Sometimes when the phone rings I feel a little apprehensive.
Aimee has been known to stalk us once in a while, and when she's crying I can't help but try and help her.
Yesterday afternoon I was right to feel nervous.
"Oi Elise, como você é? parabéns!"
Oh shit! It was Solicitor's grandmother. She doesn't speak English and I don't speak Portugese. I could attempt to get by in Spanish.
"Hola, estoy bien. Cómo es usted?"
"Sou tão feliz para você. Depois que tudo que você foi por, merece alguma felicidade."
Um. What the fuck?
It's so much easier to communicate when you're in front of the person. You can get by on nods and hand gestures. How the hell was I supposed to do it over the phone?
"Um, hang on one second. Un momento."
I ran to the book shelve with the cordless phone and pulled open the Portugese dictionary.
I always see people in films getting by with a dictionary. That is a complete lie! I had no idea how to begin. Do I attempt to translate and then find a translation for my answer? That would take too long.
I pulled out my mobile and called Solicitor.
"You have to help me!" I whispered urgently. "I don't understand a word your grandmother is saying."
"She's there with you?" Solicitor sounded shocked.
Avó can barely walk. She's 4 foot nothing with extremely frail bones.
"She's on the phone!"
"Tell her you'll call her back. We'll speak to her when I get home."
"Say 'Posso telefoná-lo mais tarde esta noite?'"
I lifted the cordless
"Hello! Um Hola!"
"Olá. Costas bem-vindas. Onde foi?"
I lifted my mobile.
"She said 'Onde foi'?"
"Elise, just repeat what I said. I haven't got time to translate a female gossiping session."
"Okay. What did you say again?"
"Posso telefoná-lo mais tarde esta noite."
I lifted the cordless.
"Avó, Posso telefoná-lo mais tarde esta noite?"
"Naturalmente você pode telefonar me mais tarde. Acabo de querer felicitá-lo, mas esperarei até que meu neto volta para casa. Será melhor se traduz."
I lifted my mobile.
"She said 'se traduz'?"
Solicitor breathed in frustration.
"I've got a meeting in ten minutes. Say goodbye to her and I'll call her later."
He hung up on me! I lifted the cordless. All I have to do is say goodbye. Without sounding like a complete idiot.
"Hola Avó. Um. Hablaré con usted pronto. Adiós?"
"Tá bom. Falarei a você mais tarde. Tome cuidado. Bye."
Yes! I said goodbye without any help! Okay, it was in Spanish, but she obviously understood me.
I really should read the Portugese books that I bought. But to be fair, Solicitor's grandmother is the only one in his whole family that doesn't speak English.
They're all pretty fluent in their mother tongue though. Sometimes they all chatter in a mix of both English and Portugese. They flick between to two with ease, I'm almost jealous at times.
Grandmama used to tell me to learn other languages when I was growing up. I learnt the basics of French and Spanish. French, because Grandmama (and my mother) are originally from France, and Spanish because of my father. But I didn't learn them fluently. I speak enough to get by; "Can I get a taxi?" "I live in a semi-detached house." "How much is that red dress?"
After yesterday I have a new-found project. I am going to learn to speak Portugese fluently. I am also going to brush up on my French and Spanish.
I also want to learn Japanese. You never know when you'll need to use it.
Oh, and German. German is a good language to learn.
And Polish. There are lots of Polish people in London now. It'll help if I know what they're saying.
Okay, I'm going to need to prioritise. In order of importance:
Spanish (French and Spanish will be easy to brush up on, so really it won't take too long)
Japanese (in case I want to do business in Japan, which could happen)
German (good because... well its just good to know)
Polish (I want to get a new kitchen fitted soon)
Greek (I have a friend who lives in Cyprus. The last time I visited her the gardener was talking to me. He could have been chatting me up. Or he could have been asking me what I think of the new potatoes)
Maybe I should switch German and Polish. I'm more likely to need Polish before German right?
Right. I'm going to start. Tomorrow.
Not Tomorrow. Monday. Yes, Monday.