Listening for cognates

A podcast on empty spaces in urban areas in Portugal is available here:

This is a tough podcast to understand for early language learners, but it’s worth listening to begin to get used to the sound of Portuguese as spoken in Portugal. Listen for frequency of the phrase “não é?” (right?) at the end of Professor Carlos Neto’s statements. Early language learners can also practice listening for cognates (words like president/presidente, intelligent/inteligente that are similar in English and Portuguese). In the podcast above, for example, you will hear words that are similar to the following: urban, space, abandoned, invasive plants. See if you can hear them. What others do you hear?




An interview with Alexandre: Why study Portuguese? What don’t most Americans know about Brazil?

Alexandre is a Brazilian who studied for a year at NIU. Here he answers some questions about what he missed while he was here in the U.S., and why he thinks people should study Portuguese.

Quando estava nos Estados Unidos, de qual coisa (comida, atitude, experiência, ou outra coisa) mais sentia falta?

Quando eu estava nos EUA eu senti muita falta do clima, pois fui para um lugar muito frio. As comidas não me faziam muita falta e as atitudes dos americanos sempre foi muito boa em relação a mim. [When I was in the U.S., I missed the climate, since I went to a very cold place. I didn’t much miss the food, and I had no issues with Americans’ attitudes.]

Uma(s) coisa(s) que a maioria dos americanos não sabem do Brasil que devem saber é (são) …

Algo que eu acho que a maioria dos americanos desconhece é que o Rio de Janeiro não é a capital do Brasil e que nosso país tem uma área territorial equivalente a uns 4 ou 5 estados do Texas. Ah, aqui também existem cidades bem grandes e nem todas são na selva. [Something I think most Americans don’t know is that Rio de Janeiro is not the capital of Brazil and that the size of our country is equivalent to 4 or 5 Texases. Oh, and that that are big cities here, and that it’s not all jungle.]

Você acha que os americanos devem aprender português? Por quê sim ou não? Que valor tem aprendé-lo, na sua opinião?

Eu acredito que os americanos devem aprender uma segunda língua, independente de qual for. Falar uma segunda língua abre muitas oportunidades e não deixa a mente relaxada, é um exercício constante para o cérebro. Um benefício específico do português seria a possibilidade de aprender a conjugar verbos em demasia, hahaha. Além do mais, aprender português é como uma extensão do espanhol. [I think Americans should learn a second language, regardless of which it is. Speaking a second language opens lots of doors and exercises your brain. A specific benefit of Portuguese is that it’s possible to learn to conjugate lots of verbs, ha ha! Besides, learning Portuguese is like an extension of Spanish.]

Uma coisa que lembrei sobre o benefício de se saber português é que poderia-se estudar mestrado ou doutorado de graça em uma universidade brasileira e também concorrer a bolsa de estudo, mesmo sendo estrangeiro. O valor não é alto, R$1500 para mestrado e R$2200 para doutorado, mas esse dinheiro é todo do estudante, pois não há pagamento para universidade (tuition free).
Esses valores são pagos mensalmente. [One other benefit of knowing Portuguese that I remembered is that one could get a master’s or doctorate degree for free at a Brazilian university and also try to get a scholarship, even if you’re a foreigner. It’s not a big amount, 1500 for a master’s and 2200 for a doctorate, but that money is all for the student, since there’s no tuition at the university.]

Angola’s kwanza traded for dollars on the street, not in banks

Corruption is a big problem in Angola, and one result is an economy in crisis. One result of this is that currently (October 2017), kwanzas are being traded for US dollars on the street, but aren’t available in the banks (where if they were available, you’d get a better deal that you do on the street). Another interesting fact regarding Angola’s economy: Angola is an oil-producing nation that needs to import gasoline!

Learn more about Angola’s economy by going to this link:


Grey Matters: Urban Cleaning and Graffiti on the Streets of São Paulo


Here I will refer to some recent events in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, and the public backlash as street graffiti is erased by the recently elected Mayor João Dória. The decision started as part of a larger project called “Cidade Linda” [Beautiful City]. Consider some the video below showing some of the images of the art on the walls of the city (in Portuguese):

Screenshot 2017-03-11 15.52.41

São Paulo, a grey metropolis with high skyscrapers, has a history of street art dating back to the 1980s: please refer to Marcelo Pinheiro’s blog in on the relation between graffiti, Hip-Hop, and the empowerment of the young generations from the poor suburbs of São Paulo, or the distinction between graffiti and pichação in the Cities Project, created by the Guardian with support from the Rockefeller Foundation. The relationship of the city with graffiti has also led in the past to…

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Vegetarian Options for All in Portugal

The Portuguese government voted Friday, March 3, 2017, in favor of requiring schools to offer vegetarian options to any student. Previously only those with religious or health reasons for choosing vegetarian could receive a vegetarian meal in their school cafeterias. Those with ethical reasons couldn’t. The video link below gives insight into home dining (wine with lunch) and school cafeteria lunches (no paper bags in sight). The political parties behind the law’s creation were: PAN  (Pessoas Animais Natureza), BE (Bloco de Esquerda) and Os Verdes.

Whiteface and Blackface in Brazil

In “Blacks in Brazil,” Henry Louis Gates Jr. talked about how Chica da Silva, a slave who gained her freedom and became rich, was able to “almost escape her blackness.” In a film about da Silva, we see the actress depicting her, Zezé Motta, in “whiteface,” thus portraying da Silva’s desire for something more than a privileged life, namely, to look white. Many people are familiar with blackface, a manifestation of racism in which white actors portrayed blacks by painting their faces, usually depicting a stereotyped image of blacks in subservient roles. Even in Brazil, people talk about “blackface,” using the English word. Some people in the U.S. may be less familiar with, and less conscious of, the social climbing through miscegenation that has happened in various societies (not just U.S., nor just lusophone). Of course, miscegenation produces a real whitening of the skin. Whiteface was more like blackface, a literal painting on of whiteness, and yet in some ways it is its opposite. It is, at least sometimes, a way of trying to get closer to that which one wants to be, not a way of oppressing the Other. Another famous example of someone painting his face white to, possibly, reduce or erase to an extent his blackness, is Carlos Alberto, a soccer player who played for Fluminense in Brazil in the early 20th century. No one seems to debate the fact that he put face powder or pó de arroz (literally “rice powder”) on his face. What is disputed is the reason why. Some say it was simply something he did after shaving. Others suggest it is indicative of the racism that existed in the soccer club; that is, that it was a way of seeming whiter, and therefore a way of making him seem more fitting for the team. It’s not hard to believe this was true, given that racism has its links to soccer even to this day, existing among some fans, as well as in the clubs themselves. Racist comments and actions by fans, such as calling players monkeys, are too often tolerated, which has caused an increase in racism, according to a 2015 study cited in the Brazil edition of the Huffington Post. Soccer is, not surprisingly, not the only place where racism is on display. A woman who has been called Brazil’s Beyoncé, Taís Araújo faced similar racist attacks online in early 2015. Meanwhile, Beyoncé, as a reaction to criticism that she was not “black enough,” sat in blackface for a photo shoot at Rolling Stone, and then faced further criticism for this act. Black people painting their faces white seems to be a fairly rare event, but white people wearing blackface – despite the fact that it is almost always quickly and roundly critiqued as racist – continues. As recently as the 2017 Carnaval celebration in Salvador, Brazil, singer Daniela Mercury appeared with her skin darkened and donning a large afro wig. She was immediately criticized in social media. Her response: She is a “black person with white skin,” meaning that she feels more tied culturally to traditions that have their roots in Africa, as opposed to those that originated in Europe. It seems to me that, as a “black person with white skin,” if such a person can exist, Mercury ought to be more sensitive to the history of oppression and racism that is connected to blackface.

Sources: (Black in Brazil, PBS documentary featuring Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) (about Carlos Alberto) (about Taís Araújo) (about Daniela Mercury)