Our time in the mission guest house, when we first arrived, was a great time bonding with Brazilian co-workers who were there and warming up our ears to Portuguese. Often we would put our kids to bed in our room, wander out to the shared kitchen/eating area, and find everybody starting to prepare a late night snack or play a game. We would sit down and join in on the fun. One night I (Danica) noticed everyone putting their finger in the air. As soon as I saw I slowly started to follow suit, but it was too late. I was the last one, which meant I was supposed to pray and thank God for the food. All the Brazilians stared laughingly at the only person at the table who could not speak their language and waited to see what I would do. “Wait!” I said. “Um…um…obligada Deos!” (Thank you, God). Everybody cheered and we ate couscous and chicken together.
Alfredo and Fabia, a missionary couple with two little girls about our girls’ ages, became especially special to us. Jevon spent hours and hours every day with Alfredo finding our apartment, settling the agreement, and shopping to find things we needed. All of this time the two of them were conversing in Portuguese, which was stretching and exhausting but extremely good for Jevon. Fabia would send one of her daughters to get me and have me sit in the kitchen while she made soup and talked to me in Portuguese. My job during this warm up phase of language learning was to listen, listen, listen, tuning my ears to the sounds of Portuguese and getting familiar with some of the words used most often in conversation. It is important to do lots of listening before speaking when learning a new language, to give my brain time to make new connections with my mouth. If I start talking and memorizing before listening, I will learn only my own sounds that I am making, which could very likely be the wrong sounds. 🙂 So I am very thankful for the warm up time we had at the guest house.
Now we will be starting structured language learning. I will be meeting with a Brazilian language helper 3 days a week, and also meeting with Audrey (an American missionary) twice a week for lessons in the “what an English speaker really ought to understand about Portuguese” side of things. Jevon will also be meeting with a Brazilian language helper (although his activities will be much more advanced than mine), and taking grammar lessons from Audrey as well. This is only a small part of our langauge learning. What carries more weight in the CLA (culture and language aquisition) program here is the time we are expected to spend doing things with Brazilians – going to church, spending time with them in their houses or ours, going shopping together, or any activity that involves intentionally communicating in Portuguese. We will be accountable to our CLA coordinators for the hours each week that we spend in language learning.
Can’t wait to get started…Monday! Pray for us. 🙂