Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Don’t get me wrong – I adore my mother tongue. But even I have to admit there are simply some things it faltas – er, lacks – when compared to other languages. So for PCVs, we just incorporate these essential Portuguese words into English. Here are a few of the need-to-know phrases if you ever hope to have a coherent conversation with a Moz PCV.

English: already
But really…: simplest way to say that something is/has already been done.
“I já saw this episode, how ‘bout the next one?”

Person A: “I’m going to the market to grab some tomatoes.
Person B: “Já.”
Person A: “Oh okay, nevermind.”

Person A: “Check out that chique guy at the next table.”
Person B: “Jaaaaaaa.”

Portuguese: negar
English: to say no, deny
But really…: pretty much that, only simpler
“Wow, I only had to negar three marriage proposals at the market today. Do you think maybe they’re starting to take the hint?”

Person A: “Check out this awesome Michael Jackson jumpsuit I found at the calamadadies market!”
Person B: “Yeah, sorry, I’m going to have to negar your ever wearing that in public…”

Person A: “You want to buy some bolachas?”
Person B: “I’m negar-ing.”

Portuguese: conseguir
English: to manage to do
But really…: anything that you manage to do or attain, usually some sort of accomplishment
“Hey, did you conseguir the matapa?”

“I conseguir-ed the most amazing boleia to the beach yesterday – seatbelts and air conditioning!”

Portuguese: pedir
English: to ask for
But really…: anytime you need or want something; in Portuguese the phrase “Estou a pedir…” literally means “I am asking for…” and is used instead of a request with “please”
“Estou a pedir tomato sauce.” (real English: Pass the ketchup.)

“Check out that guy’s Obama shirt! I’m going to pedir him for it.”

“That lady by the chapa stop pedir-ed my hair – I’m selling it to her for 3,000 mets!”

Portuguese: faltar
English: to lack , to be lacking
But really…: whenever you are missing something, or feel the absence of something; in Portuguese to “sentir falta de alguem” means to feel the absence of someone, or to miss them
“We’re falta a chicken plate – go pedir the waiter.”

“I sentir a falta de Khanimambo. The house just isn’t the same without him.”

Person A: “When does this meeting start?”
Person B: “Falta five minutes…or 95 minutes, Mozambican time.”

Portuguese: estamos juntos
English: we are together
But really…: the most sure and polite way to end a conversation, or reassure a person you’re on good terms.
“Oh, that’s nice, you have a decent job and are looking for a wife. Okay, estamos juntos.” (and walk away quickly)

Person A: “Estamos juntos?”
Person B: “Estamos juntos.” (smile, nod, high five, walk away feeling good)

Portuguese: aproveitar
English: to take advantage of
But really…: exactly that
“Could you turn in my grades for me Friday? I’m aproveitar-ing a boleia straight to Maputo on Thursday.”

“This bathroom has toilet paper and running water! You should totally aproveitar.”

Portuguese: tudo bem/bom
English: everything’s good
But really…: used in greetings, as an agreement or just as reassurance; also overly used in annoying Vodacom adverts
Person A: “Hey man, tudo bem?”
Person B: “Tudo bem.”

Person A: “Haven’t seen you in forever! How’s life?”
Person B: “Tudo bom.”