Myth or Reality about Brazil – Part 1

It is undeniably true that every country has a certain national ethos, one that is part of our identity. However, there is a thin line between of what it means to be from a certain nationality and what it is a stereotypical view of a group of people.
We will take a tour around the globe to try to dispel myths and understand different realities.

This is the kick-off of a new series in Topics of the World that will feature what is myth and what is reality in relation to our countries. I’ll start with Brazil, my country which I am so proud of. Yet, this doesn’t mean that Brazil doesn’t have many complex issues that we have to face every single day.

Our Pocketcultures contributors helped me think of what it means to be Brazilian and live in such a vast and diverse country with their burning questions about Brazil. We start from the basics, talking about our language, capital and soccer.

REALITY: The capital of Brazil is not Buenos Aires, nor Rio! Rio used to be the capital of Brazil, but, in 1960, Brasilia, the new capital, was inaugurated after a five-year construction period.  Brasilia is known for its urban planning and modern design.  Though I am a proud Brasiliense, born and raised in Brasilia, the city is still mainly populated by migrants who came from other states to build the city. My mother’s family, for example, came from the Northeast of Brazil, and my father is Sicilian. As you can see, my town is made of contrasts and cultural diversity.

 

 

As for our language, we speak Portuguese, not Spanish, as many might think. And we tend to say that we speak Brazilian Portuguese to contrast it with the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. Though we can understand and communicate with each other, Brazilians and the Portuguese have linguistic differences in terms of  accent and vocabulary. However, the Portuguese language ties our common cultural and historical backgrounds together, reminding us of our past heritage.

Humm…Tough question, girls! The MYTH part: that Brazilians are not interested in learning Spanish. I guess that if this was totally true, we wouldn’t have  Spanish Language Schools around. However, REALITY is that we tend to take decisions based on priorities and immediate needs. So, for many Brazilians, English would be the first language they’d choose to learn as a second language. Not that Spanish is not a high priority, it should be due to our proximity and commercial relations.

But, you are right, Nuria, that we rely on the fact that we can understand Spanish, so, even if it is speaking a terrible Portuñol (Portuguese with Spanish-like accent and some Spanish words), we can communicate.

In the South of Brazil, though, due to proximity with other Spanish-speaking countries, I think Brazilians feel the need to speak Spanish properly. And, in many cases, some of the Portuguese words are similar to Spanish because in the South there was more Spanish influence than in other parts of Brazil. Even in cultural terms, the South has much in common with parts of Argentina with the gauchos tradition in both countries.

Lucy, English is certainly one of the languages that many Brazilians try to learn. In Brasilia, there is this very peculiar tradition of most kids going to language schools to learn English. At the Binational Center I work for, there are many thousands of students who study English. I wouldn’t say that this is a general REALITY, for most of our low-income population doesn’t have the money to pay for language instruction.

Though English is a mandatory subject in public and private schools, it is generally not taught the proper way and, in this case, most students don’t go beyond the basics and can’t use English in a contextualized, communicative way. Spanish would be second in the list of interest, I’d say. However, there has been an increased interest for French and Mandarin, among other foreign languages.

REALITY for sure! Soccer is considered to be a “National Passion”. We are now preparing ourselves for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Everybody has an opinion about it, be it to criticize our National Team and coach or to digress about the stadiums constructions and transportation infrastructure issues.

When the Brazilian team is playing in the World Cup, the country literally stops. There is no school, no work, nobody on the streets. We prepare our houses to receive friends and family for the games and there’s  a spirit of joy that is spread out everywhere. We cheer in anticipation and fear of not getting to the next stage,  and it would be inconceivable for us if we didn’t get far with the results.

When we win, celebration goes on for hours in a row, everybody goes to the streets, all Brazilian fans wearing yellow and green, two of the colors of our flag. Oh, even school calendar is adjusted to the games. We need to take into account that if there is a game in which Brazil is playing, classes just before the game and after simply don’t happen, for there won’t be any students around.

Now, you might ask me, “but aren’t there Brazilians who don’t like soccer?”. Oh, sure! There are many, but they wouldn’t dare say it, at least, during the World Cup! If they confess their sin, they are seen as the unpleasant guy. It is not just about soccer. It is about being together, celebrating and crying together.

And within the four-year gap? Well, soccer is still a big deal. I have a friend who says that he is not such a huge fan of soccer. However, he fakes it a bit, reads about it, and sometimes even watch the games only to have something to talk about the following day at work. When it is season time (almost all year-round with the national and state championships), there are games on Wednesdays and Sundays, plus some others during the other days of the week.

On Wednesdays, even the soap opera and TV News are shorter because of the games. Sunday afternoon you can’t count on many men around the country….there’s always a game to watch! In my house, for example, with a husband and two boys, I could disappear on Sundays and nobody would notice it! Can you imagine who runs the remote control then?! Certainly, not me!

Well, these are just some of the burning questions our Pocketcultures international team had for me. More to come soon about Brazilian beauty and Economics. Stay tuned!

 

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About the author

Carla Arena
A proud Brazilian teaching English in Brazil, interested in cultures, languages, people and lifelong learning.
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5 Comments

  • Priscila Andrade

    Really good text! As a Brazilian living in France and who has also lived in Germany, I’ve been asked most of these questions.

    Many people also think we speak ‘Brazilian’ and lots of them look amazed when I explain we speak Portuguese. Brazilian Portuguese, but still Portuguese. Like Australians speak Australian English, but still English :)

  • Priscila, I’m glad you liked it, and now when people ask about Brazil, you can reference them back to Pocketcultures!

    You are totally right about Portuguese. And that’s what I love about these online spaces we have nowadays to showcase our country as it really is with no misconceptions, wrong information or stereotypical views about the many countries we have in the world.

  • Carla, I love how this came out! Great idea to put the questions like this. Thanks for going first!

  • Nuria

    Very nice post! I like it a lot! :) I can’t believe you guys don’t have classes when there’s a game…wow! jijiji I wonder if that also happens in other countries (How about in Argentina, Ana?)

  • Hi, Nuria! It is true. No classes during game time in the World Cup! In fact, Brazil literally stops. There is no one on the streets. On the other hand, when the games are over, everybody goes to the streets to celebrate or to cry! Streets are closed and there are bands playing. It is like a huge party.

    Lucy, I´m glad you liked the was set up :-) I´m about to send Part 2!