Running in Curitiba: Starting Again

Running injury in Curitiba, Brazil

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far way… I used to run for an athletics club.  I wasn’t ever any good, but I did like the idea of being the next Seb Coe or Steve Cram.

Then I found the joys and delights in beer, clubs and countless other things that don’t lend themselves to athletic prowess and running, along with other sports, became a passive activity, to be enjoyed from the sofa with a remote control in one hand a cold one in the other.

Those days of sofa sport have finally caught up with me and now I am in need of getting back into shape.  Sports like football demand some level of talent, which I never had.  They also mean playing with teammates and the thought of letting other people down through my lack of skills and fitness really puts me off taking them up again.

So I returned to running.

I started running a few months ago and everything was going well.  I had signed up for a half marathon and I was following a plan designed to avoid injury and get me to the end of the course in under 2.5 hours.  I had new running shoes and my family bought me some running gear for Christmas.

And then my knee went.  Whenever I planted my foot I had a sharp pain in my right knee.  As a typical man brought up in a working class household, I tried to ignore the pain, hoping it would go away on its own.

It didn’t.

I had to see a doctor and he told me I had hyper-extension.  The solution was physiotherapy to build up the muscles in my thigh.

After a month of this I have finally got back on the road and I am running again.  I did a 2.75km run and it nearly killed me.  But in a good way.  I am bursting to go for another run, but I am determined to take my time and build it up slowly.  The one thing I don’t want to do is push it too much and ruin my knee, or something else, and spend another few months on the sofa.

Over the next few months I plan to occasionally write about my running exploits and how they fit into a life as a dad and being in Brazil.

And by the way, if anyone else is on Runkeeper and would like to laugh at/with me and my progress, feel free to send a request to my account under the name of Stephen Greene in Curitiba, Brazil.

Image Credit

Exit to the Light by Rupert Ganzer (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A Bilingual Child: Little Daddy

Bilingual Child, Brazil, English, Portuguese

Brazil may be a huge country, but Brazilians love making everyone and everything in it as small as possible.  One thing I noticed early on when learning Portuguese was the prevalence of the suffix –inho or –inha.  They use it on the end of words to form the diminutive, and they use it all the time.

This means that a ‘coffee’ (café) becomes ‘cafezinho’, ‘grande’ (big) can be ‘a little bit big’ (grandinho), and ‘never’ (nunca) can be ‘never, ever’ when it is used as ‘nuncinha‘. 

Even the word little itself ‘pequeno’ can be made even littler by saying ‘pequeninho’.

However, a small t-shirt (camisa) is not a camisnha because camisinha means condom.

This little suffix be used to mean something is actually small but not exclusively so.  It can also be used to show familiarity, friendliness or that something is just so damned cute.

The basic rule is that you add –inho to masculine words and –inha to feminine words.  However, if the word ends in the letter ‘z’, or vowel other than ‘a’ or ‘or’ then we have wither –zinho or –zinha, depending on the gender of the word.

English uses the diminutive a lot less than Portuguese.  Footballers and children are fond of adding a ‘y’ to the end of names to sound familiar, so that you will hear them referring to their teammates as ‘Scholesy’ and ‘Giggsy’.  In terms of more formal English, we have imported the suffix -ette from French so that we get words like ‘kitchenette’ and ‘cigarette’.

There are also different varieties of English around the world that have their own diminutive forms, like my dad shows his Irish roots by adding -een to the end of various words, for example, ‘Would you like a cuppeen of tea?’ is a common expression in our house.

In general, though, we don’t have a common diminutive form, and when we do use it we are nothing like as proficient as Portuguese speakers for employing it.

An advert for Coke in Ecuador makes fun of the Brazilian predilection for diminutives

Diminutives in Action

Mr T has picked up on this in his Portuguese and is enjoying playing with words and liberally adding –inho to them.  He was begging me to let him watch Batman the other day and, because we have a rule that he can only watch at night the answer was no.  But he is nothing if not persistent and so asked if we could watch Batmanzinho, or just a little batman.

Mr T couldn’t tell you the rule about when to say –inho or –zinho, but he has shown us that he is aware of it.  He did this when playing with the English word ‘daddy’.  First of all he called me ‘daddyinho’, but he knew this was wrong almost as soon as it came out of his mouth.  A few seconds later he repeated himself, but this time said ‘daddyzinho’.

I liked this because it shows he is being creative with his language, playing with it to get new words and meanings.  He also did it with a look on his face to suggest he knew what he was doing was a joke at my expense and that he also knew that he shouldn’t really be doing this in English.

The only downside is that I am little daddy and not big daddy.  But at least my name isn’t Shirley.

More on diminutives in Portuguese

Portuguese Language Blog

Portuguêse é Massa (Portuguese for Foreigners)



Big Daddy by Paul Townsend CC BY-NC 2.0

A Bilingual Child: Communication Strategies and the Wrong Language

A bilingual child responds in the 'wrong' language and uses lots of communication strategiesI read a very instructive post recently by Multilingual Living called ‘4 reasons why a bilingual child answers in the “wrong” language.’

My almost-4-year-old son replies to me in the ‘wrong’ language.  By ‘wrong language’ I mean that I speak to him in English and he usually replies in Portuguese.  I think the main reason for this is that he knows I understand him so it is easier for him to use the language he encounters 99% of the time.

I am not particularly worried about this.  Before Mr T was even born we decided on what our language plans were going to be.  One of the principles we came up with was that our child should be free to use whatever language he/she wanted to use.  The aim was communication, not communication in a specific language.  We didn’t want to force our child to speak a particular language as we thought this might lead to resentment.  Instead, we hope that through constant exposure the two languages would be picked up normally.

He seems to have a great passive knowledge of English, as he seems to understand pretty much everything I say to him.  This patient approach is also starting to provide some success as he has been producing more English with me in the last few weeks, even if it is stock phrases like, ‘I’m the boss in this house!’ and ‘I’m not tired!’

He is exposed to quite a bit of English.  He obviously hears me speaking all the time, and when his mamãe and I are speaking in his presence we usually use English as well.  We try to make sure that any TV he watches is in English, and most of the songs we listen to are also in English.  Finally, there is his family in the UK that speaks English to him.

And this UK family is perhaps the key yo the whole thing.  They speak very little, if any, Portuguese so when he is with them he has a choice.  Either make the effort to speak English, find a different way of communicating, or simply not be understood.

When we were in the UK over Christmas and New Year, his mamãe and I went to Edinburgh for a few days, leaving Mr T in the capable hands of my parents.  We were slightly worried about how they were going to communicate, but regular Skype calls home reassured us that there were no huge problems.  Mr T was able to find a way of communicating his needs.  Sometimes, this was by taking his time to think about an English word. At other times it took a bit more creativity, like jumping up and down and holding his crotch to show my dad he needed to go to the toilet.

He has even started to do this with me now.  The other day he wanted to know how to say ‘siga‘ in English.  I pretended that I didn’t understand, hoping that I could get him to remember it in English himself.  Instead he acted it out with one hand following another.

It is these communication strategies that I find amazing.  A desire to get your meaning across, couple with a knack for using whatever tool is at your disposal is surely an important life skill that will serve him well in the future, whatever that might be.


Image Credit

Chess by Sasha the Okay Photographer CC BY 2.0

Living in Brazil: Lovers’ Day

Lovers' Day and LGBT community in Brazil

Here in Brazil, June 12th is the equivalent of February 14th in the UK.  Back home we have St. Valentine’s Day where everybody in a relationship is guilted into spending a fair whack of their money on flowers, chocolates cards and dinner.  A couple of the details in Brazil are different (there is no culture of giving cards for any reason) but the general result of spending far too much money is basically the same.  And instead of naming the day after a saint, it is simply call Dia dos Namorados (Lovers’ Day).

My wife and I made a deal a long time ago that we are in the UK we would only celebrate the Brazilian Lovers’ Day in June, and when we were in Brazil we would only celebrate the British Valentine’s Day in February.  This has the very pleasant result of easily getting  a table in a restaurant and not getting quite so fleeced with expensive and tacky chocolates.

This year, though, is going to be different.  This year I have decided to buy my wife some smelly stuff from the chain of shops called Boticário.

I have not discovered some deeply hidden romantic side, nor have I become the last of the big spenders.  Instead, I am responding to an advert that the company has been running here in Brazil and has caused quite a stir.

I usually go out of my way to try to not respond to adverts.  I know that I probably do, subconsciously, but when I am aware of an advert trying to fool me into buying something my stubborn streak shows up and refuses to let me.  But this advert is different.

It’s a 30-second advert, and the first 15 seconds are your standard glossy fare that you might exect from a perfume shop.  We see a various people preparing for a date with a wrapped bottle of what we assume to be perfume carefully placed in the shot.  The way the opening scene is edited seems to pair up each couple so that they are all heterosexual couples of similar ages and backgrounds.

But then in the last 15 seconds, we see that we have been fooled, that our expectations have been played upon, because we have a young lesbian couple, a middle-aged gay couple and the expected heterosexual couple.  We see hugs, which is nothing unusual here in Brazil no matter what the sex of the individuals might be, but there is also at least one sultry look to leave th viewer in no doubt as to the intentions of those involved.

I must admit I was shocked to see such an advert here in Brazil.  While great advances have been made by the LGBT community, there is still a lot of resistance to them in society.  This is partly down to the power and wealth of the evangelical churches here who are not afraid to throw their considerable resources behind anything that might smack of letting people do what they want in their own bedrooms.  As well as this, there is the old-fashioned macho culture and fear of homosexuality that still hasn’t disappeared.

I was shocked, then, because this is a potentially risky message from Boticário.  Yes, they will make money from people who are part of the LGBT community and people like myself who support a society free from all forms of discrimination.  But they also run the risk of being denounced from the pulpits and soapboxes by some very loud and opinionated preachers and politicians.

So that is why I am going to buy my wife something for this Lovers’ Day, and it is going to be some perfume from Boticário, to support this message and to show that there is a return for companies that interested in doing what is right no matter what their risks might be.

And who knows, maybe next year they’ll have somebody in their adverts who isn’t completely white.


Image Credits

Valentines Chocolates by Stewart Butterfield  – CC BY 2.0

Heart Bokeh 2 by Lee Ann L. – CC BY-NC 2.0