There are many different ways to brush up on a foreign language, but one of my favorite is reading books and listening to CDs or mp3s you can purchase online. In fact, I have never had any formalized classes in Portuguese. Everything I know I learned from books, CDs and just talking to Brazilians.
One topic that is not covered much in the traditional areas of learning are slang (jiria) words or Portuguese phrases. And often times there is something you may think you know from one of your classes or lessons, that turns out to mean something totally different when slang is applied. It can be confusing at first, but it is common in all languages and everyone trying to learn a new language struggles with this part. That is why it is so easy to pick out someone as a native speaker rather than someone like me that learned another language later in life.
We do this too in English. We have lots of slang and I can tell you first hand that it is very confusing to Brazilians and many others that try to learn English for the first time.
So with that in mind, here are some of my best Brazil travel tips. I am going to get you started with ten slang words in Brazilian Portuguese. I will also provide the Portuguese pronunciation to the best of my ability in parentheses.
It is not the easiest language to learn but if you can throw a few of these out, you can impress all your friends.
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This one is something you do not want to hear a woman say to you if you are a man. If she calls you chato, it means you are being annoying. Context is key, and it does mean other things, such as boring, but in general, unless you are certain that someone is kidding, it is not a compliment. Although it can be used to describe anything, such as a movie. If someone says “Que chato!” they are probably saying something is lame.
It means the same thing as it does in English. That something is following the law. However, in Brazilian Portuguese, it is also slang for “cool”. So if someone is saying “ah legal”, what they are really saying is “oh, that is very cool”, or something to the effect.
This word translates to “face” if you put it in a translator. (Try it, use Google Translate). However, it is slang for “guy”. So if someone says something like “daquele cara” they are not saying “that face”, they are referring to “that guy”.
Gato (Gata for females) (gah-toh)
Gato literally means cat. Gato for a male cat, gata for a female cat. However, it is also slang for a handsome, hot guy, or a hot sexy woman. So this is generally considered a compliment by most and it is something that you probably want to hear directed at you. So guys, if a Braziliera says “oi gato”, then she likes you and she is saying “hi handsome”.
This is slang for money. Money in Brazil is actually called dinheiro (gin-hayrow), but you will probably hear grana more often. It is like saying “bucks” or “dough” for money in the USA. So if you are planning on traveling to Brazil, you will need some grana.
If it sounds like they are saying the French word for chic, that is basically correct. This is their version of saying something is sophisticated. It is also used to describe something that is expensive or glamorous. So if you hear a Brazilian woman declare with excitement “que chique!”, she is basically saying “ how glamorous” or “how sophisticated”. Again, as with all of these slang words, context is key.
This is an informal way of saying thank-you. Most tourists use the formal version “obrigado”, however, most Brazilians typically just say “valeu”. It is sort of like saying “thanks man” or just “thanks” instead of the more formal “thank you very much”. (Who says that in English?) So when you go to Brazil and the taxi driver helps you with your bags, say “Valeu” and he will be impressed.
The translated version of esperto says it means smart or intelligent and that is essentially correct, however, in context it can be used to mean that someone is street smart. Context is everything, but if someone says that “ele é muito esperto”, what they are probably saying is that “he is really street smart”. If they are talking about a professor at a college, they probably mean he is intelligent. If they are talking about a youngster that runs the streets all the time, they probably mean street smart.
This is slang for the alcohol (cachaca) used to make Brazil’s most famous drink, the caprinha. So if someone says they need some “pinga”, they are probably planning on making you a very strong drink. I recommend not having more than two of those by the way.
This is the slang word for how we would use the English slang word “cheesy”. So if you hear someone point to your clothing and say something with “brega” in it, it probably is not a good thing. You might want to go back to the hotel and change. You are probably going to stick out like a sore thumb in Brazil anyway, so you do not want to be wearing cheesy looking clothing. Go native.
So there you have ten slang words to get you started. I could not possibly cover them all in one article but that is a good start.
I recommend that if you are serious about learning Portuguese, go get those books and get started reading and listening to Portuguese speakers on CDs or mp3s so you can have a clue when you finally take that vacation to Brazil you have been dreaming of for years.
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