“Apanhar” Takes a Beating

“Dictionaries do not always take note of the semantic extensions that the verb “apanhar” has acquired in Portuguese.

When walking on the street and going into a store in any Brazilian city, it’s hard not to hear enunciations every once in a while like “você vai apanhar!” (you are going to get hit!) or “você quer apanhar?” (do you want to get hit?), as they are frequently said loudly by parents and those responsible for small children whose behavior in public leaves a lot to be desired.

The verbal interaction between child and adult, in most instances, remains as a threat only because no one physically hits anyone, thankfully. Not even a slap! Until now, I never saw a child respond affirmatively to the question about if he or she wants to get hit or not! A real communicative skill sometimes is to remain in silence. The “question” functions as a threat that leads to nothing.” – Source (in PT)

My Take

At almost the same time that I was considering writing a post on the verb “apanhar”, I came across an article on the matter in the Brazilian magazine, Língua Portuguesa. I learned it is often said in jest or as the article above points out, as a mere threat. My ex-girlfriend, a paulistana, used to say it to me (in jest, of course!) and at the time I didn’t know what the word meant but I understood the gist. Using my Portuguese knowledge at the time, I decided it was or should be reflexive and would use it in such a manner (saying “vou te apanhar”), not realizing I was in effect ‘beating up’ the verb in my own way.

The verb has other meanings, which can be seen on Google Translate or in Portuguese at Wikcionário.

Unfiltered English – Observations

I was reading a post on Danielle’s blog about a fellow-English-speaking blogger going to meet her this last weekend and she mentioned how great it was to be able to speak ‘unfiltered English’ with her new friend. This got me thinking about how nice it is and how we don’t even think about this once back in the States. While I do have a considerable amount of foreign friends here in California (and select few online), there are of course plenty of places I can go or people I can talk to if I wish to speak unfiltered.

The reason bumping into a native speaker of your own language is so nice while in another country is that a foreign wall falls, the one that makes you question everything you see, hear and do (like “What does this person mean by that?”, “Why is the bus I just got on going away from my destination?”, etc). When I do meet someone who speaks English natively, I find myself piling on the linguistic layers and all of a sudden, there are tones, turns on phrases and all kinds of nuances circling about.

I call myself fluent in Portuguese and for all intents and purposes, I am…but there’s always that little voice nagging me about the fact that if I stop learning, I’ll never become like a native speaker. That’s the thing, though, I’m not sure anyone ever really does reach that level and it seems to be something you have to achieve to believe. What it comes down to is the difference between treating language like a machine with certain parts (got that, check, got this, check) and having it be a living thing that flows through you.

In another post, I alluded to the fact that being yourself linguistically in a foreign place can be hard to do. Those who are getting to know us are really seeing a slice of ourselves and this can be frustrating, even when the other person speaks English relatively well. By taking liberties with what you perceive is their level of knowledge, the other person may not be understanding exactly what you’re saying, which brings me to a related point.

I love that on profiles for certain websites, there’s a question about fluency in other languages and the only choices they give are ‘beginner, intermediate, fluent’. Does anyone making these sites actually consider that language is much more difficult to measure than this? In the least, there should be a low, medium and high for each of the three choices (meaning a total of 9). Unfiltered English, being…well, not on the list because high-fluent is still not native. In its most basic form, native to me means I don’t have to question myself, even if that means pausing to think of the best way to get a point across.

What do you think? Can someone ever become just like a native-speaker?

More Info

Danielle In Brazil post
Why Being Oneself in Brazil Isn’t a Breeze – EOB

Mind Games In Portuguese

Let’s test your mental capacity to understand Portuguese, even when it’s jumbled. Many of us, I’m sure, have seen these in English. The second example is even more ridiculous. Have fun!

“De aorcdo com uma peqsiusa de uma uinrvesriddae ignlsea, não ipomtra em qaul odrem as lteras de uma plravaa etãso, a úncia csioa iprotmatne é que a piremria e útmlia lteras etejasm no lgaur crteo. O rseto pdoe ser uma bçguana ttaol, que vcoê anida pdoe ler sem pobrlmea. Itso é poqrue nós não lmeos cdaa ltera isladoa, mas a plravaa cmoo um tdoo. Sohw de bloa.”

“35T3 P3QU3N0 T3XTO 53RV3 4P3N45 P4R4 M05TR4R COMO NO554 C4B3Ç4 CONS3GU3 F4Z3R CO1545 1MPR3551ON4ANT35! R3P4R3 N155O! NO COM3ÇO 35T4V4 M310 COMPL1C4DO, M45 N3ST4 L1NH4 SU4 M3NT3 V41 D3C1FR4NDO O CÓD1GO QU453 4UTOM4T1C4M3NT3, S3M PR3C1S4R P3N54R MU1TO, C3RTO? POD3 F1C4R B3M ORGULHO5O D155O! SU4 C4P4C1D4D3 M3R3C3! P4R4BÉN5!”

Assistir (a) – To Watch/Attend

I was reading some things on Por Trás das Letras when I saw a post (in PT) on the verb and usage of assistir. Basically, what is said on that post is that no one anymore uses the required ‘a’ which comes after the verb and it’s not a right or wrong thing anymore but a cultural thing. According to linguist Marcos Bagno, the verb went through a semantic change, or change in meaning, and what resulted was a syntactic change as well. Even cultured people are accepting such changes and adopting them.

Phrases like ‘eu assisti ao jogo‘ (I watched the game) are now said and written as ‘eu assisti o jogo‘. If we were to use a feminine noun such as peça (play) then what should be ‘eu assisti à peça‘ is now ‘eu assisti a peça‘. So who is wrong? Bagno says that those who don’t wake up to the fact that language is alive are likely to be living in the past.

Pois é.