For the first time in my life, I was told I barely have an accent when speaking Portuguese.
I don’t want to say that I’ve improved exponentially in the one day that I’ve spent so far in Brazil, but I have already noticed that simple thoughts are starting to appear in Portuguese and that phrases are forming more easily. But let me tell you that forcing myself to be actively aware of everything that was being said in order to understand resulted in my being absolutely exhausted mentally and physically by the end of the day.
The “official” orientation at Programa Aprendiz, the organization I’ll be spending the majority of my time with, took place yesterday all in Portuguese. Luiza, the program director, welcomed me and introduced me to the structure of the organization, their accomplishments, plans and goals, and what she was hoping I would help out with while here. (Translating a website seems to be in my near future…) Later I was introduced to the orchestra director, who asked me to sit in on a rehearsal so I could be introduced to the students and hear a bit of what they had been working on the past couple of months. I was also introduced to Daniel, the program coordinator, who discussed with me various aspects about the organization and wanted to make sure that we were on the same page in terms of expectations.
“One thing you must know,” Daniel said, “is that Aprendiz is not just about teaching kids how to play instruments but its about giving them confidence in themselves and respect for others. They are the same as us, only smaller.” His eyes brightened, “They as deserving of respect as we are.”
I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to actually interact with the students of Aprendiz, as I will more likely be spending most of my time studying and experiencing the administrative and and managerial aspects of running the program, but I hope that if I do get to know them that they see me not simply as a foreigner, but someone who can become a new friend to them.
Lessons in the language will help immensely. Portuguese was actually my first language. Until about four or five years old, it was the only thing I spoke. Once I hit school, however, Portuguese took a back seat to English and since we didn’t continue to keep it up much in the house I am not currently as fluent as I would like to be. Its music has been in my ears forever, so I’m familiar with the tune – I just am not sure how to play it.
Part of the advantage of doing this internship through Performing Arts Abroad is that the package includes a couple weeks worth of lessons of the language where you are attending. My first lesson was last night with my private tutor, Silvia, and I am completely ecstatic to finally be getting formal training in my mother tongue. For the first time I’m studying vocabulary, grammar, and all the other idiosyncrasies of Brazilian Portuguese.
After the lesson, I went to a aquatic aerobics class with my host, Valeria, and encountered two different people who both told me that I barely had an accent (sotaque). By the time I return, maybe it’ll be completely gone. Guess we’ll have to just wait and see.