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Posted on Sep 4, 2013 in Blog, Languages, Writing

Have I Met My Match?

Have I Met My Match?

The beginning of my third semester Portuguese class makes me think of tropes, notably the overachiever beaten out by rival classmates.

Note: I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because I’m a grammar geek and wanted to see if I could get 100 on the first try. (I didn’t, but I came a lot closer than the sample text did.)

textbooksThis past spring I had the good fortune to take a Portuguese class from an enthusiastic and creative professor from Brazil who assigned a short story as the final project in lieu of a final exam. Readers of my blog posts “A New Semester for Language Lessons,” “How Is That Writing a Story in Portuguese Thing Working Out,” and “’Celebridades’ Revised” know that I had a fun time and learned a lot but that my creative ambitions far outstripped my language ability. I suspect that my error-filled 16-page tale played a role in Professor Danielle’s decision to require a written final exam this semester. I also suspect that some of my classmates’ decisions to postpone starting their stories until the Sunday night before the Monday due date played an even larger role.

At the end of the semester, I planned to take a third semester course through the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Education, which would have given me a good excuse to spend the entire summer in New York. However, the course was cancelled due to lack of students, and I ended up spending my August in Albany creating scenes for my Lego graphic novel, working on my redesigned website, and turning my short story in Portuguese into a novel in English. I now have five chapters of the novel, with the working title of KRILL, written, and the rest outlined.

Rejoined by classmates (from left) Ashley, Alexa, and Justine, who spent the summer speaking Portuguese

Rejoined by classmates (from left) Ashley, Alexa, and Justine, who spent the summer speaking Portuguese

In the meantime, three of my classmates from last spring spent their summer in Portuguese-speaking countries—one in Cape Verde visiting family and the other two in Brazil having fun. (I know exactly how much fun they had because I follow one on Instagram.) When they returned with perfect accents, and I stumbled over basic words on the first day of class last week, I realized that I might have finally met my match.

Portuguese class tends to attract language diehards, and over the semesters we’ve gotten to know each other well—well enough that I’ve come to think of us as characters in a sitcom. I’m the Lisa Simpson type, a classic overachiever who still appears to be eight years old a full 23 years after the show’s debut. I don’t think of myself as eight years old, but people may argue that I’ve acted like an 18-year-old for the past 23 years. My instinct to get an A+++ and be at the top of the class will be tested this semester as I start a few paces behind and expect to miss four classes because of speaking engagements and conferences.

The overachiever who meets her match and falls apart is a common literary trope as longtime viewers of The Simpsons know. It happens in real life too because tropes emerge from a writer’s observation of real life.

Despite Professor Danielle’s stern first-day demeanor and heavy schedule of exams, I expect that she does have some creative tricks up her sleeve. And I don’t plan to drop to second place without a fight.


Getting practice at the Brazilian Independence Day festival in New York City on September 1, 2103


  1. Hello Lyn, you wouldn’t belive how i came to get to know your blog. I’m brazilian and i was searching some words on google and wikipedia to try to understand the meaning of the lyrics of a Lloyd Cole song, “Period Piece”. The first sentence of the song is “I think i just might have met my match”. So i googled it to find out exactly what it means, since i only got a general understanding of this term. And your blog ranked pretty high on the search, at least on brazilian Google. What surprised me the most was that you seem to have some interest in portuguese language. And me, a brazilian guy, came across your blog searching for something not related to language or country at all. Anyway, thanks for the post on your blog, it cleared my mind about what it means to “meet your macth”. If you got curious, listen to the song, i think is pretty good and the lyric is awesome. It is on Youtube. Funny how technology connect people, dont you think?

    • Thank you for your comment, Marcio! I’m so glad that my blog post explained this expression for you. So far, my class seems to be going well. I like having classmates who speak the language better than I do because listening to them helps me to improve. I’ve always been much better at writing than speaking. I’m definitely going to listen to the song. I have a radio show featuring world music on the last Sunday of each month, so I’m always looking for new songs to play.

  2. Lyn, I got very curious about the book Rogue. Downloaded it on kindle, and i’m liking it a lot! When i finish it i’ll pass it to my teen girl. I’m not sure she’s got enough english skills to read it. When is the portuguese translation comming?

    • I’m so happy that you’re enjoying Rogue, Marcio! I haven’t heard anything yet about a Portuguese translation, but I’m meeting with my editor next week and will ask her. She’ll be glad to know there’s interest in Brazil, and in a year or two, my Portuguese may be good enough that I can speak in schools and other places about Rogue and my other novel, Gringolandia.

      • About that translation, did you know that the X-Men carachter rogue, in the brazilian translation was named “vampira”? The name Vampira means “vampire”, just like the blood sucking ones we are used see on movies and books. Because, just like a vampire, she drains the energy of some other. Well, the portuguese translation of your rogue might end up next to Stephenie’s Meyer books on the bookstores.

        • Despite the success of Stephenie Meyer’s series, the name Vampira certainly gives the X-Men character Rogue a more negative connotation. Rogue can have a negative connotation, as one sees in the dictionary definitions that serve as the background for the cover. However, the outlaw or rebel is generally attractive to readers, and it’s the way Kiara wants to see herself (even though some people may see her as more of the Vampira).

          • I couldn’t agree more with you. “Vampira” was a poor choice of word to translate the name of the character “Rogue”, from the X-Men. Anyway, in my opinion, if you ever intent to translate your book to portuguese, you should keep the original title “Rogue”. Brazilian people should relate the name “Rogue” to the X-Men character better than “Vampira”. Cause, as i joked before, a book called only “Vampira” would give the general public the idea of a Vampire story.


  1. Wrapping Up My Portuguese Class | Lyn Miller-Lachmann - […] “Have I Met My Match?” I discussed my trepidation at taking this advanced class with students who had just…
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