Becoming Immersed

I’m studying Portuguese in Lisbon. There are a lot of people who live in Lisbon who do not speak Portuguese. The people in my class come from all over the world – from Canada, Venezuela, France, Albania, and, of course, Spain. Most of them live in Lisbon now.

They want to speak Portuguese better for many reasons. Some want to be able to talk with their family members who are native Portuguese speakers.  Other wish to speak more correctly for work opportunities. One is a doctor who wants to be able to converse with is colleagues in Portugal. One is a journalist who needs to be able to speak fluent Portuguese to cover Portuguese news.

Most of the class has about the same understanding of Portuguese. Our instructor is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We are learning not only Portuguese grammar, but also regional differences. For example, she explained to us that people in the north of Portugal, slur their words together more. I noticed that when I rode the Metro in Porto. In Lisbon, they do not always make the “sh” sound for the letter ‘S’ when they should. These variations are important to know if you intend to speak with and understand native Portuguese speakers.

We have fun and it is a light-hearted class, not stressful at all. If I make a mistake, I don’t feel embarrassed, but I’m quick to learn the correction. I speak with the other students mostly in Portuguese so that we all get practice speaking and listening.

Outside of class, we get together once per week. On Wednesday, we went to an archeological museum that is under a local bank, the Fundação Millennium BCP - Núcleo Arqueológico. It is there because they found Roman ruins while excavating. Between 1991 and 1995, during renovation works carried out there, while digging down, archaeological structures were uncovered left by civilizations living in Lisbon over various periods.The site had Roman ruins and artifacts from the Marquis de Pombol and early Christian eras. The guide at the museum spoke to us in Portuguese to explain the exhibits to help us practice understanding the spoken language. We helped each other to understand. 

After our visit to the archeology museum, we went to a beautiful patio looking over the Largo de Martim Moniz and had drinks and snacks. Because the Portuguese eat dinner later in the evening, a small snack between 4-6 pm is called “luncha”.  It is not something the Portuguese eat every day, unless they have small children who may have difficulty waiting until 8 p.m. for dinner. 

I am learning a lot about the language and people of Portugal by living and attending classes in Lisbon. I am also having a wonderful time visiting this beautiful country.  It sometimes feels like my blistered feet have walked every inch of the country. Other times, it feels as if I have barely scratched the surface of the many places there are to go and things there are to know and do in Portugal.


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