HELP!!! – Portuguese for Foreigners

Help is one of the first words you should make a priority to learn when travelling to a new country with a different dialect. Often overlooked for it’s importance in daily life, the word can save your or some close to you. Second is the way about asking for help in a non-emergency situation, which is also important in daily life. Instead of a round about way of asking for something you can get to the point with necessary vocabulary. First of is how to ask for help in an emergency.

Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro in 2003 I remember one of OTM’s guests white faced, staggering through the door in the afternoon. He had swum out in front of Barra beach and got caught in the rip tide, pulling him away from the beach. First attempting to fight the current, he swam with all of his strength until exhausting himself. Now completely exhausted and further away from the shore he panicked, screamed and screamed until one of the lifeguards was able to make sense of what was going on. They proceeded to paddle out and pull him back to shore safely and all was good. Out of harms way, the fact suddenly struck him that he did not even know the word for help in Portuguese!

While most visitors to Rio de Janeiro are preoccupied with learning how to speak to the opposite sex or learn how to communicate with their Jiu-jitsu professors, one of the most important words is overlooked… Help! “SOCORRO” (so-ko-ho) is the word in Portuguese for help and is all you need to say in order to get attention and out of what ever situation may be endangering you. Hopefully you never find yourself in a situation where the word needs to be used but it is always better to be prepared than caught unaware.

In a non-emergency situation “Ajuda” or “me-ajuda” (help or help me) can be used in many day to day situations, for example in the market looking for an item or lifting something heavy. For example, “Me ajuda achar as chaves” (help me find the keys).

Good luck and safe travels from Connection Rio!


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  1. [...] Last week we had 3 English guys arrive who are staying for 2 weeks, they had an interesting first couple of days in Rio while checking out the beach. They decided to go for a swim but went out a little further than was safe and couldn’t get back in… Lucky for them a couple of kids who train at Gordo JJ were on hand to go out and rescue them with surf boards! For some advice on getting out of trouble, check this post from Dennis. [...]

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