The first special guest post this year on Get Into English is by Ira, who has been fascinated by English for many years. By sharing her journey, I hope you will be able to relate to her story and perhaps take away some hints on learning:
“I’m Ira, short for Iramaia. I have a blog dedicated to Brazilian students where I write about idioms, phrasal verbs, etc based on puns. I’ve been studying English for a long time: I’ve taught English briefly at an English institute in Brazil, and these days teach privately. I spend the rest of my time doing research related to language learning and teaching. And basically anything or everything interesting that I come across I share on Twitter or Facebook.”
I’ve always liked the English language. I first started learning it at school when I was just 11 years old. It was the first time I fell in love with it. The teacher was very inspiring, and even though I was just a little kid I somehow knew that whatever I would end up choosing to do for a living, it would certainly be something related to English.
My First Job Related To English
Three years had passed when I was invited to work with the same teacher at his private school. As I couldn’t afford to pay for the classes, he offered me a job as a secretary in exchange.
I was just 14 years old and really excited about the possibility of attending the classes. I believe he could feel it too. He could feel the passion I had for the language.
I knew it would be something totally different from everything I had seen at school (at the time, many English institutes were coming into being with different ideas as opposed to the public schools).
Back then, and even nowadays, Brazilian public schools focused their teaching on grammar. I’m pretty sure that this is why nobody ever learns how to speak the language, only relying on their studies at school.
This inefficient method of teaching provided a gap which many private English schools came to fill.
The opportunity to learn English at one of those schools was amazing.
I started learning through Lado English Series by Robert Lado, which included six books. Each one was intended to be taught in six months. We would memorize dialogues and then try to act them out. I also remember pronunciation was explained in the books. Intonation too.
It’s fairly certain that I learned a lot in the two years that I stayed there working as a secretary and studying as well, as people who studied for two years were supposed to at least reach intermediate level.
However, I wasn’t able to speak fluently just yet.
Marriage And A Hiatus From Learning English
My life took a totally different path than I had first planned – I got married and had children at an early age. So during this period I was more preoccupied with being a good mother and wife than learning English.
I went four years in fact without any formal English study. However, music was and still is my companion – I learned a lot through music and song. The funny thing is that at first I didn’t have a clue what I was singing. I was just trying to imitate the singer and the words to the lyrics. Now every time I listen to some songs I recognize the verses and finally get the full meaning.
Back To The Books
In 1988 I met my second teacher. Again the studies were focused on grammar and learning expressions, and we would also have some conversation. I remember that not only me, but also my friends were shy and therefore there was more teacher talking time than student talking time.
I don’t blame him. The class would be in total silence if he didn’t say anything.
I stayed there for a while, I think it was about two years again. At that time I majored in languages. And had a brief experience as a teacher at a private school.
Learning English By Myself
Jumping forward to the year 2008, I started learning English on my own. After so many years without studying, I was pretty rusty.
I remember going through different language learning sites looking for people to talk to, but I didn’t feel prepared.
However, from the beginning I found some very nice people. I still have a couple of e-mails I exchanged with my first e-pal friend. That was back in 2008 and my progress has been huge since then.
I got involved with so many activities related to English, but I was out of work and had to find a way to make some money. I sent out a couple of resumés and succeeded in working for a private English school here in my city.
In Front Of The Class
Teaching English was really hard for me. One thing is to learn the language and not worry about being judged for your performance. Another thing is to be in front of a bunch of people willing to know the secret to learning languages.
Or to be seen as a person who is going to help children to learn the language. Parents seem to believe that you’re going to be the the only one to teach their children and if that doesn’t happen teachers are always the ones to blame.
Teaching and learning at the same time has proved to be a bitter experience, at least for me. I didn’t know what to focus on. I had to learn methods to teach different kind of groups of people, that is, teenagers, children and adults and I didn’t have enough support to help me out with that.
Besides this, I wasn’t sure if being a teacher was really a passion of mine, and that was when I decided to quit.
On Social Media
At that time I was already on Twitter sharing everything I bumped into related to methods to learning the language, idioms, phrasal verbs and anything I could to help people like me become more interested in being fluent.
In addition to this, I was interacting with a lot of really interesting people and I got to know teachers and learners from all around the world.
I was more and more involved with social media and I began to spend a massive amount of time online. I also created a blog based on puns to teach idioms and phrasal verbs to Brazilian students of English.
And the more I stay online the more I want to. It’s highly addictive. All these interactions and the pleasure I feel sharing what I learn is indescribable.
All of this involvement has been crucial towards achieving fluency. I’m sure I have a long way to go but I’m also sure that I’m on the right path.
The Road Ahead
I would like to prove to myself that I’m capable of passing one of those proficiency exams (eg the Cambridge CPE), and also I believe this is a great asset one can have.
And I’m sure that being able to speak English fluently will help me get a better job in the future even if my destiny is to be a teacher.
That’s why I’ve decided to take English classes once more.
Sites I Enjoy
Here are some sites to find people to speak English
And Now Let’s Play Everyone’s Favourite Gameshow!
Let’s see how Ira goes in this edition of Fast Questions:
Fave cartoon character: Johnny Bravo…I think it’s very funny. It was one of the cartoons that my kids liked, so I’d also watch it and have a good laugh.
Fave idiom: “What can’t be cured must be endured.” I used to say that to myself to try and come to terms with the situation I was going through.
The first song you understood in English: I just can’t remember. But it was probably some Beatles song or Simon and Garfunkel. Those were my favorites.
A place in Brazil you recommend to visitors: Since you can’t recommend places you haven’t been to, I would say Salvador/Bahia because of its beaches, local street carnival which by the way I love and music.
A chocolate shake or fruit smoothie? A fruit smoothie.
A word in English which sounds funny: Shenanigans, canoodle, lollygag.
[Ed. – that’s funny, I’ve never heard of ‘lollygag’, which I see is more in North America, meaning to ‘laze about’ or ‘waste time.’ In Australia ‘lolly’ (lollies pl) is what we call ‘sweets’ or ‘candy’.]
A motivational quote: “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” – Pablo Picasso
The most beautiful word in English: Payday 🙂 [Ed. – Tell me about it!]
Thanks Ira for sharing all this with us. If you wish to follow Ira and check out her articles and puns on learning English, please click on the links below (after you’ve signed up for the latest emails on Get Into English, of course).