Connection Rio team member Torryn Heffelfinger details his experience of learning Portuguese for BJJ & MMA – and how he went from zero to having full conversations!
This post was written by Connection Rio team member Torryn Heffelfinger. He blogs weekly on life and training BJJ, wrestling and MMA in Rio de Janeiro. This is an excerpt from his weekly blog “Training the Dream”. Click the link to read the full post.
Picking up on my Portuguese
Over the last two weeks I have seen a dramatic improvement in another area—my Portuguese. Over the course of the last year my Portuguese has been improving step by step; starting with only basic words and now being able to have conversations with people. The last two weeks here have been almost like an immersion course for me. In Rio I can often times get away with speaking minimal Portuguese.
Though I speak Portuguese everyday, English is by far what I speak the most. Either I am at the CR house (where almost everyone speaks at least a bit of English) or I am with Brazilian friends who want to work on their English. Here in Gramado that has not been the case. For the last two weeks I am the only Gringo I have seen, and while a decent number of people speak English, most do not. So I was faced with a choice: either speak Portuguese or be very very quiet for the two weeks I am here.
For the first few days I didn’t say much (actually outside of coaching and training very little), but as I got more comfortable I started speaking more. Little by little I added my thoughts on training or different fighters, and soon progressed to talking about different topics and having actual conversations outside of martial arts. It has been great to start to get to know guys better on a personal level than just through the fight game. While I still get a bit lost in some conversations and large groups of people talking really throws me off, it has been great to pick up on my language skills and actually be able to give my input instead of just being a fly on the wall.
I have even been helping some of the guys down here with their English. While most of the time I am genuinely helping the guys it has given me the chance to have a little fun. For example Joilton (who finds it halarious to speak to me in Spanish instead of Portuguese) spent a day or two around the gym sharing his new English phrase ‘I like big di–‘ I’ll let your imaginations fill in the rest.