Today we have another blog post by our Brazilian-Portuguese translator Paula. This time, she considers how language affects the way people perceive you.

The idea that language influences a speaker’s world view is a well debated affair. As a matter of fact, there’s even a linguistics theory about it, known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, or Whorfism. And I have to admit I agree with it.

Why? My mother tongue is Portuguese – Brazilian Portuguese, to be exact. If I asked you to describe Brazilian women, or Latin women as a matter of fact, a series of words would probably pop into your head. I’m willing to bet that one of these would be ‘feisty’ or ‘fiery’. Both, I would say, are accurate.

As a Brazilian, I was taught not to take any nonsense from anyone – the food in the restaurant isn’t what you thought, send it back; the service wasn’t up to standard, complain about it; someone has jumped in front of you in the queue, show them to their place. This last one is actually quite funny. If you want to see Brazilian people get really agitated, queue jump. I guarantee you’ll have a telling off from someone in the queue. My other half, who is English, would tell you that arguments come quite easy to me – that it’s a Latin blood occupational hazard and that I’m very good at it. This part I’ll deny. I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Moving on swiftly… Brazilian Portuguese is very loud and boisterous. To be honest, someone who doesn’t understand Portuguese could even be forgiven for thinking two Brazilian people chatting are actually arguing. Brazilian Portuguese can be very musical, with hands going everywhere as well as people standing very close together. Someone I know once described my way of speaking as quite intimidating because I sound very direct, passionate and blunt about everything.

What has living in the UK done to me?

The interesting thing is that to my fellow Brazilian countrymen I’ve mellowed. Apparently, living in the UK has watered me down and I “apologise for everything”. English in comparison to Brazilian Portuguese is a lot less direct, a lot more apologetic, and a lot less graphic. Of course, this is a broad generalization. And England can be quite intriguing when it comes to linguistic behaviour because the country, although very small, has an amazing array of attitudes and features packed into the boundaries of a small island. I find it easier to generalize Brazilian behaviour, even though the country is a lot bigger (massively in fact), than to generalize British behaviour.

So, my friends have told me that since living in the UK I am a lot more apologetic, a lot less direct, and too easily offended with the way certain things are said in Brazilian. Which is rather curious, bearing in mind that to English people I’m still perceived as very outspoken. To myself I sound the same I have always done, but to my Brazilian friends and family I’m a lot more self-contained and quiet. No, I would never claim to be transforming into an English rose. It would only take 5 minutes of road rage to show you just how Latin my blood still is. Nevertheless, I’m now officially an inhabitant of No Man’s Land – neither 100% English, or 100% Brazilian.