Grammar tips in Brazil, and magic in a second language

Forget their laidback image, Brazilians care deeply about grammar. One city has a long-established grammar hotline staffed by Portuguese language experts. Now the state of Rio de Janeiro is following suit. This may, or may not, be  in response to the many times Brazil’s head of state, President Luiz Inácio da Silva has loused up his lingo. Lula, as he’s better known, has embarrassed and amused Brazilians for years now with all manner of grammatical gaffes. It seems unlikley, though, that will consult the grammar hotline, either as president, or when he retires on January 1, 2011.

Then, an interview with the newly-crowned world record holder in speed-texting. Melissa Thompson speaks with Marco Werman about why she is so fast at thumbing messages — and why her boyfriend is so very slow. The two sentences that she thumbed in record time (25.94 seconds) were : “the razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human”. Test your how your text-writing skills shape up to Melissa Thompson’s here.

After a diversion by way of a Norwegian word (lakenskrekk; literally, bed sheet dread, or fear of insomnia), we consider the art of performing magic. Specifically, performing in a language that’s not your native tongue. For magicians, this can be a huge challenge: so much about magic — the stories, the sell, the suspension of disbelief — is accomplished through language. So if a native English-speaking magician, for example, finds him or herself required to perform his routine in French, it requires far more than just consulting the dictionary for the equivalent of abracadabra or hocus pocus.  We speak with two magicians, native Hebrew speaker Asi Wind and native English speaker Prakash Puru (pictured), both of whom have made the transtition to performing in a second language.

Listen in iTunes or here.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Grammar tips in Brazil, and magic in a second language

  1. Lauren Cruz

    As a student taking an Intercultural Communications class at Northern Virginia Community College I found this podcast to be of even more interest. It’s always fascinating me to see what other cultures are up to and where the US falls into rank with that. When I heard that Brazil opened a grammar hotline that received about 90 calls a day I wasn’t sure if this was a good or a bad thing. While it is definitely a new approach and I compliment them on that, it makes one wonder if grammar education has slacked off in schools or if the texting/email language is to blame. I know that my generation has become very lax with grammar and their spelling is quite poor due to the shorthand they use via text. If Brazil is willing to make exceptions for their president’s lack of grammar education what else are they going to let slide? Now I’m not trying to say they are wrong just brings up a good question. Since you’re report on cell phones in Tokyo in 2002, as we all know there has been an explosion of technology here that has allowed almost cellular devices to have web access. We live in a world that lives a fast pace and adores instant gratification. We want everything at our fingertips and recently that wish has been fulfilled whether it be through a smartphone or other portable device. I am 20 years old and I know many people who rely on their phones for all their communication whether it be phone calls, emails or texting. They say it’s easier and more convenient than sitting down to use a computer. Which brings me to the point you brought up about it being easier for kids to express themselves through texting which I find you to be correct on. Texting is a very impersonal way of keeping in touch with someone, it strips away the emotion so many people can’t tell if you’re being serious or sarcastic. This is a way to protect the individual from really putting themselves out there. So who’s to blame here? Is it our need for technology that has stunted our proper use of language or have our schools just become lax in enforcing it?

  2. Michele Chounlamountry

    This particular podcast was very interesting. When I heard that Brazil provided a hotline for individuals to call about grammar I didn’t think there was such a thing, and found it odd at first. And with the younger generation nowadays, communicating via text has become a phenomenon. It has become the new form of communication, and with the rise of cellular technology, many rely on their mobile devices to communicate. Though I personally prefer to communicate via text while it is simple and quick, grammar is one thing that doesn’t strike my attention, and I do believe that texting with improper grammar usage has an affect in the classroom.

  3. Raphael Valdez

    While taking an intercultural communication class at Northern Virginia Community College, this podcast was very relative to what I am learning about in that class. Technology today has become a very important part in everyday life. We live in a world in which cellphones and text messaging are our gateways to instant communication. Today, smartphones are what keeps people on their fingertips in communicating with one another. From emailing, texting, or calling, cellphones are probably the first option to communicate. America is still behind Tokyo in terms of technology. The popularity and heavily use of cellphones is not just seen by teenagers and high schoolers, but with people of all ages. With internet access now available on cellphones, people are most likely to do all their web browsing on the go on their cellphone then at home on the computer. Today’s world is comprised of fast paced and hectic living, thus the innovations of technology are made to help better this lifestyle. Even though texting is a very good way to communicate, it somehow takes away the relevance of face to face communication. With texting, you sometimes can’t tell whether a certain text is serious or not. Therefore, texting does not really express real emotion. The use of cellphones has also been problematic in schools, with students always using them during class time. Brazil’s president Luiz Inacio de Silva has caused a lack of grammar education during his speeches by mixing his grammar. This began the establishment of a grammar hotline. This grammar hotline is somewhat a good tool in assistance of the Brazilian/Portuguese language, however it can also been seen as a lack of education in grammar in schooling. With technology creating better and easier ways to communicate, shouldn’t we all still keep proper grammar in mind?

  4. Abby

    The phone hotline idea is rather interesting because I feel like it encourages people to have better grammar and to actually get answers. I know several times that if I can’t spell out a word then I generally think of another word to replace the first word. I agree with the writer about the President of Brazil though because reading is important and it’s a fabulous way to improve one’s dictionary and grammar. In my opinion, texting is a great way to communicate but there can also be miscommunication because the receiver can misunderstand the tone of the sender and whatever they say could be offensive. I feel like it ruins the reasons to get together and actually talk face to face. It’s also a major distraction when you’re doing homework or work even if it’s also convenient. I liked the magic trick thing because it shows another way that people can be miscommunicated.

  5. Christian Escobar

    The idea of a grammar hotline seems very interesting. People can ask questions without having the idea in the back of their heads that, “is this a dumb question?” No question is dumb. Everyone should feel free to ask and to have their questions answered. This hotline gives these people the chance to ask without fear. The idea of performing magic is nerve-racking to me, now doing it in another language would just be impossible for me to do. I have a hard just getting my thoughts out in English and that being my first language that I could probably not do it in another .

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