Thursday, July 1, 2010

English vs. Portuguese - the eternal struggle!

Gotta post a ranty post.

Something that bugs the HELL out of me is Brazilians telling me how EASY English is and how SO VERY HARD Portuguese is.

This is what you're saying to me (in essence) when you tell me this.

"I have mastered the language that you are struggling to speak and will always struggle to speak while I could easily pick up your language (if I wanted to but I don't)."

What really kills me? Is that the people who say this to me DO NOT KNOW HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH.  They actually have horrible English speaking skills.  People who do know how to speak English (at least are learning and are perhaps at the same level or higher than my Portuguese level) NEVER say ignorant things like this.  Why?  BECAUSE ENGLISH IS NOT EASY EITHER PEOPLE!
Learning ANY language is not easy.  If you're going to make empty claims like that (that aren't just ignorant statements that you have heard other people saying all of your life and so now that opinion has just emalgamated itself into your collection of other people's opinions posing as your own) AT LEAST have some good knowledge of the language you claim is such a cinch to back it up.

Now, if we are going to compare apples to oranges, I will agree that Portuguese is a much more complicated language verb-wise.  It is a very verb heavy language with many tenses meaning very different, very specific things.  Sometimes ad naseum.  Let's be honest.  I'm keepin it real with about 5 of the 1000 tenses available.  I only say "eu vou something something" to talk about the simple future.  I don't know always when to say when someone "e bonita, esta bonita, or fica bonita" (especially the fica one).  I only use simple past or some other kind of past which means you used to do something.  (I don't even know the names of the tenses I'm using!)  But I am learning to speak the way people speak here, and that is the lazy way.  The way - newsflash - EVERYONE SPEAKS their own language.

We're all learning conversation here. 

But try to talk to the average Portuguese speaker in English and see if they can master even one English preposition.  Or understand how to use the infinitive form of the verb after using the first verb.  Little things like this - 'EASY' things like these - many Brazilians cannot master.  Because, Goddamn it, they are not easy.

And so.  It drives me out of my MIND when some cocky Brazilian, thinking they are so smart because they are speaking the language they have deemed SO MUCH HARDER than English, asks me "You like eat?" and "I want very learn speak ingles" after telling me how difficult Portuguese is. 

Get real people!  I dare you to travel to Canada or US and live amongst the easiest language to speak.  I will not wipe your tears when you get back!

Holla back if ya feel me!


  1. Whoa boy - do I feel ya. Teaching this old dog new Portugues tricks has been probobly the most frustrating thing I have done. I am not used to being incompetent at something. UUURRRRGGGHHHHHH!

    On the reality of the difficulty of English for foreign speakers, I have one student who requested we go over how to use the definite article "the". (I can't believe I even know what a definite article is!)

    So I researched online and first found an article that said native speakers of English never really had to learn the rules for how to use 'the' and probably could not explain how to use it to others. (Check)

    Then I found a great explanation for my student -- but it is 4 pages long! So much for simple English.

  2. People assume that because I'm an English teacher / linguist, that I want to hear their (uninformed) opinions on language. If people start on this topic and I've had a little to drink, I say in an annoying singsong voice "relatividadeeeeeee!" and Alexandre usually shakes his head and the other person gets confused.

    What I mean by "relativity" is that no language is harder than any other language. If you speak Spanish as a first language, then you'll think Portuguese is easier than English. If you speak Dutch as a first language, you'll think English is easier. (Some linguists try to argue, however, that Javanese is the most difficult language in the world. It has 36 different verb tenses based on social status, and that's hard for anyone to pick up.)

    But Brazilians have the notion that Portuguese is harder because of the two versions of Portuguese that I wrote about in my blog. English doesn't have that to such an extent, so they think English is easier.

    Maybe you can try giving people those arguments, but I've noticed that most people (in any country) aren't interested in having their opinions debased. So you could just say "relativity!" too and confuse them into quiet. :)

  3. HAHAHAHA relatividade!!! Hahah, I'm totally going to say that. But I do explain this 'relativity' point to them because it's only logical, those fools!
    I understand the point you made about the two versions of Portuguese (and I bring it up in these situations often hehe).
    At the end of the day, you're right again. They just don't want to hear another opinion because they are siding with the majority opinion here which therefore means that I am wrong. hmph!
    I knew you guys would get it though!

  4. HAHA I love this post. I'm holla-in back, because I feel you! I want very learn speak ingles. See? There's some English difficulty for you. How do you form the gerund of the verb "holla"? Can't stop laughing... this is all so true!

  5. Also, when you write in English, it's hard to put your sentences in the correct order. Sorry for any confusion there in my last comment. I just woke up and am not fully awake. The easiness of a language is also relative to the time of day, let's not forget.

  6. Quoted for truth... :(

  7. I'm a portuguese kid and I learned how to speak portuguese in half a year, but, in my opinion, I think that it depends on the person, not on the language.

    1. That is just what I was going to say!! I think English is quite easy, but I also think Portuguese is easy, and so is Spanish, and also German. I learn languages very fast and easily, let's just say it is a talent I have, but I'm conscious that most people don't, so I'm not the one to say this or that one is easy or difficult. It depends on the person, definitely.

  8. I'm brazilian and portuguese is harder. Alright, I'm just kidding. I guess it's really relative. I've been getting english shoved down my throat even since I was a little kid (games, books and etc), so I've been exposed to the language much more than the average english speaking kid would get from portuguese. I know I'm not that fluent in english, specially in conversations, but I can understand you guys alright. =)

  9. Hello there,
    my name is Kristien and I'm a language translator. That is just what I was going to say!! I think English is quite easy, but I also think Portuguese is easy, and so is Spanish, and also German. I learn languages very fast and easily, let's just say it is a talent I have, but I'm conscious that most people don't, so I'm not the one to say this or that one is easy or difficult. It depends on the person, definitely.
    English to Portuguese translation services


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