In the 80’s, a great friend of mine encouraged me to visit our City Library.
On the next five years, I could be found among those shelves every other week.
At each visit, I used to bring home three new issues: one for myself, one to Mom and one to my sister – who at that time was learning how to read.
This simple habit brought me in contact with really great people. Though I enjoyed those short stories and cartoons – the biografies were which most influenced my youth. Without ever being abroad - and being fatherless since 12 - I had access to great people's achievements, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and many others.
Don't take me wrong. Most of my time was spend playing soccer - not reading biographies;-) By reading in a consistent way, I grew up traveling. At least, in my thoughts.
This habit profited me later - when I started reading in English. By applying the same principle, I just read books related to my fields of interest. (Try it out, and you will finish reading almost all the books you start.)
During this time I noticed that certain words appeared most frequently than others. By getting their meaning once, I tried to remember them as they were used along the text.
As there was no thing like Internet at that time - at least to me - I got four English magazines at a news stand, with a K7 tape each. The lack of the Internet couldn't prevent me of laying down in a net and develop my reading skills.
I used the ‘Parrot approach’ by listening each phrase and trying to repeat it the best I could. (To learn Spanish, I used the same strategy, and I'm repeating it with French).
It worked extremely well. Even the jokes of my American friends for the accent recorded in the tapes were not a trouble at all. I was already used to laughing without understanding the joke...
Do you remember those school days when you replied to the teacher "I’m here!", but your mind was very far from the classroom?
You were probably planing your weekend, thinking of your date, or even dreaming of your favorite sports, while the brave teacher resisted with that endless “Blah-blah-blah...”
End of class - subject 'given' - and until next time!
Why such degree of alienation?
Quite simple: due to diversity in personal interests. While the teacher insists in ‘talking about’ the subject, the students are concerned about their own challenges.
If you want to check what I mean, go to a school entrance on a Monday morning, and observe the students as they begin their week. Slow steps, heads down, meaningless time.
Return on Friday, at the time they are leaving school! Compare the rhythm of the steps, the warm of the conversation, the laughers, the glimmer in their eyes... They are returning to real life! What a waste of time and talents it is teaching disconnected of reality.
Long story short, guess who must define your schedule and language goals? You!
Here is my motto as a language teacher:
“It’s infinitely more importante to teach a concept – an idea – and make any change... than teach a thousand lessons... but let everyone exactly how we found them.”
- Mary Ellen Edmunds
Have you ever noticed how the laws of Nature are unchangeable?
Each animal reproduces according to its own specie, each tree brings fruit according to its own seed... at least, when there is no human interference in the process.
Some principles involved are really easy to notice:
Though each tree brings fruit according to its own specie, all of them are need the same resources: air, rain, sun and soil.
“What does it have to do with language learning?” – you may be asking yourself. Here it comes:
Every person is born with the capacity to learn any language, since we come in contact with its speakers.
I’ve taken part in learning experiences with people from 3 to 70 years old, and though they all learn in a different way, their happiness is usually the same.
Nowadays it is possible to create a favorable environment to language learning using CDs, books, telephone, Internet – the list is endless. But keep in mind: such resources will never be more important than the use you make out of them.
If you want to start right practicing your reading skills in Portuguese, send me an email - and you will have one more friend in Brazil!
“Exploiting is part of life. But it is necessary to build a fence to limit the exploitation. The cattle won’t go any longer if waste all their time wondering around on a dry land. They will be so unsuccessful as the children who don’t know the limits of their existence.”
- Children’s Magazine – 1964