By Carla Scheidegger
Around the World Column

Since my last trip to Brasil in March of this year, I have been reflecting about what “returning” to the place where I was born and grew up does to me and my family, as well as the what are the implications to our daily life. To help me in this somewhat philosophical matter, I spoke to Andreia Moroni, a researcher dedicated to study Portuguese as a Heritage Language within the Brazilian community in Catalonia (Spain). In our chat we made some discussions on the the different meanings of the word “return” and would like to share them with you.


Return to the point of departure
The first point of view brought up by Andreia was that, if we think about return as “going back”, you think about the fantasy of a possible reestablishment in Brazil: How would my life be if i still lived there?

She explained that life abroad brings insecurities and frustrations that can be practical  – such as, solving banking issues, enrolling the kids in school, finding a job – or social, when the limitations to express oneself and live in accordance with certain cultural values appear. The chance of returning would be, therefore, a safe harbor, the possibility to go back to a comfortable cultural zone, to the familiar.

Andreia went through this effective returning experience, when she moved back to Campinas from Barcelona with her family, without knowing that she would one day go back to Spain. She says that it was a cultural shock, since she already had absorbed some aspects of the Catalan culture. “We went through a stage of readaptation, even of a physiological kind, for example with meal times.” With this anecdote, we got to the conclusion that, whoever lives far from their homeland, never returns to their departure point, since, as Andreia perfectly reminds us, “you cannot bathe in the same river twice” (Heraclitus).

Return as going again
For the families that can spend vacations in Brazil, the return is a moment of happiness, in which the roots are strengthened and the loved ones can be visited. But for the kids that were born outside of Brazil, this visit is much more of a trip than a return, since their departure point is the place where they were born and grew up.

To them, going to Brazil is an opportunity to live in practice what they are taught at home as well as to collect good experiences. It’s the “Fantasy Land”, as Andreia describes it; a chance to get spoiled by the family, to be more free, to meet cousins, and to be around other Portuguese speakers.

According to her, “there the language blooms”. And I add that there the learning of the heritage language becomes concrete, since it nurtures positive aspects from Brazil.

Goods that are taken and exchanged
Looking over this aspect, we talked about what we bring to and back from Brazil in our suitcase. We take with us gifts, expectations, love, and we bring back things that “will help build a Brazilian identity”, declares Andreia. “I brought a Terracota water jug once and I am always glad to offer my guests fresh water”, she said proudly.

The professionals from PHL, besides seeming like walking libraries, enjoy recycling their speeches, and search for current products in the culture – materials that can be used in their pedagogical activities. The return is heavy and uncomfortable, literally.

Return to the original way of expressing
Lastly, this is the definition of return that pleased me the most in my talk with Andreia. To the kids that are raised in contact with Portuguese and the Brazilian culture living outside of Brazil, the participation in activities that celebrate Portuguese as a Heritage Language lead by professionals that go back and come back updated and refreshed means “to create an affective identity with Brazil, expanding the use of their knowledge and giving a chance to express this culture.”

Going back and expressing themselves is a form of maintenance of this heritage, making it alive and applied. It is a continuous return to a place which already existed within them.

Translated by Julio Carvalho de Soares

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 7.27.27 AMBorn in São Paulo, she inherited the German language and culture from her parents. She has been living in Germany for 13 years, valuing diversity each day a little more.


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