Okay, so I admit to having been a bit smug about the whole learning Portuguese thing. I decided to really throw myself into learning the language about 10 months prior to departure, and by the time I stepped off the plane, I had taken multiple online classes and worked to the end of about three online language programs. I knew how to have a good, basic conversation about life, work, family, hobbies, etc. etc. I was all set. When I read posts about people struggling with the language, I secretly thought to myself 'aren't I lucky to have spent the time working on this before I arrived?'
So I first had a sense that all might not be totally perfect in language heaven, when the flight attendant talked to me in Portuguese regarding landing preparations. I looked around myself and thought 'have I come to the right country?' This can't be Portuguese because I don't understand a single word they are saying.' Damn.
Things continued to get worse when I used my newly acquired Portuguese to ask for coffee, loaves of bread and even stores to buy plates and glasses, and people stared at me like I had asked for their first born child. I couldn't believe it. I knew I was using the right words, so what was going wrong? I then realised that an obviously British woman, speaking Portuguese with a British accent was enough to confuse anybody and that their brains instantly went into 'do not compute' mode. On top of which, I quickly discovered that most people here speak English, so the first Portuguese sentence was hardly out of my mouth before they said 'I think it would be better if we spoke in English'. Double damn.
I also discovered that my basic conversation Portuguese was definitely not enough to carry on intelligent business conversations at business networking events. I would happily say 'don't worry, I can speak Portuguese, you don't have to switch to English', only to find myself smiling and nodding without a clue what was actually being said. Triple damn.
So I'm now trying to decide whether to keep limping forwards with my efforts to increase my fluency, because after all, if no one is going to every hear it, am I talking to myself? Not feeling quite so smug these days!