America,  Paraguay,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Santa Cruz, Sao Paulo and Asuncion: the clash of languages

To go from Santa Cruz (Bolivia) to Asuncion (Paraguay), we had to make a stopover in Sao Paulo (Brazil). I know, the way isn’t the shortest but it is the cheapest (250$/person).
In these 3 cities, I had a little trouble understanding what people were saying.
In Santa Cruz, people often “forget” to pronounce the “s” sound and it adds a big difficulty of comprehension. This is the first time in Bolivia that I have so much trouble understanding Spanish. Luckily, my teacher in Sucre warned me that the “s” was missing, so I have to make people repeat it several times. This worries me a little bit because I was told that the Spanish in Cuba was like the one in Santa Cruz.
In Sao Paulo, we only spend a few hours at the airport, but those few hours are enough for us to realize one thing: if even the people working at the airport don’t speak English, Brazilians won’t speak English either. We will have to learn Portuguese ASAP. This is the first time I hear the Brazilian accent outside of bossa nova songs, and I have to tell you that I am very shocked because it has nothing to do with the musicality of the songs. It’s pretty bad actually with a lot of “sh”, “eeee”, “eeen”; sounds that I call “metallic”… I miss the “o” and “a” in Spanish! Brazilians don’t like to be spoken to in Spanish, they even find it insulting. Unfortunately, we now have the reflex to say “gracias”, all the time, all the time. During those few hours in Sao Paulo, we used to say “gracias” before switching to English “thank you” or “obrigado” to not offend them.
In Asuncion, I find the beautiful sound of Spanish but with a musicality totally different from that of Argentina, Chile, Peru or Bolivia. They have a rather special accent, a bit surprising at first when you listen to them. They speak extremely fast too but the good news is that no consonants are swallowed, the musicality is just a little bit different, but the content remains pretty much the same. Here, the vocabulary changes a little bit and we find more Spanish words from Spain, and expressions from Spain. I’m so glad I took lessons in Sucre, without which I would never have been able to understand a single word in Paraguay.
In short, once again, I strongly recommend that you start learning Spanish and Portuguese for your stay in South America. Every time I manage to communicate successfully with a local, I have this indescribable feeling of having accomplished something big and important ahaha.
I think my learning of Portuguese will be a bit difficult because at the moment I still can’t reproduce the “Brazilian” sounds well. We’ll see in a month, when we’ll spend 2 weeks in Rio de Janeiro 馃榾

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