Paciência. Patience. Anyone who has tried to learn a new language knows that patience is required, and a lot of it. But, truth be told, anyone who’s around someone trying to learn a new language could benefit by a strong dose of it too.
When the decision to sail across the North Atlantic was made, my husband, David, simultaneously embarked on a second, different, but equally daunting, journey; to learn to speak Portuguese.
Throughout our initial 23-day crossing to the Azores, David listened to “Speak Portuguese” tapes with headphones on and practised saying stuff to me, whether I liked it or not.
Here’s an excerpt of Day 19 from my memoir, Ready to Come About:
Ah bay say day eh ef … The alphabet? I asked. Sim. That’s good dear. Obrigado. Great. Muito obrigado. How’s our speed? Não entendo. Okay, stop it. Eu não falo inglês. That’s enough! Desculpa, não falo inglês.
When we arrived, David was bursting at the seams to converse with an actual Portuguese person. This was us clearing customs in Faial:
“Bom dia!” David said to the customs official.
“Port of origin?” the uniformed man said, his eyes and hands on his keyboard’s home row.
“Nós…uh…nós estamos… no wait, wait…somos—”
“Canada,” I said.
David continued. “Yes. Somos do Can—”
“Boat registration, please,” the official said.
“Certainly.” David unzipped the document case and handed the man the papers. “I mean, com certeza!” He smiled over his shoulder at Cameron and Leslie.
You get the idea…
And he never let up. Throughout our entire trip he practised with servers in restaurants, sailors on docks, passersby on streets, boatyard mechanics at Sopromar in Lagos — simply with everyone at every opportunity in every Portuguese-speaking place we visited.
What’s more, he became hell-bent on learning to read the language too. While visiting the island of São Miguel, he purchased what he referred to as ‘a new paperback’. Here it is:
“So what’s the plot?” I asked as a joke.
“Not sure, I think it’s about gardening. The suspense is killing me!” he replied, his eyes glued to the page.
When our trip ended, I expected this obsession would too. But no. David continued to practise a little bit every day. And he enrolled in online Portuguese lessons, hired a private tutor, and drove to the Portuguese district in Hamilton Ontario whenever he had an uncontrollable urge to annoy the hell out of the busy merchants.
To what end, I would often wonder. To learn Portuguese, he would often simply reply. But it’s just so hard, I’d say. So what! he’d say back.
A few weeks ago, he showed me a little video he had quietly filmed without my knowing.
Here is a hot-off-the-press Portuguese presentation (about our trip) by David, my husband, the Portuguese-wannabe, and the most patient man I know.
2 thoughts on “Paciência”
I absolutely loved reading this! As language learners, we have to persist through these tiny, potentially-uncomfortable moments. I’ve been in Portugal for about 8 years now, and I still have micro embarrassments every week, where I’ll misunderstand someone, or I won’t understand an expression someone says. In the beginning, this can be detrimental to one’s confidence. Language learning isn’t about reaching a pot of gold of 100% native fluency. It’s about staying humble and putting yourself in situations that expand your capacity for discomfort in order to continue to grow your skills. That ratio of small successes to small discomforts will continue to improve with every conversation.
Many learners spend hours studying independently, waiting for the ideal, low-stress situation before speaking to others, which can lead to reaching a long-term plateau in which none of those hard hours of study actually manifest into practical communication skills. David is an inspiration to everyone!
Que maravilha! Concordo com a sua esposa–nao gosto de barcos. Que grande mulher, combater contra a sua relutancia!