This is the incredible story of how Adir our English teacher, Adir Ferreira, fell in love with English, learned fast from a very young age, and used his experience to help learners around the world through writing. If you’re a Portuguese speaker, we highly recommend you check out Adir Ferreira’s English teaching and learning blog and give his facebook page a like for HOT AND USEFUL TIPS every single day.
How I learned English: a true story.
Hello, everybody! I was really glad when Justin invited me to write a guest post for the RLE blog and share with you how I learned English. I kept thinking about it and I realized I am still learning English – every single day!
Before explaining how I learned how to speak English let me tell you how I learned how to read and write. What I’m about to tell you is a true story and it’s a kind of a legend. My mother is a very religious woman and back in 1980 (I was 5!) my family was having a novena (a nine-day period of praying) before Christmas and I asked if I could read a passage from the Bible – and then I did!
I don’t know how that happened – and neither does anybody else, for that matter – but as it turns out, I always felt that learning had a special way of happening for me. I could even skip kindergarten and go straight to first grade.
Now moving on to when I was 10 and the song “We Are the World” came out. There was a store in Bebedouro (SP) who was giving away the lyrics with its translation – some heat-of-the-moment marketing thing. Somehow that fell on my lap and like everyone else, I was mesmerized to see so many international artists singing towards a bigger goal. I started reading the lyrics and comparing the English words with their Portuguese counterparts; you can imagine that didn’t make a lot of sense to me because of word order.
The next year I started having English classes in the “ginásio” – former Brazilian middle school. I would give my English teacher a very hard time because I was extremely curious. At the same time, some of my parents’ friends saw that I had a knack for learning languages and gave me an English course with four LPs and two books to accompany them. I would come home from school and study them, like there was no tomorrow. I really enjoyed doing that.
When I was fourteen I got a scholarship to attend an English institute. As you may imagine, I went from level 1 to level 3 in two weeks. I studied there for one year, then I had to stop because I was changing schools and couldn’t rearrange my schedule. One year passed and another English school opened in Bebedouro so the principal called some students he knew to have an intermediate English group.
The next year, 1992, was when my teaching career started. I had this high school friend who was friends with a guy who was opening a new English school and he talked to this guy about me, how good I was at English and so son. I was invited to have an interview and bam! – my first English group was on a Saturday afternoon! (not fun at all, trust me!)
One of the things that helped me learn English so well was that I have always been very curious and very active in my learning. By teaching you also learn a lot, because you have to, and in my case I have always liked to go the extra mile, so to speak.
A groundbreaking moment in my student/teacher life came when I was reading the culture part of the Sunday newspaper and I saw an ad of a guy from Minas Gerais. He had some friends in the US who would tape series like Beverly Hills 90201 and Melrose Place, so he could sell them. I went crazy and called this guy to see how things worked. As it turns out, I started buying episodes from these two series, with commercials and everything, and that’s when my listening skills started to really develop.
I would watch the same episodes over and over again and the vocabulary I read in texts came alive – it was amazing to see how things were piecing themselves together. A technique I used unconsciously was to imitate the characters lines, even their facial expressions, and that helped me a lot in my speaking skills. So if you like series and movies, they’re a great asset for your learning.
Some years later I started teaching at school that had a huge library – lots of original books from authors like Stephen King and John Grisham. I started borrowing these books to improve my vocabulary and so it did. I always tell people that reading is one of the best things for learning – not only languages, but anything in general. It opens up a whole new world and you start changing your thinking and the way you do things.
Let me share one last thing with you: I never missed any opportunity to use my English. Whenever there was a “gringo” around, I would introduce myself and strike up a conversation, even for some minutes. If you’re afraid to make mistakes and that people will judge you, don’t! If you never try, you’ll never know you’ll succeed. One of the greatest rewards in my learning and teaching life was when I went to the States for the first time and heard from many people, “You don’t sound Brazilian!” That is awesome, to say the least.
Well, I hope my learning experiences are somehow useful to you, and always remember: if someone has done it, you can do it too!
You can get in touch with me at:
- My blog – www.adirferreira.com.br
- TL Inglês – http://blogs.transparent.com/ingles/
- Twitter – www.twitter.com/adirferreira
Take care and have a great one!