Book Review: Jack Scholes – Quebrar o galho / Break the branch

August 4, 2008 at 2:24 pm 6 comments

Jack Scholes is a language practitioner and a man with a great wealth of experience teaching English and learning and speaking Portuguese in Brazil. He recently spoke at a conference I attended and this was one of his most recent titles. A colleague of mine bought this book so I had a chance to read it and I thought I’d recommend it on here because it’s quite helpful for learners of Portuguese.

The book lists alphabetically various Brazilian Portuguese phrases and idioms or unusual words and usages and provides explanations in context for an English-speaking audience. The title of the book – Quebrar o galho (Break the Branch) is one such Brazilian idiom meaning to improvise, to do something any-old-way. It’s a great little reference book and quite a fun read – what I would call a great “toilet” book, something to leave by the loo (UK)/ jon (USA) and flick through when you’re doing your business.

Having said that, the book is possibly a bit too concise as I think there are multiple meanings and nuances to some of the phrases involved. For example, dor-de-cotovelo (pain in the elbow) is an idiom which, according to Jack Scholes, just means “jealousy”. My wife, a nordestino Brazilian, claims that the expression really refers to jealousy between lovers – in other words, it’s quite an adult phrase and used in only specific situations. Equally, at one point, Jack Scholes lists a variety of uses for the word “mal”, (which he says means “not well”) but neglects to mention that the word can also be used to stand for wicked or evil.

I’m not sure how easy it is to get a hold of this in the UK or the USA as the version I have is published in Brazil, but for intermediate learners of Brazilian Portuguese it would make a handy addition to your textbooks. In any case, I’ll list it in the Links & Resources page. Click here for more information on the title.


Entry filed under: Book Reviews, Idioms, Other stuff. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

English words that came from Portuguese Informal online dictionary of Brazilian Portuguese

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Italo de Paula  |  November 20, 2008 at 5:08 am

    Thank You for the review.
    I was born in Brazil and moved to the US at the age of 14. Right now I’m looking for a book for my wife, who is learning Portuguese.
    I just wanted to comment on a couple of things. “Dor de cotovelo” is not only for lovers. It could also be used in many other situations. For example, if someone were to talk about a coworker who got a promotion instead of them, this person could have “Dor de cotovelo,” meaning jealousy.
    Also, mal does mean “not well.” Wicked or evil is “mau.” A word that is pronounced the same both ways, but have different spellings. Mal is an adverb. Mau is an adjective.

  • 2. Pipoca  |  January 28, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Obrigada. Do you have any info about a bi-lingual version. To see which idioms are cross cultural?

  • 3. maclure  |  February 2, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Pipoca: Im not sure about a bi-lingual version. Jack Scholes has left his email as a comment on the “About” page – you could email him directly to find out.

  • 4. scott  |  February 9, 2009 at 2:22 am

    where in usa can i buy break the branch please let me know
    thank you

  • 5. maclure  |  February 11, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Scott: I don’t know about the USA. You could email Jack Scholes himself – his email address is at the bottom of the “About” page.

  • 6. Bookstore — Rabbel's blog  |  February 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    […] “Break the Branch?- Quebrar o Galho”  is a ‘must-have’ for any learner or user of Brazilian Portuguese and also an important reference tool for Brazilian teachers and learners of English. It has hundreds of very common, everyday words and phrases in Brazilian Portuguese with translation into English and clear example sentences to show you how to use the words and phrases in context, also translated into English. There are also special TIPS & NOTES on an incredible wealth of topics, including grammar, usage, vocabulary, culture and customs. More reviews “Break the Branch?” […]


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This website has practice activities for people learning Brazilian Portuguese at Intermediate level or higher. Please browse around or click on ABOUT to find out more about how to get the most out of the site.

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