Eavesdropping and language learning

As I write this blog comment I am in São Paulo, Brazil, accompanying a group of our Texas MBA students on a “global connections trip”, (check out the picture at ESPN Brazil studios).

As related to language learning, returning to São Paulo is like returning home.  This is where I first learned to speak Portuguese.  It’s great to hear Paulistano Portuguese again.  I find myself continually catching little pieces of people’s conversations.  On the street, in stores, at restaurants, on the subway, everywhere I go.  And it’s kind of on purpose, but it’s kind of not.  Yesterday the thought hit me…., I’m basically eavesdropping on others!  Weird, I’m not sure how I feel about it!  Part of me thinks that as a language learner, it is informative to hear people’s accents, intonation, it’s like some kind of academic study.  However there is also a part of me that thinks that I it’s kind of creepy my listening in on people’s conversations in those terms!  What kind of strange person goes around listening to other’s conversations, any way?

So where do I draw the line?

In Portuguese there is a great phrase, and concept called, ‘matar saudades’ – something like ‘killing your homesickness.’  That is totally how I feel about being in São Paulo again.  I am getting over my São Paulo home sickness, reliving places, sounds, smells, foods, etc.

So for all of you language learners out there, I go ahead, try a little “eavesdropping.”  No need to be creepy and follow people around, but at the same time, take time to listen to people around you.  Pick out the new words, the emotion that accompanies the way people say things, the intonation,  the gestures that fit with phrases, and learn new ways to say something.

We’ll just keep the little “eavesdropping secret” between us language learners.

 

 

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