Yesterday saw my (somewhat) triumphal return to Portuguese lessons, after a break of more than six weeks. Despite my absence, I thought it went remarkably well, and felt I had much more confidence and fluidity than previously. It was good to be back in class, if only as a break from my weekday routine, and since yesterday’s lesson was just myself and my tutor, a great conversation unfolded as always.

My favorite lesson of the day: in Portuguese, the word canela can have not just one but three meanings (we looked it up in the dictionary): cinnamon, shin, or spool. Never have I met a language (not a Romance one anyway) in which one word can mean so many widely varied things! I am enchanted. Canela — such a beautiful, versatile word! Even my tutor hadn’t realized that it could mean all of these things, although I had a hard time explaining exactly what a “spool” is, as I wasn’t terribly sure myself.

We also debated whether animals in different countries make different sounds — i.e. an English woof is different than a Portuguese one, and so on. I disagreed, but she maintained that animals can have accents (another great word: sotaque.) What do you think?

But by far the best word of the day was the one for napkin: guardanapo. What a fantastic word for such a mundane item!

At the close of our 90 minutes, I got up to leave, feeling much invigorated and pleased with myself for having kept up my end of the conversation after such a long break. I mentioned that I was happy not to have forgotten all my Portuguese, and my tutor replied, “No, not at all! You’re a bit slower than you were before, but you’ve been on holiday, don’t worry.” Right. Got it. And here I thought I was doing so well…! Alas. I do better academically when challenged anyway, so perhaps that’s for the best.

And in the meantime, I will continue to hoard my treasure: canela. Guardanapo. Sotaque. What a language!

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