Can You Borrow Me a Pen Please?

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Last updated: July 14, 2018 at 22:00 pm

pen photoOn Guyana’s border with Brazil, I had the honor of interacting with many Brazilian natives coming over to Lethem to buy Chinese merchandise. Some were fluent in English while others could say just a few words.

One evening, at the Takutu Hotel in Lethem, a young woman by the name of Lizangeles approached me and said, “can you borrow me a pen please?”

For us in the English world, this is a strange expression. Needless to say, she was just another Portuguese speaking person trying to learn English – and making all those cute, laughable mistakes that come with learning a new language.

But why this particular mistake? There’s actually a reason. While the English Language has two separate words to distinguish “borrow” and “lend,” the Portuguese language has no such distinction: it uses the same word (emprestar) for both borrow and lend.

For example:

English: I’d like to borrow a pen.

Portuguese: Eu quero emprestar uma caneta.

English: Please lend me a pen.

Portuguese: Por favor, me emprestar uma caneta.

In English:

borrow = to take something from someone with the intend of repaying.

lend = to give something to someone with the understanding that it will be returned.

In Portuguese:

Emprestar = to lend

Emprestar = to borrow

As you can see then, such a “mistake” comes about because of linguistic variations, of which there are always many.

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