In good essay writing you generally start with a broad statement then work your way own to a more concise point, so here goes.
Learning a second language is hard.
Okay now for my real point. Before I came to Brazil, I really worked hard studying books and such to learn Portuguese. Hence, I was a good writer and reader but listening and speaking were hard. Since I´ve been here my primary method of learning has been through what I hear around me. This is good because I can hear how people actually use the language and correct pronunciation and all, but it has it´s downfalls, too.
First of all there is the human error factor. As you know in English as well, some people use language correctly and some people do not. The problem is here I don´t know exactly which are which, so I have to be careful who I model myself after.
Next is the slang factor, which is somewhat related to the above issue. Most slang is fine, I think, but sometimes it´s just wrong and I don´t want to learn ghetto Portuguese.
Closely linked to the slang factor is the dirty word factor. Let me give you an example. I have a dear friend here who I spend a good deal of time with, yet this person has a... ahem... colorful vocabulary in Portugese. So, although I adore this person, I have to be careful and not repeat what they say. Which is really difficult, because I´m realizing how infantile I´m becoming in my language learning here (which is natural). I am sort of like a parrot, and I have started talking like my friends and saying what they say. But the problem comes when they´re saying things that I don´t need to repeat, and I don´t realize it.
The complicating factor is that "dirty words" are so subjective. You all know, of course, that we have varying degrees of dirty words in English. There are the boogers, butts, freakin´s, craps, and the list goes on. So one day a couple of weeks ago I sat down with a good friend of mine here who I trust in judgment and Christian wisdom (and she´s my age, so my generation speaking), and I kind of went through the list of questionable words I know in Portuguese to get her opinion on whether I should say them or not. I think that was a good move.
I´m not a language prude. Language is my business, I´m a fairly artsy person, so I have a sort of liberal attitude about this issue. I don´t run around shooting my mouth off, but sometimes I think a "dirty word" is a extremely appropriate, more so than other words. But the root of this issue is that I want and need to know exactly what I´m saying. Words are powerful, and can be used for great good and evil. Proverbs says they´re like arrows-- so I want to be sure I´m shooting straight.