Areia nas cuecas or My Portuguese

Today I would like to speak about my progress in studying Portuguese. I am still an amateur but there are a couple of things to share.

First of all, I don’t buy coffee as a tourist anymore! A cup of chinesa (something like cappuccino) costs me 1 euro instead of 2. Maybe local bartenders already recognize me or my pronunciation is getting better. “Every time you feel the price is too high you say “Eu não pago” (I don’t pay)”, – taught us once Lino, our landlord, closing his eyes and rising eyebrows to the ceiling. Probably the mimics are important, too. Neither he nor I like the existence of two different price lists but at least now I am in the local league.

The second story is about the English classes for the people of Câmara de Lobos which started last week. I have two groups – pre-intermediates and beginners. The first one is easy to work with – the guys know basics and now it’s just the matter of improving, whereas the beginners have become my personal challenge: they are a group of adults who don’t speak any English at all! The first class was given with the help of Nicola, the Italian volunteer who speaks Portuguese fluently, but the second time I had to face them on my own! How was I supposed to check the homework and explain a new grammar topic? “Errr…awww…por favor” – I was blushing, stuttering and generally feeling like an idiot. In the end we somehow covered personal and possessive pronouns and the verb “to be” in Present tense but only because it was our topic at the Portuguese class the same morning and I more or less knew the translation. And what’s next?..


Thanks god, my students are patient, understanding and don’t laugh at me too much. I guess it’s the way we will have to go together. And when they make some tangible progress I will buy myself a bottle of champagne, I promise.

To sum up, my Portuguese vocabulary is expanding but mostly with slang words which can’t be used in a decent conversation. I will not list all my invaluable knowledge, just share most popular phrase in our office from last week: “Falar contigo é como ter areia nas cuecas” – “To speak with you is like to have sand in pants”. Should I mention that now I am looking forward to a proper situation to use the phrase? 🙂 Such wisdom mustn’t be wasted.

P.S. Madeira is already preparing for Christmas. Glass decorations and blooming flowers – why not to have them both?..


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