I recently signed a form from the school which I thought was asking my permission for our daughter to watch a documentary with her classmates. It now appears I have given permission for her to appear in a documentary. Fortunately my wife spotted the mistake and can now ensure she is appropriately dressed for the occasion.
The schools have become accustomed to our unpredictable reading of things. Just before Christmas I confidently translated a memo from my son’s school which I thought was asking for a hand with some decorating. The teacher was puzzled and possibly slightly alarmed when I told her I had Thursday afternoon free. It transpired that what they really needed was a sock.
These misunderstandings frustrate even our children at times. We were in a pizza restaurant some years ago with our daughter. She sat there looking angelic and then turned to us and announced there were fuckers at her crèche. We naturally asked her where she had learned to say that and she said it was from her teacher. She must have sensed our concern because she started waving her knife about and repeating the word loudly. It took us some time to realise that faca is the Portuguese word for knife.
Our Portuguese friend’s husband has not been particularly encouraging about our attempts to learn the language. We have tried – I learned some phrases before we came to Portugal but have not yet had an opportunity to tell someone their monastery is beautiful – but just not hard enough. He just laughs and says that even if we learn the language for twenty years we “will still suck at it”.
So I think I might have to revert to the advice given to me by a well-travelled friend at a very late and well-oiled point in our leaving party six years ago. If you want to speak Spanish, he said as we lay on our backs staring at the ceiling, what you have to do is speak English with a lisp. I pointed out it was Portugal we were going to. If you want to speak Portuguese, he said, just speak Spanish.