My Portuguese Classes…the beginning

Having spent my entire day learning Portuguese, I thought I would come here and write an entry for my blog about…Portuguese.

Yes, I’m just simply going Portuguese crazy right now.

I’ve always self-studied Portuguese; listening to songs, watching films (difficult! I have a tendency to zone out when I don’t understand), reading books, studying grammar and practicing speaking with Fernando. My desire to learn Portuguese has always been there although looking back, maybe the urgency wasn’t so strong. My job is all in English. My friends can all speak English. Maybe I never felt that ompff to really master the language.

However, since I’ve started having Portuguese classes, I have never studied so much in my life. Every day, I’m dedicating at least three hours to studying. Writing, reading, constructing new grammar, revising and exploring new vocabulary, insisting that Fernando and I speak in nothing but Portuguese. I’ve suddenly realised the importance of having Portuguese classes – they’ve structured my progress, I can monitor my performance, I have targets to achieve. And I love a good target. This is what really drives me. Plus, I understand my teacher, but I really want to be able to talk with her without my speech being sprinkled with lengthy pauses, wrong vocabulary and littered with mistakes. I want fluency and I want it now.

I’ve been having classes for 6 weeks now I think, just one class every 2 weeks but that’s enough. She sets me plenty of homework, and I mean plenty so I have enough to do in between classes. She also sends me links to videos and songs that I can use to practice my listening and increase my vocabulary.

She is, by far, the best teacher ever. If you need a good teacher in São Paulo check out Sampa School. It’s amazing.

She uses textbooks for homework but our classes are all about discussions relating to particluar grammar points and giving me the chance to really use the language. These classes I find really effective. Already I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my Portuguese and this is spurring me on even more. So much so that I’ve had enough of writing this entry and I want to get back to studying. The geek within me has been unleashed.

In case you’re wondering, I’m currently using the following textbooks:

Bem-vindo! and Falar…Ler…Escrever

These books are great to practice all aspects of Portuguese. My teacher uses additional supplements as well but these are random and specific to my needs at the time so I’m not sure where she gets them from.

So the Portuguese…so far, so good. I’m even dreaming in Portuguese now although it’s very frustrating as more than often I don’t understand what is being said, nor can I respond!


My 30 Days of Portuguese, a New Book and my not-so-secret Love for Masterchef

And the week begins again!

I’m just waiting for my Portuguese class to begin (my teacher is late) so I’m using this time to write a quick post. I’m hoping my class today will be better as I have been practicing speaking a lot with Fernando – although, I will admit, my 30 day challenge of just speaking Portuguese kind of flopped…sometimes, things have to be said that can only be said in English! But still, we have been ploughing on regardless of the odd hiccup and I will admit, it has been enormously beneficial and quite frankly, a lot of fun. I’m sure I’m making many mistakes but the point is, I’m getting my message across, I’m building up confidence (as all teachers know, confidence in speaking is vital yet not common in a lot of students) and I love using the language! So, all in all, a big happy days.

I’ve also found another great book for any ESL teachers:

How to Teach English – Jeremy Harmer

It is a very informative book, designed for the new teacher although I think even experienced teachers will find it useful. Sometimes, I need to be reminded of the obvious things that I learnt in my previous teaching courses and it adds fresh ideas I can use for my classes. Most of all, I love reading books like this as it reminds me why I love teaching (everyone needs this reminder now and again) and gets me motivated for my regular classes and starting fresh with my new students. It is easy to read, logically arranged and covers every aspect of the classroom. I’ve only just started to read it so I haven’t got a full opinion of it yet, but what I can say is, so far, so good.

Other then that, I have little to report. The homeless guy who has employed himself as Traffic Controller after a whistle somehow fell into his life is still there, controlling, in his own way, the steady flow of traffic. I spent the weekend enjoying the sunshine with beer and wine and now, I’m a rather glowing red. I have one class tonight with Paulo, where our class focus will just be on economy vocabulary and a telephone practice to improve his speech. And tonight, I have a whole series of Masterchef (2010) to enjoy. Yes, I’m a huge Masterchef fan if that isn’t already so appartently obvious. I love Greg Wallace, he is simply amazing. Although, as I was Googling an image for him, I came across a picture of a woman who has a tattoo of his face emblazoned across her right boob. Ok, I think Greg is fantastic but that is just downright weird.

My 30 Day Challange

I watched a really interesting video that I’m using for discussions with one of my classes. The speaker is Matt Cutts and he talks about ‘The 30 Day Challenge’

It’s really interesting and it certainly got me thinking: what should I do? Well, the answer came to me last night. Fernando is Brazilian so naturally, he speaks Portuguese as his first language but we always speak English as it is far easier to express ourselves to each other this way. But, we have made an agreement…for the next thirty days, we will only speak Portuguese to each other. No English. Not at all. This will be equally great and frustrating for me because on one hand I will learn a lot, on the other hand, I love to talk and having a limited vocabulary will be very annoying for me when I’m trying to explain my day or my point of view or feelings.

I guess there is no better way for a quick learning technique!

I love this speech and I’m already thinking about what I will do in the 30 days after. Maybe do a 30 day cocktail flaring course, learn how to massage in 30 days, read a chapter of a book every day for 30 days. I love his suggestion of taking a photo every day. I’m inspired and also I’m interested…what would you do?

Monday – new week, different students and an interesting homeless man

Monday. Again. They come ’round so quickly don’t they? My usual 7:30am student has postponed classes until April due to the fact she is in Miami and New York for vacation. This is bad for me as I lose money (the downside of tefl teaching, the lack of security) but when I woke up late this morning feeling fresh and awake, I thanked my lucky stars that her holiday had started today. With a late night last night after drinks and chatting with friends, I was grateful for this much needed lie in. So, I have been spending my morning preparing classes. This is a photo of myself and Louise, my future business partner who I was out with last night.






I have found a great website for anyone who needs Business English videos. You have to become a member which is free, you can select videos based on themes and download for free. I’m using the short ones for general comprehension and the long ones to tie in with current topics that I have been discussing with my students recently. Another great website for Business English, which includes vocabulary, exercises and videos is I’m using the videos again in this one to do in class, using the exercises that they provide. The topics are great and easy to stimulate a discussuion before and after the video. The vocabulary tests are really suited for homework to allow the student some self-study time at home, allowing you to create a follow up class for the next time based ont their new vocabulary. I’m loving these two new sites.

Today I have just one class in the evening. This is with Paulo, one of my regular students. He is back after one month off where he has been celebrating his honey moon in Mexico. Very lucky guy. This will be a great topic to begin discussion just to warm up his English and get him in the thought process of language learning. He is a Macro-economist and so our classes are very vocabulary related to enhance specific, relevant terminology and we practice a lot of real-life telephone calls as he needs this for when he gives the weekly economic report via phone to a client based in Argentina. The practice is very simple. I’m waiting in one room of the company, he goes into his office and calls me, then proceeds to give me the economic report. I write down plenty of notes on good use of vocabulary, any errors and any strengths/weakness. Afterwards, we discuss them. The advantage of this is we really stimulate a proper call and he has to answer my questions without the aid of reading my body language. The improvement in his speaking has been striking and so quick. This exercise really has worked with him.

Just a general observation now, totally irrevelant to teaching. From my kitchen window, I can see a t-junction for a main road, just one block away from my apartment. For the past week, a rather crazy, potentially drug fuelled, homeless man has been standing there, day and night blowing a whistle repeatedly for the cars to go through the cross roads.  He seems to think he is doing a very noble job and is contributing greatly to society and allowing people to proceed with their day-to-day life with upmost simplicity. I guess he hasn’t noticed the traffic lights that are the true dictators of the flow of traffic. It’s interesting because I can hear him every day and all night, except when I’m sleeping. He either must have exactly the same sleeping pattern as me or he just rarely sleeps. It has been precisely one week now. I have seen policemen notice him, proceed to walk over, hesitate and then decide they have seen something in the opposite direction which is far more interesting and worthy of checking. They walk away, leaving the man to go about his daily traffic control. And so he remains. I will be seeing how long his new found occupation goes on for. A while I would think as he seems very commited to his position.

Sunday Ramblings – new business and afternoon drinks with a good ESL book

I’ve been trying to set up my own business of teaching English in São Paulo whilst doing online classes via Skype. Despite my optimism, I realise this isn’t going to be as easy as I first anticipated. Once it’s up and running then yes, I think it will be easier…it’s just the ‘up and running’ bit which is the biggest hurdle.

Which is why I’m now far more relieved and confident as after a discussion with one of my best friends here, Louise, on a sunny Friday afternoon, we’ve decided to set this up together. Of course! It makes far more sense! Between us, our teaching experience and ability is worthy of running our own school and our contacts and ideas make this far more possible. The ye old saying of two heads are better than one is totally spot-on in this case. We have a name, we have a website being made and we already have the contacts. It will take a while to fully establish this but watch this space!

It’s Sunday today so I’m going out now with Fernando before meeting Louise and her guy for a few beers and snacks in one of the bars in Berrini. It’s a really nice area of São Paulo that I don’t normally go to so this will be a treat. I love checking out new areas and finding new bars with different people. It also gives me the opportunity to practice my Portuguese, something which, rather bizarrely, I don’t get much chance to do in São Paulo. Sounds crazy but it’s true. Fernando speaks fluent English so despite our best intentions we always end up speaking English. In my job, I have to only speak English (being an English Teacher, it makes sense) and when I do meet Brazilian people, the minute they know I speak English, they want to practice their English with me, regardless to the fact that I’m responding in Portuguese. I want to practice my Portuguese with them! So, maybe today I’ll have more chance.

To finish, here is a recommendation of a wonderful book that any English Teacher should know. It’s all about different activities to encourage speaking in class and includes excellent descriptions of the games, their aims and different variations and also at the back has a section for worksheets that complement the activities mentioned. It gives you great ideas for classes and also acts as a filler inbetween any lesson plans you may have. Also, if you are ever in that situation where you a) have run out of material or b) just haven’t prepared in general then one of these games can be used effectively and easily whilst still promoting learning. Great!

”Keep Talking – Communicative Fluency Activities for Language Learning” – Klippel Friederike.

Sad News in São Paulo – the danger of the traffic

I was totally shocked and saddened to see in the news today that a woman was killed by a bus next to metro Trianon Masp, Avenida Paulista. I work so close to this area that seeing the images just made it more real and horrifying.

The woman, a 33 year old Biologist was cycling to work when she lost her balance, fell and was then run over by a public bus. Unfortunately, the traffic is so bad in São Paulo and the roads are not accommodating for cyclists that this is not an unusual story even though it remains just as devasting each time. Statistically, 50 cyclists per year are killed in São Paulo due to cars, buses and other motorists.

To read the story, click here. The story is in English.

My thoughts and condolences are with family, friends and all who are affected by this tragic occurance.

Friday…at last!!

I was meant to be writing here every day but yesterday was just impossible to find time inbetween classes, preparation, studying and a million other things that needed doing. In terms of classes, yesterday was good – an easy day of textbook work (Market Leader) and some general conversational practice. And today has been excellent (regardless of my burning, tired eyes) as it is 10:30am here and my working week has already finished meaning my weekend has begun. Suddenly, I feel very light and cheery indeed.

Class this morning was with Luciana, my 100% most motivated student. I find that most students want to learn English but don’t know how or what they want to learn. They have all their expectations on the teacher to figure this out for them, which, sometimes, is necessary and realistic. However, Luciana is the opposite. She knows what she wants to learn, how she wants to learn it and she is very comfortable to tell me all this. This for me is fantastic as not only is preparation easier, it means I’m designing lessons that totally reflect her requirements, objectives and relevance. She provides the ideas, I just source and structure the materials. This guarantees a dynamic, productive and satisfying class, the perfect end for a working week.

Today our focus was again on BULATS. A lot of my students are doing this test soon and all want practice. We did very similar exercises to the ones I did with Denise S on Monday and we also completed some reading exercises too. The first section was easy, a comprehension exercise in which she had to select the appropriate statement to the text. The second one was harder as it was filling in blanks with prepositions. As any student or teacher knows, prepositons is one of the toughest bits of grammar in English to master.

Now, that’s my week over. For the next two and a half days, I’m not a teacher, just another person enjoying the boiling hot days with friends and beverages. Next stop, Liberadade for Camarão and Bohemnia. Helloooooo weekend!