Learning Portuguese
as a Volunteer

by Erika Power
(Fair Haven, NJ, USA)

<I>* She overcame pitfalls and difficulties.</I>

* She overcame pitfalls and difficulties.

Editor's note: The original article was written in English. To read the Portuguese version, click here.


I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, Africa, for over a year. Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony.

I had visited a couple of Central American colonies and had used the Spanish that I had learned in college, but I had never heard of Mozambique until I was selected for the Peace Corps. When I first heard my language instructor speaking Portuguese I could barely understand any of the words that came out of his mouth.

As part of the preparation in Peace Corps, the new volunteers go through extensive training process and language training but not everyone can speak it as well as a native when they leave the capital to live in their selected villages. I was one of that group of people who can speak it but barely enough to survive.

When I first reached my village, I was pretty much unable to ask for bread at the bakery. I went one morning across the street from my house and secondary school to the market to buy bread for breakfast. The man behind the counter just looked at me while I asked politely for two pieces of bread.

I received the same vacant expression when I went to buy tomatoes across from the bakery. I knew that the market vendors talked about my inability to speak Portuguese behind my back the first couple of months that I lived in Malehice.

However, after I became more comfortable with my surroundings, with teaching, and with Mozambique, there was a noticeable improvement on my ability to speak to my fellow villagers and to speak to passengers on mini-buses.

With persistence and determination, I was able to overcome many pitfalls and difficulties! :-)



Portuguese version:

Eu fui uma voluntária da agência Corpo da Paz em Moçambique, África, por mais de um ano. Moçambique é uma ex-colônia de Portugal.

Eu já havia visitado algumas colônias na América Central e havia usado o espanhol que aprendi na faculdade, mas eu nunca tinha ouvido falar de Moçambique até que fui selecionada pela Peace Corps. Na primeira vez que ouvi meu instrutor falando Português não entendi quase nada.

Como parte da preparação na Corpo da Paz, os novos voluntários participam de um extensivo processo de treinamento mas nem todos podem falar como um nativo quando deixam a capital para morar em suas vilas designadas. Eu era uma daquelas que só falavam o suficiente pra sobreviver.

Ao chegar em minha primeira vila, eu não era capaz sequer de comprar pão na padaria. Certa manhã atravessei a rua da minha casa e fui ao mercado comprar pão para o café da manhã. O homem do caixa ficou me olhando enquanto eu pedia de forma educada dois pães.

Recebi a mesma expressão vazia quando fui comprar tomates do outro lado da padaria. Eu sabia que os vendedores locais comentavam sobre minha pouca habilidade em falar Português durante os primeiros meses que morei em Malehice.

Entretanto, depois que fui me sentindo mais à vontade com o contexto, com o ensino, e com Moçambique, houve uma notável melhora na minha habilidade de falar com meus amigos locais e com os passageiros nos micro-ônibus.

Com persistência e determinação, fui capaz de vencer muitas barreiras e dificuldades! :-)

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as a Volunteer

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Oct 07, 2015
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Every language learner should follow your example
by: Charlles

Hi Erika!

Congratulations for setting an example for us on language learning. :O)

Your willingness to learn a new language to better serve your fellow is really inspiring.

Please keep getting engaged in good causes.

I wish you all the best!

PS.: Could you please send me your e-mail address (through our contact form), so that you may receive your copy of 'Learn Portuguese at Home'?

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