can see on the back cover, they are "princesas".

The writing is all in cursive, and everything's in both Portuguese and Spanish. Each page has a little princess on the bottom corner. Each month is a different color with a different princess. The page that starts the month can be colored in with crayons. It's pretty darn ridiculous, but I do get a chuckle almost every time I open it. Plus, its layout and features are actually very functional as a planner.

I planned out this whole speech for my students as a sort of disclaimer for having a Disney princesses agenda. ("It's April!" "It was either that or the Jonas Brothers!") Except I haven't been able to open with my excuses because everyone compliments me on the thing, especially my female students. WTF?! The planner isn't pretty, it's embarrassing! I give them my April/Jonas Brothers story anyway in case they're just being polite.

But ya know, a lot of my students use kiddie notebooks and school supplies in class, and there are no qualms about it. I had this one super rich successful businessman student with a High School Musical notebook.  I think people just buy what's convenient in the store (like me with the princesses) and don't really worry about the cover or what people will think about it. Maybe the ideas of name brands and status are just less important with trivial things like office and school supplies.

Interesting and entertaining at the same time! Just like my planner.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Private Group Classes: The Big Moneymaker

So it's taken me a long time (until now) to realize that I need to spend more time finding groups that want English classes instead of only 1-1 private students. Hellooooo Danielle! With more people, you make way more per hour!

(I realize that this is the norm for private teachers in big cities, because it's not nearly as logistically possible for a private teacher to teach from home in a place like Rio or São Paulo, where the students are much more far-flung. So in that way, I've been lucky here that no student is more than a 15-minute drive and is therefore totally cool with coming to my house for class, and then I'm able to schedule people back to back.)

I haven't really looked into group classes because my teaching here has been very reactionary. People call me for classes; I pencil them in. I don't even have enough time for all the individual students calling, so it hasn't occurred to me to go out and find MORE people. Also, I'm a linguist first, and a businesswoman second. My instinct to make my "business" grow is to make more and better material for my classes (fun!), not to go out and market myself at companies (barf).

I believe I mentioned in an earlier post that there was a group at the school where I work that "graduated" from the school (finished the school's program) and approached me to continue with advanced classes for them at their work. So I started that a few weeks ago, and it's been going well.

My current group at the school is graduating at the end of May, and have already asked me for the same thing.

I realize that this is a little unethical, and that in a way I'm kind of "stealing" from the school.  But I don't feel that bad, because (a) they'd be finishing at the school either way and (b) the school doesn't offer very advanced classes.  Thoughts?

Then, yesterday, I was contacted by a private student's boyfriend. He and a few of his co-workers want private classes at THEIR company. We hashed out most of the details over the phone, and I'm going to go there on Tuesday to meet everyone and talk more in person.  

All of this is great! More students! More money!

But I also have a couple of new problems (they all basically come down to the fact that I'm only one person):

(1) Time/Work Overload... If I start this group, I need to quit some private classes:  This new group wants classes at 7:30am MWF.  As of now, I'm not working Monday and Wednesday mornings because I work until 9:00pm on Monday/Wednesday and 10:00pm on Tuesday/Thursday. If I start at 7:30am with this new group, I need to quit my late-night classes so that I don't die.  It's worth it money-wise, and also better schedule-wise (Alexandre and I could actually have similar schedules for the first time). But it's also really unprofessional to quit on students, I think. However, these are my night classes:

M/W: The school, which I will be quitting at the end of May (for REAL this time! Also, the group is switching over to me).  If I am teaching the group, I can move them to an earlier time and also a shorter class (6:30-7:30pm instead of 7:30-9:00pm).
Tu/Th: My last classes of the evening are 2 flaky guys (separate classes) who whine and moan every time I suggest that I want them to sign contracts like EVERYONE ELSE. They both cancel a lot, but I let it go because I don't really like teaching from 8:00pm-10:00pm.

After typing this out, I think I know my answer: I need to cancel with these two guys. But what do I say? Any ideas? Have any of you had this problem?
(2)  My other problem is the issue of make-up classes (called reposições in Portuguese, and one of the first words that an English teacher learns in Brazil!). Basically, students miss class. All the freaking time. Sometimes they know in advance that they can't come, and in those cases, they want to move the class to a different time that week. You have no idea how common this is. (Well, if you're teaching here, you do.) It gets really irritating because it shows that most people have English (and therefore your paycheck) last on their list of priorities.

The question of reposição is the main reason people want private English classes instead of a group class at a school. That's because 99% of schools have the policy that, if you don't show up for your class, you miss out. Some schools allow you to sit in on another class during the week if one's available at your level, but the school has to be VERY organized to make that happen, and that's rare. Students get frustrated because they're paying for a monthly rate, but they lose money every time they can't go or if there's a holiday (and there are a LOT of freaking holidays).

With my private students, I have the policy that they can make up the class if they can give me at least 24 hour's notice. If they call me to cancel on the day of class, they still have to pay. However, now that I have so many people, even this is becoming problematic. People cancel and want to make it up but can only come on such and such days at such and such a time, and I already have other students. That's why I've had to start teaching on Saturdays and teaching 10-hour days. It's getting messy.

This policy doesn't work with groups. I'm honestly kind of stuck as to what to do about it. I want to be fair and offer some other alternative to "you can't come, pay anyway", because that's one of the perks that students expect out of a private class.

With my current group (Tues/Thurs mornings in theory), we have the policy that if one person can't come to a class, knows in advance, and if the others agree, we can move a class to another day (Monday or Wednesday). But they really abuse it and change classes almost every week.  If I start the new group, they're not going to have this option anymore, and the new MWF group isn't going to have that option, either.

This is less of a problem with the MWF group, because they haven't started yet. But the TuTh group is going to whine because they had the option and now they're losing it.

So... what do you guys do? Do any of you teach multiple groups outside of a school? What do you do when only one person in the group can't go?

I'm thinking about (a) limiting the number of make-up classes private students can have per month and (b) at the companies where I teach, offering a monthly sort of "study hall". I'll go to each company at lunch time once or twice at the end of the month, and anyone who missed class and was confused about something can come and ask questions. I won't prepare any new material for these "study hall" classes; I'll just bring extra copies of things from the month to review.

I'm getting the sinking feeling that I'm just too nice to be a good businesswoman. After re-reading all this, I realize that I just kind of feel taken advantage of.  I let my students get away with too much at my expense. (You can't come at your scheduled time for the 3rd time this month? You want to come tomorrow instead? Well, that would mean that I would have to work 10 hours tomorrow, but if you really bother me about it, I guess I'll say okay!)

I need a business partner to do all the mean money stuff and just let me prepare and teach fun classes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Our 2nd Braziliversary Dinner... Pretty Much the Same as the First

So even though my Braziliversary was technically on Sunday, Alexandre and I celebrated on Saturday night. Our favorite sushi place is always packed on the weekends, and it isn't exactly the most romantic place in town, what with the big groups of patricinhas and with the toddlers running all over the place.  So, with limited options in our small town, we decided to go to a the little low-lit Italian place. Yes, we went to one of those last year, too, but we had been visiting Alexandre's parents for the weekend, so it was in another city.

This was our original plan for Saturday night:
(1) go to dinner at said Italian restaurant
(2) rent a movie and buy some wine
(3) rent a room at a motel, Brazil style (eh? eh?), and spend the night there with the movie and the know, to leave the kids at home:

But poor Alexandre had to work all day on Saturday (11 hours!), and I even had a few hours of make-up classes (I usually avoid working on Saturdays, but sometimes it's the only time the students and I can find to make up their class. So I try to schedule them on Saturdays that Alexandre has to work).

So by the time he got home, we were pretty tired and had already nixed the motel idea. (I think they're trashy anyway, and just can't really embrace the idea without feeling gross.)  We decided to pick up some wine and a movie on the way to the restaurant, and then just enjoy them at home after dinner.

So we did that. Oh, first some nice pictures before we left the house:

So yes. At the Italian restaurant, you can build your own plate by choosing the pasta, sauce(s), and ingredients that you want. Alexandre's was seafood-based, and mine was heavy on the cheese. We decided to order a small carafe of wine with our dinner.  The place was quiet and not crowded. Everything was delicious!

This picture is almost exactly the same as last year's picture, except I gained back some weight this year after improving my Portuguese enough to order delivery on the phone. The same thing two years in a row! You call it boring. I call it the start of a tradition.

All right. So. You can see the size of the carafe in the picture. Nothing huge. It warranted about a glass and a half of wine each. And... it made us pretty darn drunk. Because we're old. And lightweights.  And we were tired.

So our elaborate Braziliversary plan at the beginning of this entry? It ended up being only dinner. We were just too tired (and tipsy) for any movies or any more wine. We got home, crawled into bed, and promptly fell asleep...yes, at 11:00pm.

But what's my definition of love and a good anniversary? Being secure, honest, and happy enough to just go to bed, to save the wine for another week and to be perfectly satisfied with a celebration that was simply a yummy, quiet dinner and a cat to cuddle with when we got home.

Foreigner's Finances Interview!

I was interviewed and featured on a cool site called Foreigner's Finances! :D Check out my chubby pics (And the cool site, of course :)!

I have a lot of classes today, but tomorrow's a little better. I'll put up the Braziliversary pics then, I promise!

Have a good day. :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Taking This and Eating This; or, Two Years in Brazil

This Sunday is our two-year Braziliversary, my two years of living in Brazil.

Two years ago Saturday, I said a tearful goodbye to my sister at the airport and headed south with almost no expectations apart from the hope that I'd learn a lot and that Alexandre would really turn out to be The One (check and check).

On my 1-year Braziliversary, I wrote a kind of long-winded reflection. I'll keep my two-year reflections short:

My first year or so in Brazil definitely had its ups and downs, but it eventually smoothed out. This most recent period of my life is the happiest, healthiest, and most financially and emotionally stable I've ever been ever.  And I largely have Alexandre to thank for that. I truly believe that there is no one more perfect for me. One of the best parts is that we're just as happy, thankful, and excited about each other as we were when we first started dating in the US. Some people (at least the women that I read about in The Oprah Magazine) complain that their relationships eventually get stale or fizzle out or whatever other metaphors they think of, and I really haven't experienced that. More comfortable, definitely, but never stale. He's also been my biggest support career-wise, helping me so much toward the success I have as a teacher here today.

I found a little letter that I wrote to myself soon before I moved to Brazil (I do that... write little letters to myself). I was on vacation with dear sister Danette and dear friends Jamie and George. I thought I'd share parts of the letter with all of you (complete with its Joanna Newsom quotes):

I had my first pangs of fear today. What if I never get comfortable there? What if I miss things too much? But these are feelings I can handle. Tonight, here in Ensenada, a land with which I am immensely familiar but that is fundamentally not mine, I realize that I can survive basically anywhere if given some time to myself. After some time, I can usually get things straight.

I'm excited to be jumping into this feet-first with Alexandre. The potential is stunning. This is different. It is Good. It is sincere and pure and equal. It's a risk that I can't afford not to take.

As Joanna says, We could stand for a century, staring with our heads cocked in the broad daylight at this thing: Joy, landlocked in bodies that don't keep; dumbstruck with the sweetness of being 'till we don't be. Told “take this, and eat this!”

There, I will be simultaneously escaping myself and becoming most fully myself. I will be simultaneously settling down and beginning an endless adventure. I thrive on parallels such as these.

This newness is for us, together, as much as it is for me, myself.

I am ready.


Parece que acertei na mosca.
Seems like I hit the nail on the head.

Happy Braziliversary to me!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Good Citizen

I'm curious about something. Please answer the question that was in the English textbook at work today:

What does it mean to be a good citizen?

You can answer the question by finishing the sentence, "A good citizen..."

If you answer in the comments, please say which country you're from (I realize that "where you're from" may be more complicated than "what it means to be a good citizen", but do your best :).

After I see everyone's answers, I'll tell you about the conversation we had in class. :) 


Elena's coming! Elena's coming!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Gym Games

So every week at my gym, there is a little game/contest/activity that we do while we work out. It usually involves things taped on the walls that we have to run to.  It's kind of silly, but it boosts morale and all that, I think.

When there are papers taped on the walls and we have 30 seconds to run around and collect as many as we can, I usually do better than the soccer moms and the seniors who I work out with in the mornings. But when these activities are usually trivia-type things, my success at them is questionable.

For example, one week, it was a version of Scattergories (called "Stop" in Brazil).  The categories were taped on the walls around the gym. The trainer girls gave us a letter, and we had to run around collecting the categories and calling out our answers.  (Can you tell that it's an all-women's gym?)

The trainer girl was nice to me and gave me the letter C. I did better at this than I imagined.
A city? Curitiba!
A fruit? Caju!
A word to describe your mother in law? Carente!  (haha... not really true, but a C-adjective that I knew, plus it made them laugh)
I also made up a word, but they gave me points: A kitchen appliance? I figured that the word for "coffee maker" would start with a C, so I said cafezeira. Turns out it's cafeteira, and that may be spelled wrong. But pretty good.

Many of the activities involve songs and song lyrics. I fail miserably at these ones. I know the lyrics to exactly two Brazilian pop songs: this one and this one, the second of which really shows you where I live.  The games usually involve the trainer girls humming a song or singing part of the lyrics, and then us having to guess what song it is. Most of them are traditional Bossa Nova stuff. The girls are always like "how do you not know this song?! It's classic!!!!" And then I just smile politely.  One of the trainer girls tries to include me more by asking me to instead sing along to the English songs that she has on her cell phone, like Fergalicious. I go along with it. They're entertained, and I get my "gym points" for the week for participating (I can use them toward free shirts or whatever).

A couple of weeks ago, the activity was Brazilian state capitals. There was a list of capitals on one wall, and a list of states on the other, and we had to match them up.  There are 26 states, and I knew 12 of the capitals. Pretty good, if I do say so myself! Especially for never having gone to school in Brazil. (This entry is really revealing my nerdy-ness... the fact that I know more state capitals than pop songs.)

And then last week, the activity involved fruits and their benefits. There was a list of fruits, and a list of their benefits (ex: this fruit is high in fiber and helps with digestion). I personally thought it was kind of silly... the benefits were totally general, and the kinds of things that you read in a little filler blurb on the "health and fitness" page in Cosmo.  A bunch of the fruits were also fruits that are specific to the tropics, so I am pretty unfamiliar with them.

So I matched up only two out of ten correctly. However, the other women got like 8/10 right. Turns out most of the "benefits" are old wives' tales, and are very cultural. (For example, for maracujá, it said "this fruit can help you relax." The trainer girl couldn't believe that I didn't know this! Again, I just smiled politely.)

All of these little games at the gym just kind of remind me that how much of what you know about a culture is what you just pick up around you... from your mother/grandmother growing up, on the radio, in fashion magazines, in casual conversations.  You just kind of subconsciously absorb the information. Think about how many mindless song lyrics you know, or how many state capitals you could match up if you had to. Brazilian trivia games really reveal how much/little I've absorbed.
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