Posts Tagged ‘portugal’

My Angolan Family

I often find the Angolan concept of “family” amusing. Someone may say that “so-and-so” is their brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, or grandparent. If you inquire about the specifics of that relationship, be prepared for a long and complicated explanation that you just may not understand. In many cases there may not even be any blood connection, but they are still family nonetheless. Many different circumstances may cause people to become family. In Angola many families were separated from each other, new family bonds were created by those who shared lives and experiences together as they fled or endured the war around them. Other times those who had perhaps lost their family to the war would be taken in by other families.

Nathan and his Family

My first real glimpse into this world began last year as I got to know an Angolan family from church. Rogerio & Celestina Makiese had their first son Memoire (or Rogerio Dula) in Angola. After arriving in Portugal they had two daughters Amanda and Noemia. Then this last summer they adopted another son to be a part of their family…

The Makiese family had recently moved from a tiny apartment in downtown Lisbon to a larger house a little farther out of town. I had come over to their house for lunch one day after church and jokingly asked their son Rogerio if he wanted a roommate. He got really excited about the idea and asked his parents. They considered the idea and told me that God had provided them a new home so that they could use it for His kingdom, and since I was going to take the gospel to their homeland  and their people it was their responsibility to take me in and it would be irresponsible for me not to move in with them. I couldn’t argue with that, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I moved in a week later.

Moving in, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to practice my Portuguese, learn about Angolan culture, and that it would be a great chance to acclimate to Angolan food. And of course it has been all of those things, but it has been so much more. I now have an Angolan family in Portugal, they are not ”like family” they are my family. It will be just as hard to leave my family in Portugal behind as it was to leave my American family. But I am blessed beyond measure to have families in the US and Portugal that love and support me. The Makiese family are without a doubt the biggest blessing that God has given me in the last year and they will be my family para sempre.

The Church in Lisbon Partners With Us

Almost as soon as each of us arrived in Portugal, our team jumped right in with the Igreja de Cristo Lisboa (ICL) and they welcomed us and our broken Portuguese with great patience and a kiss on each cheek.

The ladies on the team have attended several baby showers with the ICL this year.

We are active members with ICL, doing things like helping clean the church building, traveling to witness a baptism, helping out with summer camp, attending area-wide women’s events, setting up for a wedding, teaching in various forms, visiting people in the hospital, going to baby showers and other parties, and inviting people into our homes. We go, not just because we need to “practice our Portuguese,” but because we are part of ICL. It is often tiring to go, get out of our comfort zones, and try to communicate, but the blessings that we receive from the patient ears and the loving arms of the church make it that much easier.

ICL has asked us how they can be part of spreading the Gospel in Angola. So, this past Sunday, we gave a presentation, as part of their 2011 vision-casting meeting, about ways they can get involved.

Our 15 minute presentation began with Danny giving a summary of why we are going to Angola and why we need people all over the world to partner with us. Robert then communicated our desire for the church in Lisbon to work alongside us,  encouraged them to think about ways that they could contribute, and gave them ways to stay connected with us through the  internet and by subscribing to our newsletter in Portuguese. Katie talked about how they can use World Bible School (WBS) to reach other Portuguese people and how they can help us by receiving, grading, and responding to WBS students from Angola. Nathan encouraged the members of the church to come and visit us and asked the Angolans of ICL to help us learn more about Angolan culture. Teague invited the church to help us by proofreading the Portuguese materials that we develop and by developing materials themselves for us to use. Then she invited ICL to pray on our behalf, giving them specific ways that they can be praying. Jordan finished off the presentation with a sincere thank you for the help and encouragement they have given us. She expressed our desire to help them in any way we can and ensured them that we will be praying for them as they pray for us. She even shed a few perfectly-timed tears.

This was the first time that each of the ladies have spoken in Portuguese in front of a large group. Although our Portuguese was not perfect, the church was very complimentary and encouraging afterward. Eunice, our language teacher, watched a video of the presentation and was also quick to compliment us on how well we did. It was a meaningful way to practice presenting in Portuguese.

You can watch a 15 minute video of the presentation below. When you watch it, try to imagine what it would be like to speak a language that is not natural to you in front of an audience of people who are native to that language.

An Inside Look: Language Learning

Some Background:

The Reeses in Portuguese Class, June 2005

In June 2005, Danny and Katie Reese arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, to get a little Portuguese language learning under their belts. At the time, they, along with Nathan Holland, had a desire to go to Portuguese-speaking, Angola, Africa, to do mission work, but no specific plans were in place. They took a three-week crash course in Portuguese taught by Eunice Carapeto to prepare for the day when they would journey to Angola. Now, 5 years later, the Angola Mission Team is together in Portugal to learn Portuguese!

Eunice has been teaching Portuguese to missionaries bound for work in Portugal or Portuguese speaking Africa for over 25 years. The Angola Mission Team is the first full team that Eunice has taught at the same time. We take up three of Eunice’s four two-hour class slots, Monday through Friday.

Step One: Learn how to make the sounds and emphasize the right syllables.

The Challenge: The English alphabet that you can recite in your sleep becomes 26 new Portuguese sounds. If you have studied another language, you know that it is a difficult task to learn new sounds! For example, in Portuguese, the letter “i” is called “e,” the letter “j” is called “jota,” and the letter “h” is pronounced “ah-gah,” just to name a few. Each letter makes a new sound and when you combine letters they make new sounds of their own.  If you find an “o” at the end of a word you pronounce it “oo” and if you find an “s” at the end of a word, then you end the word with a “sh” sound rather than a “ss” sound.  Therefore, when you find an “os” at the end of a word it is pronounced “oosh.”

How we overcome this challenge: We may never master all the sounds of the Portuguese language, but we practice, practice, practice to have the best accent that we can have. At first Eunice gave us lists of sounds to listen and repeat until absorbed. In class we read our homework, books, and other literature aloud to practice our pronunciation and Eunice corrects us as needed.

Teague, Jordan, & Katie's Portuguese Class, November 2010

Step Two: Learn the grammar.

The Challenge:  Our communication is limited by how much grammar we know.  So gradually Eunice introduces various grammar concepts and we advance as we become more proficient in these concepts. Eunice says that with

Portuguese “there are lots of rules and few exceptions” and with English “there are few rules and lots of exceptions.” Keeping irregular verbs straight and using the right preposition are difficult at first, but with practice we become better and better at it.

How we overcome this challenge: In addition to a constant diet of worksheets, where repetition starts to give us an ear for correct grammar, translation is also helpful for becoming more proficient. We translate English writing into Portuguese and Portuguese into English, correcting our mistakes with Eunice so that we can grow in our understanding of Portuguese grammar.

Step Three: Learn how to spit the words out of your mouth.

The Campbells in Portuguese Class, September 2010

The Challenge:  Our tongues need loosening. As much as we can communicate on paper or even verbally in class, it is very difficult to come up with the words on the spur of the moment. Our brains are trying to use the right words, right pronunciation, and right grammar all at the same time and it is very difficult to just spit the words out when we are conversing with someone at church or other people who we encounter in our everyday lives.

How we overcome this challenge: More practice. Not only do we practice sounds and grammar, but we practice speaking and conversing. Along with the conversation and reading aloud that we do in class we recite “grupos.” Grupos are a list of statements and questions, designed by Eunice to help with fluency, that are more like tongue twisters to those of us who haven’t been speaking Portuguese very long. Each list comes with a time limit and we practice reciting the list over and over until we are able to read the list clearly under the allotted amount of time.

So there you have it! Throw in some new vocabulary here and there and you are practicing and learning the Portuguese language!