LINGUISTICS & CULTURE
|Data:||25/JUN/2007 1:52 PM|
Nice story, Marcio, but it sounds like just another story to me.
I have met several people who learned English as adults and had no trouble passing as native speakers.
The first Brazilian I ever met was Marcos, a former journalist from Rio. His newspaper sent him to Moscow for a couple years. This must have been in the 1950s. Marcos was greeted upon his arrival by a man at the airport. Marcos told the man how surprised he was to meet another Brazilian so far from home. It turned out that his new friend was Russian. Although he had never been in Brazil in his life, the Russian spoke Portuguese like a Brazilian. He had memorized the maps of several cities. He would say, for example, if you are in the city of Curitiba, standing with your back to the Bar do Alemao, the calcadao is X number of blocks to your left and three to your right. Who was the Russian? I think it's safe to assume he was from the KGB or similar organization.
Many years ago I worked in an Italian delicatessen. The elder of the two sons was born in Italy, the younger was born in the USA. Virno was about 10 when he came to the USA. Years later he won a scholarship to study in Italy. A few weeks before he was to leave, World War II broke out. To make a long story short, he was in the US Army when he and several other native speakers of Italian were recruited for special training. He said there were more professors than students. (As I recall, there were about 25-26 students.) They were trained in many areas, but let's stick to his language training. One of the exercises was to be placed in a booth with another student. They would chat about anything they wanted. The taped conversations would be critiqued by professors who would point out their mistakes. Perhaps a word was mispronounced, perhaps it was a word from another dialect, etc. (There are more than two dozen dialects spoken in Italy.) Perhaps they said something that the average Italian would know was wrong.
The purpose of the training was to infiltrate the men into Italy to organize and/or lead partisan groups. Although Virno was from Lucca (Tuscany), they wanted to send him to Sicily. Strange... For various reasons, he refused to go. With a Toscano accent, surely he would have been identified easily. Anyway, he spent much of the war infiltrating POW camps. They would dress him up as an Italian Prisoner of War, put him in a camp for a week or so, pull him out, and debrief him. During his time in the camp, he would learn if there were any problems, any trouble-makers, etc. Again, all the men in the course were native speakers who were in the US Army. Although native speakers, they needed help to pass as native speakers in Italy.
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