The importance of learning local expressions
After attending classes of some foreign language, speaking with native speakers you may realize they are not always able to understand what you want to say. If you have ever met an exchange student trying to speak in your native language, you may have noticed too if that doesn’t sound very natural.
Besides the pronunciation, the vocabulary, and being able to conjugate verbs, another thing that helps us to sound more natural in another language are the local expressions. This includes things like slangs, colloquialisms, regional expressions, and local jokes. Take the following example.
- Como está o café? (How’s the coffee?)
- Opa, se melhorar estraga! (*)
The first sentence is simple, and can be found in many Portuguese textbooks. Someone is simply asking how’s the coffee. A textbook answer would be:
- Está gostoso, obrigado. (It is good, thank you.)
This version is not wrong, but it sounds very strange to native speakers. So instead we used a very enthusiastic version Opa, se melhorar estraga!. This answer could be literally translated as:
- Oh! It will spoil if it gets any better.
Which an English speaker may understand, but it probably sounds as strange as the It is good, thank you version to a Portuguese speaker. In English a better translation would probably be closer to:
- Oh! it is perfect.
- It can’t get any better, thanks!
Notice how we need to use different words, add a thanks, just to try to pass the same enthusiasm and positive sentiment as with the version that is using a very popular Brazilian Portuguese expression.
You will be understood using any of the versions used in this post to answer How’s your coffee?. But one version may sound more natural and also make it easier for you to go out with co-workers, watch the local TV, or read the news.
Google and other machine translation services perform an excellent service for the textbook versions, but for text with local expressions it still fails to translate and sometimes may give different values depending on other expressions or punctuation used. Compare the results of searching just for the expression, with searching for the expression combined with Opa (which is another local expression).
We hope you will find the expressions listed here helpful. Now start browsing our Brazilian Portuguese expressions, and Que a força esteja com você 🖖!