//My Journey in Dayton: Chapter 1. Stick Your Foot In The Breadfruit

Luiza Evora Mota
Tue, May 19, 2015

Language has always been fascinating to me. I have always wondered how the meaning of words and phrases changes from culture to culture. Learning a new language has given me a whole new view on North American culture, my own culture, and my first language, Brazilian Portuguese.

Being immersed in a culture and constantly speaking the language allows everything being said to make sense, but as soon as we have the chance to immerse ourselves into another culture, idioms and expressions make us stop and think,  ‘wait…what?’

The other day, I read the Buzzfeed article “10 Brazilian Expressions That Should Exist In English” by Julia Furlan. Some of my favorites include:

·         Jogar o verde pra colher maduro (to throw out a green fruit and pick it up ripe), which means to hear a secret or something confidential without directly asking about it.

·         Enfiar o pé na jaca (to stick your foot in the breadfruit), which means really go for it and/or exaggerate without caring. For example, if you’re on a diet but one day you eat too much junk food without caring.

·         Tempestade em copo d’água (a hurricane in a cup of water), which means to make a huge deal out of a situation that is not very serious.

Looking from the outside, these expressions are funny, they seem silly, and they do not make a lot of sense, but in Brazil these sayings are embedded in our culture and are a part of everyday conversation.

Becoming fluent in a new language requires more than following a textbook since we cannot always interpret phrases literally. You need a certain level of cultural fluency and experience. For true understanding, we need to understand what the expression and/or idiom means in that particular culture.

What are some expressions/idioms in your culture that cannot be literally translated to another language?