Do Do That Voodoo That You Do So Well

I’m struggling to learn Portuguese right now. I study my Aquarela book every day, and at night if I watch TV, I watch with Portuguese subtitles on. I’m amazed by how many words I already know, and by how many are similar to words in English or French or Spanish. My reading is going well, but my speech is slower, and my understanding when hearing the language spoken is still lamentable.

I’ve learned to say “No falo português,” and more recently, “Aprendendo português ainda, por favor fala mais devegar” (I’m still learning Portuguese, please speak more slowly).

It’s not a difficult language; there’s just a lot to learn. I speak French, know some German, and can understand Spanish and some Italian. I suppose I have a facility for language, and I love the richness and diversity of the English language.

I’ve heard that English is difficult to learn, and remember Ricky trying to learn the rules from Lucy on “I Love Lucy.” (It’s cough, as in coff, but through as in thru?)

Last weekend, our taxi driver told us he found learning English was incredibly difficult. I said I was a bit surprised, since the structure of the language is the same (unlike German, where the verb goes at the end of the sentence) and many of the words are similar, if not identical. But it wasn’t structure or vocabulary that troubled him. It was the word “do.”

Do you like pineapples? I do. What do you do? How do you do? Do you understand?

In other Latin-based languages, you don’t (do not) have an equivalent. One asks the equivalent of: you like pineapples? Yes, I like them. What is your job? How are you. You understand? There is no “do” in those phrases. I’d never thought of that.

No only is the function of the word a mystery, but you must also now conjugate two verbs in a single sentence: What do you do? What does he do (not does)? How do you (plural) do.

And then there is the use of the affirmative, and negative in English compared to Portuguêse.

Do you speak English? I do/I don’t.

Do you speak Portuguese? I speak. I no speak.

Do you like hamburgers? I do.

Do you like feijoada (a Brazilian bean dish)? I like/I no like.

Who know that this do had such voodoo? A simple two-letter word had brought this man to his knees, figuratively speaking.

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