Que? Não. Sim. Obrigada. Não sei, have all been my frequented go to responses to any and every question or situation since my arrival in Brazil. My use of Não sei, came to a head this past week though. My understanding of Portuguese has made some ground so when my mãe asked me if I was having lunch at the apartment my undecided response was identical to my English response; I don’t know or Não sei. She repeated herself. I replied again Não sei. She asked if I understood and said it another way slower. I responded Sim, não sei. Mãe proceeded to holler for my sister who was chit chatting with her friend in the living room. Mãe walked me with her to the living room and repeated herself yet again. My sister’s friend who speaks English translated mãe’s question and I answered her, “Yes I know I’m just undecided. It’s ok I will just eat here for lunch.” In my haste I said in English what time is lunch. My sister’s friend immediately asked in Portuguese for me. I said to myself, geez luweez I know how to ask that.
To take things to another level I have to ask myself, how and when else can a challenge with language impact communication? My lunch misunderstanding is an ordinary example of when a breakdown in communication can create unnecessary confusion. As a public health professional I need to be able to understand information spoken and provided to me, as well as convey information in an understandable manner. Relying on the simplicity of my American vernacular is not appropriate for any and every question or situation. My audience is not always like me and I have to conduct myself accordingly. I need to make the conscious effort to be understood, and not force my way of understanding on another. Taking the time to reflect, digest, and speak more conservatively with a foreign language was a lesson learned for me.
“The struggle is real, because you make it real”- Dr. Kim Ramsey-White