26 March 2012
Why, Oh Why, Oh Why, Oh . . .
It's a battle I continue to lose. Brazilians, as a group, learn English quickly and speak it very, very well, almost with no accent. But even some of the most competent Brazilian speakers of English drop the Y. And why shouldn't they? It's simply not part of their alphabet, or wasn't until 1990, when it was welcomed into the fold by yet another in a long series of spelling reforms. In fact, three letters were welcomed that year, Y, K and W. Brazilians do fine with the K, after all, they know all about kilograms, and the W is not a problem, given the penchant of Brazilians for naming their kids Washington, Wellington and Wagner. But they don't know what in the world to do with the Y. So most of the time they just ignore it. I think they're hoping we won't notice.
Well, there are many examples, each more charming than other. We hear the most competent announcers on Radio MEC, Brazil's classical radio station, say, "You've just heard the Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 35, of Tchaikovsk." I find that amusing, but I'm easily amused. And speaking of "easily," there's my biggest challenge in English classes. The word "ease" (eez) tends to be pronounced "ee-zee" here, and the word "easy" (ee-zee) tends to be pronounced "eez." As for that letter Y . . . I know it will continue to be dropped, and I know I will continue to lean forward, waiting for that last syllable that I'm wired to hear.