“Language doesn’t only represent or refer to social reality (…) it constructs social reality" Claire Kramsch, in "From Practice to Theory and Back Again."                                                                                            Now  I look around and I realize how things have changed. I find myself speaking Portuguese in a teachers' room with...

The past is never where you think you left it.” ---- Katherine Anne Porter Having lived a year in the US, I was convinced that I had become an American. I spoke American English, my clothes were mostly American, and I did not like black beans anymore. I could not help pronouncing the word Coke without a strong American English accent I had slowly developed, and which I was proud of. I knew the American Presidents by heart and I had visited more American states than I had ever done...

Translation a skill that constitutes a real world demand, and yet, it is rather underrated in Brazil while it is broadly used in countries like Japan and China, for example.  Despite its disadvantages --- such as giving students the false impression that there is always a one-to-one correspondence between L1 and L2, for example, it offers learners the chance to practice it as a skill that is necessary in a large number of situations such as translating a text to a non-English speaker or working as an interpreter for...

The other day I came across a box of notes written by my students at the end of term. During a while I used to systematically ask for feedback from my students and I had a lesson ready for that for all the levels and age groups that I taught, from young learners to adults. The very last activity was the feedback note, which my students wrote both in Portuguese and in English, whichever language they felt more comfortable with. They were free not to sign their notes...

"Novices become acquainted with activities not only from their own and others' attempts to define what transpires in an activity, but also from how those participating in the activity respond to them." Elinor Ochs, in "Becoming a Speaker of A Culture." (2002) I have just read Elinor Ochs’ article entitled ‘Becoming a Speaker of a Culture,’ a contribution to the book ‘Language Acquisition and Language Socialization --- Ecological Perspectives,’ edited by Claire Kramsh (Continuum, 2002).  In her chapter, Elinor Ochs offers some very interesting insight into Second Language Acquisition theory. Elinor Ochs is an...

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” ― Chinese Proverb This post is dedicated to all the caring and patient teachers out there who  help their students have meaningful experiences learning a second language regardless of any limitations they may have. This post is also dedicated to all the parents who have kindly shared their stories with me over these five years I’ve been involved with the Special Needs program in my language school. Parents-to-be often dream of well-behaved, talented, high-achieving children who say ‘please’ and make the...

"If you know you are going to fail, then fail gloriously!" Cate Blanchett   1 It was a group of six prospective students from a well-known multinational company in São Paulo. It was back in the day when VCRs were cutting-edge technology, so we had a brand new one at our school. We’d specially bought it to play movies and the videos that accompanied our business English materials. It was a Saturday morning class and I’d arrived one hour early to set up the materials and the VCR, and also to make...

As I'm writing this post I'm thinking about my English skills as a non-native speaker. I'm aware of the fact that my English is far from being perfect and I can't expect it to be flawless. Nonetheless, I consider myself a successful English learner-teacher as far as language is concerned for one simple reason: I see myself as a language scavenger. What does it take to be a scavenger? When people speak to me and when I'm exposed to language items, I collect whatever I think is useful or...

“In the dyad ‘language and culture,’ language is not a bunch of arbitrary linguistic forms applied to a cultural reality that can be found outside of language, in the real world.” Without language and other symbolic systems, the habits, beliefs, institutions, and monuments that we call culture would be just observable realities, not cultural phenomena. To become culture, they have to have meaning. It’s the meaning that we give to foods, gardens and ways of life that constitute culture.”                  ...

“Do a loony-goony dance 'Cross the kitchen floor, Put something silly in the world That ain't been there before.” ― Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic When I was 15 I was sleepy most of the time. I could barely stay awake during my first period classes and I remember tottering straight to my bed after school. In the afternoon, I couldn't make up my mind whether to start doing my homework or watching the afternoon movie on TV. In short, I was a typical teenager; it was hard to focus on school when...