Continuing our series on teaching different cultures, we’ll look at teaching English to adult Brazilians.
When teaching English it’s a worthy practice to have at least a basic understanding of the geography, culture, and learning environment of the people we teach.
First, it’s a good idea to get to know the lay of the land your students are from. Brazil is one of the largest nations in the world and the largest in South America.
In terms of land area, it takes up most of the eastern coast of South America.
Brazil is made up of 26 states. Each state operates autonomously under a federal umbrella. The federal capital of Brazil is Brasilia located in the western-central region. The largest city is Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo State, with a population of around 12 million people.
Brazilians are quite hospitable to tourists and welcome immigrants. Brazil is probably best known for the Amazon Jungle. And, if you know much about Brazil, you’ve probably heard of Rio de Janeiro. It’s famous for Carnival, a four-day celebration before the beginning of Lent. And you’ve likely seen the famous image of the great statue of Jesus in Sao Paulo at some time.
Getting to know the people you teach is a must. And while no one can classify people into neat little boxes, there are cultural peculiarities from people in every nation. We’ll talk about ethnic backgrounds, holidays, and cultural norms today.
Brazil was once a land with a variety of indigenous tribal peoples. But it was settled by the Portuguese in the early 1500-1600s. They imported slaves who eventually became free and all of these cultures melted into one national culture.
As a result, many of the people there are a mixture of indigenous people, Portuguese, and people from African nations. They also have large populations of Japanese, Chinese, Italians, Germans, and other European nationalities that have mixed into the pot.
Brazil is largely a Catholic nation. As such, they celebrate standard Christian religious holidays. But their biggest holiday is Carnival. During this time there is quite a bit of overindulgence and parades where samba schools compete with eye-catching floats, dancing, and music.
Brazilians tend to be relationship-oriented, social, and friendly people. They don’t always like to get straight down to business, preferring rather to spend time engaged in small talk before getting to the task at hand. They also tend to socialize at beaches and pubs.
Soccer is the national sport. Most of the men from Brazil I’ve met over the years (and it’s been many) like soccer, or football as it’s called. They either enjoy watching or playing it when they have the time.
Typically, Brazilian women are not very interested in football though. It’s also not uncommon to meet someone who is into martial arts, another popular athletic activity in Brazil.
Brazil offers a variety of foods based on rice and pork—barbecue is also a favorite. However, many of the Brazilians I’ve met love a good steak or pizza.
When it comes to teaching adult students from Brazil, there are a few things to keep in mind: preferred teaching styles, expectations from teachers, and common difficulties picking up English.
Preferred Teaching Styles
Brazilian students I’ve taught over the years are fun-loving, appreciate a little humor, and respond well to correction. However, that does not mean only direct correction. They, and most people, appreciate thoughtful feedback that isn’t in your face. I often simply type it or repeat it after they finish speaking.
Brazilian learners don’t always prefer hardcore, strict, lesson management. They really like to chat. It’s in their nature to converse. A great way to win a Brazilian student is to engage them in conversation and inject feedback while maintaining the focus of the lesson. It sounds like an acrobatic feat, but it really isn’t. Just keep the lesson real and useful, and it’ll be much appreciated.
Expectations from Teachers
Teachers are expected to have control of the class, but at the same time be flexible. Teachers who run their adult ESL classes like a high school class will likely have disappointed learners. Teaching English to adult Brazilian students will feel more comfortable if you treat them as equals who are simply learning a new language.
Common Difficulties Learning English
As with many cultures, there are specific hindrances to developing English skills. For Brazilian learners of ESL, it will often be in the areas of pronunciation and word order.
/H/ Vs. /R/ Sounds
Brazilians tend to sound Rs as Hs. It’s a feature inherent in their first language. For example, the name Roque would sound like “hahkee.” This is something teachers will need to be aware of so as not to get confused or cause class members undue embarrassment.
Regular Verb [ed] Pronunciation
Teaching English to Adult Brazilians ESL students tend to have difficulties pronouncing the -ed ending of regular verbs. For example, arrived becomes “arrive-ed,” watched becomes “watch-ed,” walked becomes “walk-ed,” and worked becomes “work-ed.” You get the idea. They’re usually aware that this is a thing. So, they appreciate it when you give them pronunciation feedback or gentle reminders.
Another feature of Portuguese, the first language of Brazil, is that word order is often reversed. So, a desktop computer for example may become a “computer desktop.” This is something to be prepared to correct when it comes up—and it likely will come up.
After reading today’s blog, you should have a better idea of what to expect from ESL students from Brazil. You also have more background knowledge about the geography, culture, and English language learning peculiarities.
While this is not a comprehensive blog, it can get you prepared.
Let us know if we missed anything. Or, share your experiences teaching in Brazil or teaching English to adult Brazilians to us.
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