Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tiny Tim and Giant Jim

One of the fun features of Brazilian Portuguese is adding -inho or -ão to practically any noun to make it li'l noun or big noun, respectively. For example, (1) cafezinho (gkah-fae-'zee-ñoo -- little coffee) refers to the small drink served in bars, and (2) amigão (ah-mee-'guh-oong -- great friend), someone who brings you great joy, someone you can count on.

(reminder: please read the Pronunciation Key tab if you haven't already done so)

Formally, -(z)inho is called a diminutive, and -(z)ão, an augmentative. -inho primarily describes small things, but can also connote disdain, as in, (3) timinho (time + inho -- chee-'mee-ñoo -- little team), used to mock a weak or losing sports team.

On the other hand, -ão can refer to a great, or big thing, such as (4) paizão (pah-ee-'zuh-oong -- great dad) or (5) barrigão (bah-hee-'guh-oong -- big belly). Like -inho, -ão can be used derisively: (6) cabeção (gkah-beh-'suh-oong -- big head) means idiot.

-inho and -ão typically modify masculine nouns ana -inha and -ona, feminine ones. For example, (7) menininha (mee-nee-'nee-ñuh -- little girl) and (8) abelhona (ah-beh-'lyo-nuh -- big bee).

Note that there are feminine nouns that still take the masculine ending, -ão, like (9) cadeirão (gkah-deh-ee-'ttuh-oong) and (10) fitão (fee-'dtuh-oong). Sometimes genders are switched altogether, as in the novela (11) Fina Estampa's ('fee-nuh ehs-dtuhng-bpuh -- classy imprint) separated couple, the Pereiras. The man is called (12) Pereirinha (bpeh-tteh-ee-'ttee-ñuh), and the woman, (13) Pereirão (bpeh-tteh-ee-ttuh-oong). This gender swap openly reflects how Pereirão wears the pants (literally) in her job as handy(wo)man and shows her resolute, strong will, while Pereirinha idles away fishing.

Diminutives and augmentatives are often used to attribute cuteness, friendliness or respect to names. Consider (14) Ronaldo - Ronaldinho - Ronaldão (ho-'naoo-du - ho-nau-'jee-ñu - ho-nau-'duh-oong). A girl's name, Ana, could be cuter as (15) Aninha (uh-'nee-ñuh), and a boy like Zé could sound more imposing as (16) Zecão (zae-'gkuh-oong).

Get an ÃO overload watching this beer commercial. While the emphasis is on (17) cervejão (sehr-veh-'zhuh-oong -- grand beer), listen to the nouns that normally end with -ão, like (18) verão (veh-'ttuh-oong -- which can become verãozão) and (19) perfeição (bper-feh-ee-'suh-oong -- perfection)!

In this video, 0:19 - 0:24 has a nice superposition of an -inha diminutive with the -ão augmentative: (20) gatinha com ão (gah-'chee-ñuh gkoong 'uh-oong -- cutie with "ão", literally kitty with "ão"), (21) mulherão (moo-lyeh-'ttuh-oong -- a gorgeous, attention-grabbing, "great" woman)

Listen to the numbered phrases and words in this video:

Beleza? Tchau!

(1) Beleza?
(please take a look at Pronunciation Key, located on the tabs above)

Beauty? Grace?

At face value, this expression is as confusing as "What's up?" (the roof?) to someone unfamiliar with colloquial English.

Interpreted as an expression, "Beleza?" is an informal greeting, a shortened version of (2) "Está tudo beleza?" (ehs-'dtá 'dtoo-doo beh-'leh-zuh? -- is everything beautiful, good, gracious, etc?).

A similar greeting is (3) "Tudo jóia?" ('Dtoo-doo 'zhaw-ee-uh? -- everything OK)? Note: Jóia also means jewel.

For more formal situations, let's go over standard greetings and expressions:

(4) Oi!
Can't go wrong with "Hi!", it's short and easy to pronounce.

(5) Olá!
Similar to "Hello!", and like "hello", I don't hear this very often.

(6) Alô?
Speaking of "Hello", it is important to know this telephone greeting.

(7) Bom dia!
Bong 'djee-uh!
"Good morning!" Also used as "have a nice day."

(8) Boa tarde!
'Boo-uh 'tahr-djee!
"Good afternoon!" Sometimes used as "good evening" halfway into the evening, because there's no expression with the meaning "Good evening."

(9) Boa noite!
'Boo-uh 'noee-chee!
"Good evening!" and "Good night!"

(10) Tchau!
"Bye!" Just like the Italian "Ciao", but unlike in Italian, this expression is only used when saying goodbye.

Listen to the numbered words and phrases in this video:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Phil and Jill go to Brazil

Have you ever dreamed of visiting Ipanema's poetic beaches? Of samba'ing in Bahia's carnavais? Of meeting a wild mico-leão in an Amazonian adventure? Whatever your dreams and hopes may be, my goal is to make your tongue dance with Brazilian Portuguese.
A preview of what I will deliver:

Pronunciation notes for all new words and phrases

My pronunciation key is designed to make Americans sound as authentic as possible, by using the right combinations of letters.

João foi pra praia e voltou com um paralelepípedo.
John went to the beach and came back with a pavement block.

Zhoo-'uh-oong 'fo-ee bprah 'bprah-ee-uh ee vo-oo-'dto gkong oong bpah-ttah-lae-lae-'bpee-bpeh-dtoo (it's easier to understand than it looks)
Note: I am from São Paulo, and will strictly teach the paulista accent. I may cover other regional accents superficially.

Key phrases that summarize grammatical points

Pairing the subjunctive and conditional tenses in a hypothetical situation
Se eu tivesse cinco reais, compraria um abacaxi.
Si eh-oo chee-'vae-si 'seeng-gkoo heh-'ah-ees, gkong-bprah-'ttee-uh oong ah-bah-gkah-'shee.
If I had five reais, I would buy a pineapple.

Possessive pronoun agreement
Minha mãe achou a sua carteira e o seu chaveiro.
'Mee-ñuh 'muh-eeng ah-'sho-oo ah 'soo-uh gkahr-'dteh-ee-ttuh ee oo 'seh-oo shah-'veh-ee-ruh.
My mother found your wallet and your keychain.

The gender of possessive pronouns (and articles) agree with the noun following them.

Thinking around linguistic barriers

When you cannot find the words you need, simplifying your line of thought and using synonyms can still convey effectively the core of what you mean.

For example, máquina (machine) can replace several inanimate nouns with a capability of doing specific tasks. If you cannot remember geladeira (refrigerator), try máquina fria (cold machine), or máquina pra guardar comida (machine to place food in). Be descriptive and creative!

Grammatical shortcuts

In colloquial speech, one of the most useful simplifications is replacing "nós" (us) with the more informal "a gente" (literally, the folk) to reduce your need to memorize first person plural verb conjugations. Because "gente" is a third person singular noun, a verb following 'a gente' is conjugated as third person singular (ele/ela), instead of first person plural (nós).

In a similar vein, the second person singular conjugations (tu, vós) are practically unnecessary because everyone says você and vocês, saving tu and vós for drama. Você(s) are conjugated as third person.

Paz e amor, (bpahz ee ah-'mor)
Peace and love,