Escolaridade: Superior incompleto (Publicidade e Propaganda)
Tempo de aprendizagem: 7 anos
Narrativa coletada por Rafaela Oliveira
Eu nunca fiz aula de inglês, só no colégio. Uma coisa que me ajudou muito com certeza foi o fato de eu adorar bandas inglesas e algumas americanas, e odiar filmes dublados. Isso sempre fazia com que eu procurasse as traduções das músicas em dicionários e agora com muito mais facilidade, na Internet. Outra coisa que me ajudou muito foi que minha tia se mudou pros EUA quando eu tinha uns 7 anos, por causa de um problema de saúde, e eu fui algumas vezes visitá-la. Como eu tenho uma prima que está agora com 15 anos, eu costumava brincar com ela em inglês, só por diversão. E acabei aprendendo bem mais do que em qualquer escola. Mesmo porque não tinha pressão de ter que aprender nada. Sabendo dessa facilidade que eu tinha com o inglês, um monte de amigos meus viviam pedindo ajuda com traduções, redações, provas; e eu sempre fazia questão de ajudar. Tudo isso me deixou bem mais familiarizada com o inglês, tanto que na maioria das vezes as legendas dos filminhos são quase desprezíveis (não querendo me achar hein!). Se você usa o inglês com o que gosta, e o que te interessa, sem ter pressão de aprender, fica bem mais fácil.
(2) Nome: Cintia Bentes Rodrigues Da Costa
Escolaridade: Pós-Graduação (Mestrado)
Tempo de aprendizagem: 12 anos
Comecei a estudar inglês porque meu pai achava que era importante. Eu adorava estudar, parecia que eu estava brincando, me sentia a própria estrangeira. Lembro que meu pai tinha uns LPs de alguns cursos de inglês com seus respectivos livros, ouvia e acompanhava os diálogos com o maior interesse. Eu sempre fazia os exercícios pedidos pela professora. Eu não sabia como fazer para estudar mais em casa. Mudei de curso umas quatro vezes, sempre tendo que voltar para um nível inferior ao que eu tinha feito no curso anterior. Na minha adolescência comecei a me interessar por músicas em inglês, trocava letras de músicas com meus amigos e arranjava uma fita cassete para ficar cantando até decorar a letra. Nunca me interessei na tradução das letras, eu queria só cantar para melhorar minha pronúncia. As aulas no último curso que freqüentei eram bem chatas, eu não agüentava ficar quase duas horas sentada ouvindo os professores falando. Eu sempre tinha o número máximo de faltas permitidas pela instituição. Para as provas, eu só escrevia as estruturas gramaticais requisitadas varias vezes, até eu memorizar todas.
(3) Nome: Raphaella Hamara dos Santos Silva
Escolaridade: superior incompleto - Letras
Tempo de aprendizagem: não faço a mínima idéia
Narrativa coletada por Rafaela Oliveira
história da aprendizagem: ...como tudo começou, bem, desde muito criança eu tinha "interesse por línguas"(pode se dizer assim?), mesmo antes de saber ler e escrever eu ficava perguntando pra quem soubesse como dizer coisas em outras línguas e até mesmo pedia pra minha mãe ficar lendo outdoors nas ruas ou o que estivesse escrito pra mim. Nunca me considerei como tendo aulas de inglês, sempre procurei saber das coisas "by myself", comecei mesmo a ter aulas no primeiro grau, na sétima série(mas já tinha noções antes) e então comecei a odiar inglês porque isso significava não ter mais aulas de francês; na minha escola, Centro Pedagógico da UFMG, tínhamos francês na quinta e sexta séries e inglês na sétima e na oitava. Não participava das aulas, achava tudo um saco e entregava provas em branco -mesmo assim fui aprovada. No segundo grau ainda continuava sem paciência pra aulas de inglês, então eles permitiam q eu comparecesse apenas para fazer provas (heehee, COLTEC é COLTEC!), mas a alegria durou só o primeiro ano,no segundo e no terceiro tinha q assistir as aulas. No primeiro ano tirei 100, no segundo 96 e no terceiro acho que 94. Mas isso não significa que eu participava das aulas. Daí eu entrei pra Letras e nem sabia q estava no intermediate e "fui indo" e aqui estou. Adoro língua inglesa mas ainda odeio ter aulas, gosto d aprender as coisas naturalmente, sem ser forçada, tenho dificuldade "com autoridades" e "em acatar ordens superiores", ou seja, em fazer tudo o q o mestre mandou. Lembro-me que sempre adorei os Beatles e achava péssimo ouvir e não poder cantar junto e não entender as músicas então comecei a procurar o significado das coisas e a cantar junto. Costumo brincar q o Paul McCartney foi meu primeiro professor de inglês!=) Eu tb era meio cara de pau e ia perguntando as coisas q queria saber pra quem quer q eu visse q soubesse inglês. Ah, amo cinema e sempre gostei de ver filmes só legendados pra prestar atenção nos accents(sou LOUCA por accent)e nas expressões. Sempre lia o q fosse possível em inglês. Corresponder-me com pessoas do mundo todo me ajudou muito, não só os nativos de língua inglesa mas tb os outros q tinham um inglês horrível. Correspondência internacional é uma forma maravilhosa de se aprender uma língua porque é algo muito pleasant, é natural e ninguém te força a nada. Música, amo música e 90% de tudo q canto e ouço é em inglês, meus artistas preferidos cantam em inglês, Beatles, Björk, PJ Harvey, The Breeders, Sonic Youth, todo mundo. Música é outra coisa natural e que não t força a nada, aprender através de música sem perceber é muito bom. A presença do inglês na minha vida até hoje ainda é a mesma: música, cinema, leitura e correspondência internacional...ah, e meu curso é Inglês Bacharelado. Acho q nunca segui instruções dos professores, pelo contrário, se segui foi contrariada e com preguiça! Todas as dinâmicas de aula pra mim são estáticas, too boring, annoying. Tá, elas podem até ser dinâmicas, mas é q eu não consigo fit in, não dá pra fingir. Minhas próprias estratégias de aprendizagem? Perguntaram outro dia...eu nem sabia q eu tinha isso! Sei lá, acho q minha estratégia é ser natural, seguir minha curiosidade e meu desejo, naturalmente, só isso.
(4) Nome: Jânio Brito
Idade: 28 anos
Tempo de aprendizagem de inglês: 10 anos
Narrativa coletada por Vera Menezes em agosto/2004
Minha motivação para aprender o inglês começou na infância, ficava parado pasmo ouvindo e vendo os astros do rock: Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Metálica, etc. Aos meus 10 anos de idade, quase 11 me integrei a um grupo de roqueiros que usavam muito o inglês, que segundo eles era a “língua oficial do grupo”. Já tinha bastante vocabulário e identificava bem a pronúncia, às vezes entendia, as vezes não, mas continuava ouvindo os discos todos os dias e ouvindo os meus amigos falarem. Sentia que estava melhorando a cada dia e já começava a me arriscar falando na outra língua eles nunca me ensinavam, eles não tinham nenhum método, nem eu, inclusive diziam que língua “não se ensina, aprende”, e que eu iria aprender. Foi assim que comecei a aprender o “corte de machado”, mas minha mãe percebeu logo a minha motivação e esforço e me colocou em uma escola especializada, mas continuei participando da “turminha do metal” e conversando.
Mais tarde continuei estudando a língua e me especializando em outras escolas, em cursos mais avançados, no exterior, e agora, na faculdade. A turma acabou quando eu completei 17 anos, mas ainda sinto saudade daquele ambiente, isso é que foi um aprendizado divertido, muito rock n’ roll, festa, curtição, posters, vídeos e um papo animado em inglês o tempo todo.
(5) Nome: Geórgia Luciana
Idade: 25 anos
Escolaridade: não informado
Tempo de aprendizagem: não informado
Narrativa coletada por Vera Menezes
Minha mãe me matriculou numa escola particular de classe media alta quando eu tinha dez anos de idade. Eu era da quarta série e fiquei deslumbrada quando aquela mulher de pele alvinha, bem baixinha e bem gordinha entrou na sala de aula. Na minha mente ela era a mulher mais inteligente do mundo. Nossa! Ela sabia inglês!
Fui apresentada à língua através de vocabulário. Aprendi as cores, os animais, os números e com certeza o verbo TO BE. Lembro-me bem das vezes que ela levantava o livro dela de frente para nós a fim de que víssemos as figuras e cores. Quando o ano terminou, senti triste pois não teria mais contato com a língua pelo menos até a série seguinte. Mas quem disse? Tratei logo de conseguir umas letras de música e um dicionário velhinho para traduzi-las e, assim tentar compreender as canções internacionais.
Na quinta série voltei às aulas feliz da vida. "Eu já sabia falar inglês". Essa era a concepção que eu tinha do que era falar outra língua. Daí por diante, tive professores que me faziam "decorar" os verbos, as conjugações e os tempos. Eca. Que horrível era aquele inglês da sala de aula. Era muito melhor quando tinha um monte de atividade de outras disciplinas e eu por vezes não as fazia, mas comprava nas bancas de revista os livros de acordes, para quem toca violão. Sentava em minha cama e passava horas traduzindo as músicas ou até mesmo os textos dos livros didáticos. E assim os anos foram se passando. Quando eu fiz seleção para o colégio de aplicação no qual entrei na oitava série, tive contato com um livro diferente. Havia uns diálogos interessantes que nós ouvíamos na fita cassete e depois a professora pedia para reproduzi-los em pares ou trios dependendo da quantidade de personagens. Como era gostoso assistir à essa aula! Não resisti e implorei para que minha mãe me matricular num curso de inglês. Apesar de não ter muita condição naquela época minha mãe fez isso por mim. Mas infelizmente só estudei um ano, ou seja, dois períodos. Mas lembro bem de como aconteciam as aulas. O professor nos apresentava a língua a ser usada, demonstrava-nos com exemplos e em seguida, pedia pra praticar aquela língua.
Comecei então a ter uma visão bem diferente do que é aprender inglês em cursos de idiomas e em escolas, apesar de ter tido uma boa experiência da última escola que mencionei.
Por circunstancias da vida tive que voltar a uma escola da rede pública e justo no meu terceiro ano do ensino médio. Nossa! Que tristeza! A professora nos dava textos e dezenas de dicionários, os quais ela carregava em todas as aulas, nos pedia para traduzir aqueles benditos textos.
Bem, esqueci de mencionar no inicio que uma grande amiga minha de infância me acompanhou por todo aquele percurso que descrevi. Então aproveitávamos alguns momentos do dia para treinar o nosso pouco inglês que sabíamos. Ou quando estávamos juntas ou pelo telefone. Era uma delicia!
Após ter terminado no colegial entrei na universidade, ou melhor, entramos. Eu e minha amiga para cursar letras - inglês. Fomos participando de alguns seminários dentro e fora da UFS e percebendo como as minhas professoras tinham falhas. Digo isso porque hoje ao dar aula ou ao ver meus colegas de trabalho darem aula, abordagem aplicada e a preocupação com aprendizagem do aluno estão sempre em primeiro plano. O fato de tentarmos melhorar sempre, de se auto-avaliar, como também a preocupação com nosso planejamento e com as atividades que serão aplicadas e principalmente se conseguiremos alcançar o objetivo de cada aula dada, faz parte da nossa
(6) Nome: Jara Lima Pinheiro
Idade: 26 anos
Escolaridade: superior incompleto – Letras
Tempo de aprendizagem: 13 anos
My first contact with English happened in 1987, when I was eleven years old. It was an English course in my neighborhood. Actually it was just an introductory course, really focused on basic English. The classroom activities followed a traditional method, by using non authentic materials, and teacher centered all the time. Then I went to high school, where English classes are simply awful. Every year the same subjects were taught to us, such as verb to be, negative forms, interrogative forms etc. However, the sport I have been practicing from that period so far is full of English words and expressions, what made me more interested in English. In fact skateboard has been a ‘catapult’ to my English learning process. It is common to meet native English speakers in skateboard contests, so I had to communicate with them in order comment the contest, or even about my turn in it, for instance. This first steps where then, related to communicative learning process, since real use of language was required in order to communicate. Slangs and jargons were used all the time, and I did not know what exactly they meant, but I could get their meaning through the context we were in. After that, my interest have increased in many aspects of English, such as music, art and sports, what is just the continuity of the process that I began with when I was a child.
(7) Nome: Viviane Coelho Caldeira Ramos
Idade: não informada
Escolaridade: superior incomplete
Tempo de aprendizagem: não informado
My English learning experience is quite different since I started having contact with the language when I was very young, something like two/ three years old, that is because my mother is an English teacher, so she started teaching me songs, poems, verses, prayers, etc, in English. It was so exciting! I felt like me and my mother had this secret code language that only us could speak. For sure this early learning had a great role in my future motivation to learn more and more about that “code”. My house was always full of English books and English materials in general, so when I was around 7, I started reading books and “teaching myself” with a didactic book called “Steps”.
I joined an English school when I was 9 years old, it was called “ New Way”, and it had a fantastic environment, teacher were very well trained and we had a total emphasis in communication, both oral and written, I studied there till I was 18. This studies were essential to give me a communicative competence, specially the functional and socialinguistic ones, since they made me aware of the language and its structure. When I was 11 I went to a trip in U.S, it was a great deal for me as I could see that I was really able to communicate with natives. I still remember how excited I was because I could ask for a map in Epcot Center!
At the age of 13 I went to Ireland in order to make an English Summer Course at a Marist College ( I have always studied at Colégio Marista Dom Silvério and the Marist Brothers have schools all around the world), there we had classes with other Marist students from different countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, France, etc. Until this time I had never really realized how English was so essential for communication worldwide. Another vital point of this experience was my contact with my host family, The Passmores, they were just wonderful and taught me the real everyday English and the Irish culture and history ( and even a little bit of Gaelic!). I could then perceive that language was above all the expression of a people, their desires, dreams and thoughts. They also encouraged my love for literature, taking me to see Wilde’s plays and lending me books. The experience was so great that I went to Ireland again the next year, staying at the same house. At this time I did the Trinity Exam, where I passed with distinction, what increased my self-confidence and started blossom inside me the desire to learn more about that “language world”.
When I was 16 I spent a 7 months in New Zealand doing High School, this was definitely the most crucial experience in my life (I can divided myself B.NZ and A.NZ!). Apart form the High School I also did a Summer English Course where I get to know two of my greatest friends (a German and a Kiwi). At this time I had fluent English, grammatically correct and everything, but I lacked the cultural and interactional competences. I have always been talkative and an observer, so that my friends and people on the streets, pubs, malls were the best teachers I have ever had. They taught me a lot of what I know and what I am. At the last month of my exchange program I went to Hawaii to meet my mother (who was studying in Canada) there I had contact with another kind of English and reality that I was used to. Sometimes people would think I was a native (but unfortunately I still do not know the hula-hula).
When I came back I decided to do “vestibular” for Tourism and Letters, to be honest Tourism was my dream, I did Letters only “ to do something at the Federal” (since there was no Tourism course in UFMG at that time). But believe it or not, Letters became an addiction. I made me realize as never before the complexity and richness of language and literature. I have always love books, but doing this course made me go beyond the book itself. I now teach English at Number One, it is been a great experience for me to finally see the other side of learning. Teaching is been both rewarding and tiring! Apart from all that, I have an interesting and modern family that helps me improve my English. My stepfather is an Italian-Canadian, so that English is the official language of my house even more because there are always friends from around the world visiting us. It is like the UN! From my experiences I can easily say that language is above all communication and the best teacher is life itself.
I started learning English when I was very young. I think I was 6 or 7 years old. I remember my father went to England and stayed there for three months studying English. When he was back, he started teaching us (my sister and me) words and some simple sentences like: give me water please. I remember we came to memorize over a thousand words. My mother sometimes made quizzes with us giving lollypops as prize for the one that knew all the words she asked us. She used to give us the word in Portuguese and we had to say it in English. I remember we had fun with this. Then at the age of 8 I was put in an English class with an American teacher named Henry that passed lots of time teaching the wright pronunciation of words like: world and three. At that time we live in a little town. Then we moved to Rio de Janeiro and my parents put me in Cultura Inglesa. I had a hard time there because there was too much grammar structures and I was supposed to study a lot which I didn't do. I hated the course and my classmates. I think I was the worse student of my class and the teacher used to look at me with a sympathetic expression but she wouldn't do anything. At the end of the year I was going to repeat the course because my grades were very bad. Then my mother said to me: this is an expensive course and we are able to maintain only one of you ( me or my sister) studying. If you fail I will not keep you there. I was so afraid of that, which I studied a lot. A cousin recorded the lesson for me and I listened to them a hundred times. I did the final test and almost took 10 in it. I think that was the time when , as Vera Menezes says in her text (Fractal Model), the organizing of chaos happened in my mind. After that experience English became something fun for things and me to study again were a lot easier from that time on. At the age of 12 the whole family went to Bolivia where I studied in a Canadian school where we had English classes every day. Each class was divided in three levels at the time of the English class and I was in the advanced one. I had no fun studying because the classes were based on the grammar and we had to memorize lots of unusual words. From all that I only remember a verb: to corroborate. When I got back to Brazil I studied in Number One were we used to do lots of drills and controlled activities using diapositives to tell stories and then change them a bit. The time I was there I felt my English improved a lot. I stayed there for two years. Then I stopped studying English. My maintenance of the language was done through music and movies. I made some trips abroad when I had to use English and that is all.
Analyzing my learning history I think at the beginning there was a lot of input given by my parents but there was no interest in contextualizing it. Those were isolated words. Then the class I had emphasized pronunciation more than anything else. Accuracy was more important than fluency. At Cultura Inglesa the method was pure grammar with no effective communication, there was no contextualization and the teacher used to talk a lot more than the students do. The classes in the Canadian school were the behaviorist model. Teacher knows student listen and learn. We could never use the native language (Spanish at that time). In Number One I had lots of drills, memorization of structured-based dialogs, language listening and the sequence of units were determined by principals of linguistic complexities never by content or function. I think that during my learning I had no moments of communicative teaching. However I got to learn but until now I feel afraid of making mistakes when I am talking. I think that if I had had more communicative teaching I Would certainly feel freer to express myself.
(9) Nome: André Luiz Elias de Souza
Idade: 22 anos
Escolaridade: superior incompleto - Letras
Tempo de aprendizagem: +/- 2,5 anos (quase 3 anos)
When I saw that this task would be on talking about the experience in learning English, I thought: Well, It’ll be great. First, because I love writing about this sort of things, and also because we ALWAYS learn more and get to know better about ourselves as beings. It is hard to find out a metaphor to guide an autobiography that is different from the LIFE AS JOURNEY. Vera DID it brilliantly in her “memorial”, but I could not find one different. Then I’m going to imitate Ana Lúcia Gazzola and paraphrase Robert Frost. I am going to relate “THE LONG ROAD TAKEN”
I remember well my very first contact with a foreign language (see that I am “literally” talking about contact, it means, I had no idea about what I was dealing with): I was about eight years old, was walking with my father in the center of Belo Horizonte city when just in front of the “OTON PALACE HOTEL” I heard a tall man talking to some people in a strange manner. Well, at that time I had no idea that it could be English (neither my poor father) but I knew that I wished (from that moment and as a curious child) learn to talk just the way that man was talking.
After that I remember that one of my mother’s friend was getting rid of some books and magazines, and as I have always been interested in reading, I went to her house and took the old books. Among them there was an English book. I didn’t understand anything about what was in that book, but since that time I decided my overt passion to the English language. Then this same friend of my mother taught me how to count one to ten in English and of course (due to my passion) I’ve learnt at the very first time.
I have NEVER had formal instructions in English before enter the college. I studied in a school where English was taught from “7ª série” on. But it was a public school and there was NO available English teachers at the time. The school staff kept telling us: “We are going to find you an English teacher, but while this does not happen, you are going to have “religion” classes to replace the English ones”. I heard that discourse the “7ª, 8ª séries”. When I started high school I thought this problem would be solved. But it was not. Hence I had no formal instructions before the college. When I decided to try “vestibular” I borrow one set of books and tapes (from CURSOS DE IDIOMAS GLOBO - CIG) and I studied by myself. The English test in “vestibular” for me was EXTREMELY hard. The things I got from CIG was not enough to cover the kind of test required in “vestibular”. Well, but I passed vestibular and enter the college. It was in 1999.
This year was hard for me, because I had a bunch of problems altogether attacking me. I had to stop the CICLO BÁSICO of the course. I just went back to college one year after that.
2000. During the first semester I re-did the CICLO BASICO, hence no contact with English. During the second semester I registered myself in disciplines from Letras and among them “ENGLISH I”. I was exciting about having my VERY FIRST English class. I remember it as it was today. I was the first guy to arrive in the classroom. After some time, people were still there, the professor came in: she started talking EVERYTHING in English. I didn’t understand a word. I was quite anxious and that disturbed me a lot. Then she started asking some questions to people there. They were answering. This facts got me more nervous than I already was. I remember that she spoke something and most of the class started laughing. It was the click. I simply ran away from there (before she asks me anything), went to “colegiado” and “gave up” the English I course. Indeed, I thought of given up Letras or at least given up the English major. Then I was down and I decided to talk to a friend (who was studying here more than two years) and she told me that I could try CENEX course before the graduation one. It was what I did. I entered BASIC I course ate CENEX. It was marvellous. First of all because it was really basic, and the environment the teacher created in classroom was fantastic. I did at CENEX BASIC I, II, III and IV. Just at the end of BASIC IV, I decided to register myself at the graduation ENGLISH I. I took ENGLISH I, HABILIDADES INTEGRADAS II and III.
The fact is that I have never been abroad and all that I’ve learnt concerning English was here at the college (interacting with you guys, and professors, etc.) and by myself (reading, self-evaluating me, etc.). And now here I am telling you about this wonderfull experience with the English Language.
Well, as my formal experience with the English was totally in the college, I think it was (at least it was supposed to be) communicative. The better experiences I had in classroom with English was at CENEX. The classes I had there was completely communicative in terms of the principles of the Communicative Approach. I remember that at BASIC I, the teacher brought us texts taken from a web site that “manipulated” the language of newspapers in order to give the same news in English (but with different levels of difficulty – the web site is www.englishtown.com). So, we worked with “real” contexts and so on. We talked a lot. Altough the teacher talked only in English, we could understand her. I think this happened because she was extremely kineasthetic and it helped me a lot.
The activities we did in class almost always required us to talk among ourselves and look for understanding with the mates, not only with the teacher. The teacher I had in BASIC III was wonderful. A very intelligent person, with a very good sense of group-work. He taught us all the cultural things that plays an important role in understanding a language. This propensity is linked with the “communicative competence” we are supposed to have to appropriately communicate.
I do believe that the Communicative Approach is a good approach (with its flaws, of course) to deal with language learning. Language has to be understood as something non-trivial as many people think it is. In my opinion, language is one of the most complex cognitive ability human beings have, and we as professionals from this area have to have an idea of what “acquiring/learning language” is all about.
But I do believe that the AUTONOMY is one cogent factors that learners should have. I am telling that, because most part of my experience in English was by myself and this fact helped me a lot in dealing with the English language. One should go for it, and as Danilo Cristófaro said in his autobiography “There is no ending to this one. We will never be able to know everything and become absolute masters of the language. It is a futile attempt. Not even natives do that. By doing this, humbly, we should enjoy every new word we learn. Every new expression. Every step of the way”
(10) Nome: Danilo Cristófaro
Escolaridade: superior incompleto - Letras
Tempo de aprendizagem: 20 anos
I suppose, just like most of us, I will not consider my English lessons in school as an experience worth mentioning. Things may well have changed since my old schooling days but, we all know that we often come out of mainstream education knowing as much as we knew when we got in: Zilch!
So, for the record, my first “real” contact with English in a classroom environment was at Number One Language School. That was back in the late 80’s. I have to admit that, as first steps into the world of the English language, their methodology brought me good results. In less than one year I had a fairly basic-but-decent knowledge of Present Simple, Past Simple and other tenses. Adding to that, my vocabulary was far from being vast but I tried to use it and also to learn new words.
The method employed at Number One was the PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production). It has its roots in the behaviourist ideas of the audio-lingual methodology but it seems to offer more contextualised situations presented to students, therefore, making the drills more meaningful than a straight down-the-throat substitution drill.
After lessons, I used to walk home for I had no money for the bus fare. It was a long walk from Belo Horizonte’s Getúlio Vargas to my place. In order to make use of the time I had, while I was walking home I would create situations similar to the lesson that I had just attended to. I think it worked wonders for me as the practice of new structures and vocabulary is fundamental to the bedding down of language in our minds.
After one year of Number One lessons I went to Europe. The reason why I decided to go there is still a mistery for me. Perhaps, it lies in the spirit of seeing the world or just for financial reasons. The fact is that I packed my bags and went to England. For me it was a great experience to realise that what I had learned in class was actually real: I would say the words and get a response. Simple and fascinating as it is I was able to gather: I communicate, therefore, I exist!
After three months in London I went to the Middle East. It was in Israel and Egypt that I had the chance to really break the barrier of being able to speak a second language for long periods of time without getting extremely tired. I had no chance to speak Portuguese for months. I had to speak, write, listen and read everything in English. There was a stage that I had to rack my brains to get going but then, suddenly, it all became a lot easier.
After the Middle East I returned to London. I was able to communicate without difficulty but I found I needed to improve my skills. It was my understanding that the best way to do it was to go to school and study the language further. I studied at Westminster College, in London’s Vincent Square, for a few months. The method used was supposed to be the Communicative approach but it was in fact a mixture of alternatives to PPP, Humanistic and Communicative approaches. I was learning English at a very fast pace. The difference was obvious. What I learned in the morning was put into practice during the rest of the day. I suppose I was learning English as a second language rather than as a foreign language. Still, classroom activities, such as writing, played a vital role in my learning because these were simply not required in my day to day life. School was important because I would be talking (and learning) about things that I would not come across in normal circumstances. One thing is to live abroad and to assume you will learn the language. The other thing is to realise that there are different levels you can reach and you are the one who determines which level you want to get to.
For me it is hard to go on and talk about the methods and courses I have attended due to my own personal experience. What I can say, without a shadow of doubt, is that I have been in this business of learning English for many years now. I have lived most of my adult life in abroad. I have lived many experiences in English. From farming in the Israeli desert to popping into my local bike shop to buy new brake pads and sprockets. From phoning the local council about the lack of reliability on the refuse collection services to ordering a pint of bitter at a John O’Groats pub. I have lived the language and what I see is that the further you go, the longer the path.
After coming to UFMG, last year, I started doing my graduation in English. I realise I have learned so much in just over twelve months that I have been here. That makes me acknowledge that the experience never ceases.
I have already talked about my days at Number One and at Westminster College in London. I prepared myself to the First Certificate in English and The Proficiency Exams. I find it hard to comment further on the methodology employed during my learning experience because most of it happened in English speaking countries making the learning well beyond the methodology and classroom environment. Possibly, there is no bigger “communicative approach” than that. The problem is that it goes away from the very subject of this task just as much as it talks about it. Ambiguous as it may be that is how I perceive it.
To talk about functional, sociolinguistic, interactional and cultural competence within the circumstances I have had my learning experience is as obvious as it is contradictory. I hope the reader will forgive me for my slight deviation of the subject but in my case it all happened naturally. For most of us, learning a language in Brazil is a very difficult thing because we live in a such continental country. On top of that, we do not have many chances to talk to foreigners, let alone go abroad.
My conclusion is that we should, as learners, enjoy every and each step of the way. There is no ending to this one. We will never be able to know everything and become absolute masters of the language. It is a futile attempt. Not even natives do that. By doing this, humbly, we should enjoy every new word we learn. Every new expression. Every step of the way.