Saturday, 6 February 2016
My first Carnival: Is Language just words?
Well as most of you know I'm currently in the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil. I've spoken about it quite a few times and even written an article on adjectives to describe cities that was inspired by this stunning, yet vibrant city.
Last night 'Carnival 2016' started and it was my first taste of a real Brazilian carnival. They say that the best one is in Rio, but I really enjoyed my first experience in a city I adore. We have our own carnival in England in Notting Hill, but it is nowhere near the same level.
Carnival has religious origins and is usually celebrated in the months of February and March and was originally created to celebrate the harvest in Spring in Europe... but here in Brazil it is summer... and very very hot.
So enough of the history, as much like Christmas in England, carnival seems to have lost much of its historical and religious references.
So what is it?
In a nutshell, a big lorry drives very slowly through the streets with a band on top playing music, while people walk, either in front or behind of the big vehicle, drinking an singing all of whom are dressed in costumes ranging from Batman to Princess Zelda. In other words it's a big street party, but this definition is very, very literal and doesn't do it justice.
I often say that language is not just words, but it is a culture. There are words in my first language that have a huge cultural impact on me and are references to things that someone who hasn't embraced my culture, wouldn't get: for example the word 'spam'. I'll write an article about that soon.
The truth is that if you want to truly learn a language then you should embrace the culture of those words. When I speak Portuguese, people can tell my version (it's not perfect) is based on Brazilian and I understand some of the things that impact on them, rather than Portuguese from Portugal.
So for me to summarise the Brazilian Carnival in such a way, just giving a literal definition, is not embracing what it really is: a wild and wonderful, colourful and elaborate street party that allows this country the opportunity to secretly embrace some of its wonderful history. The streets are filled with revellers listening to Rock, Pop and Samba, If you're in Brazil in the months of February or March, and Carnival is happening, the I promise you'll enjoy it. Try something, but you'll never know what you're missing until you fully embrace it.
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