Teaching English In Brazil Part 17

By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here&rsquot;s part 17 of Joe&rsquot;s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

Put It in Writing
The history of the teaching profession is littered with tales of pupils who were either the class pet or on permanent detention. Indeed, not every student you accept will turn out to be a Hermione Granger, or even a Harry Potter, for that matter. Some of them can even be downright ornery at times – and behave more like a Draco Malfoy – while others help make the session pass ever so slowly with their bad manners and disruptive antics (see Lesson 2″ for the gory details).

Since your primary aim will be to teach adult learners, you will need to protect your rights with regard to giving classes. Having a written contract between you and your student is one of the best ways to do this.

My wife helped me put together a version of a contract in Portuguese on the reverse side of the main document, but the basic content of your agreement should spell out the class rules and regulations in a clear, concise, and easy-to-read manner.

You do not need to be an expert in Contract Law or write like a Supreme Court justice to be able to create something functional, but your agreement should certainly cover the following points:

  • Hourly rates and fees;

  • Days and times you are available to teach;

  • When payment is due, and how much;

  • What to do in case of insufficient funds checks;

  • Late-payment charges and bad-check penalties;

  • Days off, including federal, state and municipal holidays;

  • Vacation time, the duration of it, and when;

  • Cancellations and emergency situations;

  • Policy regarding makeup classes;

  • Rate adjustments or increases due to inflation;

  • Anything else of importance.


There were only a few times in my teaching career where I had to haggle with students over late payment for classes, reluctance to pay for my vacation and holiday time, or the passing of bad checks. Somehow, when students are forced to put their signature to a piece of parchment, they tend to take their classes a little more seriously.

Make sure you go over the details of your agreement before the student signs on the dotted line. It’s usually a good idea to spend the first session of class in an informal, relaxed discussion about this topic-all the better to iron out potential problems prior to facing future misunderstandings later on.

As a sidebar to this issue, the Brazilian notion of what is a legally binding agreement between individuals versus the American (or foreign) notions of what it is are altogether different, and much maligned to boot. Some business people I used to teach were under the rather mistaken impression that the written contract was only the beginning of our negotiations – and, ergo, wide-open to interpretation at that; whereas, in the Anglo-Saxon Common Law tradition the contract is ultimately the final result of them.

But whether your agreement has the force of law behind it or not is irrelevant, for the very act of putting it all down on paper – and making the student recognize the seriousness of the business relationship you are trying to establish – is more than enough to lend it credence.

Still, expect some of the brainier bunch in your groups to deliberately question, argue over, deny, nullify, misconstrue, waive away, or even distort the finer points of your accord should you ever have the need to chastise them over some abuse of its terms.

Hopefully, this will not happen too often, but it’s good to know that you’ve “got it in writing” whenever the time does come to properly defend yourself.

Part 18 next week…

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 16
Teaching English In Brazil Part 15
Teaching English In Brazil Part 14
Teaching English In Brazil Part 13
Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil&rsquot;s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

Teaching English In Brazil Part 16

By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here&rsquot;s part 16 of Joe&rsquot;s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

In this final set of articles I conclude my discussion regarding the practical side of the profession, and move on to some of the language and cultural problems foreign teachers face, as well as talk about the tools of the teaching trade.

Sessão da Tarde (Afternoon Session)
To make certain that there will be an afternoon lunchtime class, I call my student’s secretary, Snia, to confirm the session.

Hello, Snia?”

“Oi, J,” (Hi, Joe) she answers. It’s funny how after only a few weeks of teaching in-company the informality of Brazilians quickly becomes apparent. I can still remember when it used to be “Bom dia, Seu Josmar” (Good morning, Josmar, sir), before I became a regular visitor.

“Oi, Snia, tudo bem? (Hi Snia, how are you?) Is Mrcio there? I called to confirm our class.”

“Mrcio is not here. He went to see a client, but he’ll return by noontime, so I think there will be a class.”

“OK, thanks a lot. I’ll see you later. Tchau (Bye).”

I grab my case with all my teaching accoutrements and head off once more for the trip to downtown. This will be my second tour today of the Centro, with this class being a bit of a minor setback for me, but I still have enough time to work on my friend Flora’s HBO video after I return home. Besides, I need to go downtown anyway to pick it up, and could certainly use the exercise: all that bread, butter and cheese in the mornings are starting to deposit themselves along my expanding waistline.

After about an hour’s ride, I arrive in downtown at precisely noon, sign in at the front desk, and ask the receptionist to call Mrcio to let him know I’m here. The receptionist gets the secretary on the line, talks to her for a few seconds, then hangs up to tell me that Mrcio hasn’t arrived yet-but if I would like to wait for him in the lobby, I’m most welcome to do so.

Uh-oh, I’ve heard this one before. Nine times out of ten, if my students haven’t shown up by the usual lunch-hour starting time they’re not likely to appear at all.

Just then, Flora’s husband comes busting through the doors. He’s a boisterous, bespectacled fellow of about 70, with a wavy head of salt-and-pepper hair, and the rapid-fire mannerisms of a first-generation Italian descendant. He’s full of anecdotes about his time in Rio de Janeiro, and his younger days as a mechanical engineer in the wilds of West Africa.

We exchange greetings as he slips the HBO video into my waiting palms. He’s in a terrible rush, as always, and can’t really stay. No, not even for a quick cafzinho. He suggests we go out for a cup the next time he stops by. It’ll be his treat. Promise. Then in a flash, he’s gone, just as suddenly as he arrived.

I wait around for a half-hour or so, all the while conversing with the receptionist, whose English is simply appalling. Much to my general bereavement, she keeps threatening to have classes with me.

“I thought all receptionists were supposed to speak English,” I comment to her.

“Yayz, we speekee, but I needee taykee cless. You teechee?” she inquires.

“Umm… I’m kind of booked up at the moment,” I cringe, “but here’s my card. Call me in a month or two, and I’ll see what’s available.”

Against my better judgment, I once took on a receptionist as a student, but she could only have class during her lunch break. We couldn’t have any sessions on the premises as she wasn’t really a company employee (security and reception personnel are often contracted out to third-party firms) and, therefore, not allowed access to the upstairs offices. We didn’t have anywhere else to go-except to the local restaurant.

We wound up having a very one-sided conversation at a diner somewhere along Rua General Jardim, as waiters scurried about our table tending to the lunchtime crowds. I felt as if we were in the eye of a storm.

As you can imagine, it was an absolutely dreadful class. Besides, the receptionist only wanted to gossip about the other employees of the firm, which I adamantly declined to do. Thankfully, she stopped having lessons soon after that class, to my great relief.

Part 17 next week…

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 15
Teaching English In Brazil Part 14
Teaching English In Brazil Part 13
Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil&rsquot;s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

Teaching English In Brazil Part 15

By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here&rsquot;s part 15 of Joe&rsquot;s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

One Last Call
I get ready for my noontime class. Before leaving, I make myself a light snack just to have something solid in my stomach. As I munch on my sandwich, the telephone rings. My wife answers and it’s Vera, a lawyer friend of mine, who dabbles as an English language teacher on the side.

Lately, because of the turnaround in the economy, Vera’s law practice has been sliding a bit, so she’s been doing more translation and teaching work as financial stopgaps. I take the call, knowing that my friend will keep on calling me until I respond to her query.

She says she needs my help with a translation of some phrases” for a legal document she’s preparing. I spend about twenty minutes on the line with her, trying to waylay her “doubts” about the text. She wants me to review her work and make any changes to it before she prints it out for her client. I tell her to send it to me via email and I will get to it later today. She thanks me for my help, as I hand the receiver back to my wife.

I met Vera while I was attending a gathering of teaching colleagues at a mutual friend’s house. She earned her Master’s degree in Linguistics, taught English as a Foreign Language at União Cultural, and was currently working on her post-graduate thesis in Comparative Law.

As a non-native speaker, though, there were moments when she was simply unable to grasp the innate subtleties of the English language. At those times, she required the assistance of a competent legal advisor.

Since I happened to have a paralegal degree from an accredited American university, I was more than willing to help Vera with her ingls jurdico (legal English), which is used in all forms of Contract Law, Criminal Law, Procedural and Substantive Law, Civil and Matrimonial Law, as well as Bankruptcy and Immigration Law.

For Vera’s law studies group, I was even able to teach several courses of my own design, which were taught in English (with a smattering of Portuguese), and tailored to the tastes of lawyers, law students, secretaries and other legal professionals.

As I mentioned before in Lesson 1, prospective teachers need to look carefully at their own business backgrounds or past specialties, and try to turn their previous work experience into potentially lucrative fields that may involve the use of English.

Other areas that may be applicable here are the airline industry, journalism, travel and tourism, hotel and hospitality, manufacturing, metallurgy, agriculture, crop science, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, engineering, Internet, computer technology, and sales, marketing and research.

Take a Card, Any Card
Your business card can be your entry ticket to many potential teaching opportunities, both of a temporary or permanent nature.

Be sure to have your pertinent contact information (including name, home address, home telephone number, cell phone number, pager, email address, and Internet website) all professionally printed on good quality stock. You can either do this yourself, if you have the requisite software and high-speed printer, or have one of the many specialty print shops around town do it for you.

While you are at it, try to think up a clever phrase, slogan, or jingle describing exactly what you do. It makes it easier for your potential pupils to remember you by. And have it printed on your business card, too. It can be anything within reason that tells students you’re in the “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” business.

Have a recognizable foreign symbol or logo printed onto the card that will connect you to your place of origin. For example, I used to have the American flag and a bald eagle – quite apropos, in my case – placed on all my business cards, followed by my title (Mr. Joe Lopes, but not Josmar, which sounds too Brazilian), my profession (English Teacher), and a brief description of my services (translations, subtitling, dubbing of videos, English for Business Purposes, Legal English, whatever).

Hand them out to as many people as you come into contact with on a regular basis. You never know where they will end up, or in whose hands.

Before you know it, your telephone will be ringing off the hook, especially after Carnival, when most companies and their employees seem ready and willing to get down to the serious business of learning English.

Part 16 next week…

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 14
Teaching English In Brazil Part 13
Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil&rsquot;s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

Teaching English In Brazil Part 14

By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here&rsquot;s part 14 of Joe&rsquot;s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

Translations, Always Translations
Doing transcriptions for HBO movies is only one of the many different jobs available to teachers. I once received a call from a business entity called Save Speed Back Enterprises, Ltd., a private São Paulo-based firm that specialized in emergency medical treatment to business people and their families.

I thought to myself, What in the world could they want with me?” As it turned out, an employee at Save Speed Back had come into possession of one of my business cards, and was interested in taking advantage of my services to translate some flyers, brochures, and nursing course descriptions into colloquial American English.

This was a lucky break for me, because I really needed the extra money at the time, since I had stopped doing HBO programs due to the devaluation of the currency in 1998, and I had other financial setbacks because of the loss of several of my students. I jumped at this chance and told Save Speed Back that I’d be very glad to meet with them.

An extremely popular and growing field for English teachers to engage in, then, is that of tradues (translations) – or verses (versions) – of books, brochures, pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles, proposals, legal contracts, correspondence, letters, memoranda, and other types of business documents.

To put it simply, a traduão involves the translation of a document from the English language into the Portuguese language; a versão, on the other hand, is basically a translation from Portuguese into English, or whatever language the translator is most comfortable or familiar with, which makes it a “version” of the original document.

Of course, this presupposes that you have a thorough knowledge of the Portuguese vernacular. It’s a given, however, that not all English language instructors will know the foreign tongue as well as their own, but teachers should not discount what could be an additional source of income simply because of this seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

After all, that’s what Brazilian wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances are for. They should always be relied upon and recruited to lend a helping hand when needed – and be justly compensated, too – for their translation efforts.

Once you accept a translation assignment, be ready to work diligently, rapidly, and under a tight, pressure-filled deadline. Have a large supply of dictionaries, thesauruses and encyclopedias on hand (in English-Portuguese/Portuguese-English) to help you wade through the more difficult portions of a given text.

Carefully proofread your work and have another person double-check your spelling and grammar for accuracy. You don’t want to submit anything that’s sloppy or slipshod, or you’ll lose the repeat business, which is where the real money can be made.

Part 15 next week…

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 13
Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil&rsquot;s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

Teaching English In Brazil Part 13

By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here’s part 13 of Joe’s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

The Video Follies
I was definitely not looking forward to this additional drain on my free time – and on my wallet – but my friend was in a bind. She had to deliver the finished product by Wednesday morning in order to meet HBO&rsquot;s strict deadline, but she was too laden down with other work to do it herself, so she was counting on my assistance.

That was the problem with transcribing, in general, and HBO programs in specific: they were always on such a fixed and immutable airing schedule that simply had to be worked around.

I calculate the approximate time it will take me to complete Flora&rsquot;s film; she told me over the telephone it was an hour-long documentary, so the chances of it being wordy are fairly high.

I surmise, then, that it&rsquot;s going to take roughly six hours of solid work to transcribe the lengthy dialogue in its entirety.

If my noontime student cancels his class that will give me the six hours I needed to complete this task before my next set of lessons later this evening. With a little luck, maybe my evening students will cancel out on me (it&rsquot;s happened before). That will free up even more time, just in case it takes longer than expected to finish the job.

Since I was now under the gun, I had to make the best use of my available time and resources. This is another all-too-common occurrence for teachers who are on a tight teaching schedule. Interruptions, extra workloads, spur-of-the-moment job requests, and due-yesterday translations of important documents are all part-and-parcel of the teaching profession.

There were days when I hardly even taught a class, much less stepped outside my apartment, because of the additional assignments I had taken on.

Why do teachers do this to themselves and take on so many more job functions than just plain old teaching? For the fundamentally sound reason that teaching by itself does not, and cannot, pay all the bills all of the time.

Although a busy private teacher can expect to earn anywhere from R$2,000 to R$3,000 reais a month – more or less – that&rsquot;s only when the Brazilian economy is booming. If you are a young, single, and upwardly-mobile English language instructor, this can sound like an incredible amount of money.

But consider that most salaried employees in the country only earn about three or four times the minimum wage, and you will have a much better appreciation for the pitiful salary conditions most Brazilian workers find themselves trapped in.

If, like many wage earners, you have your own family to feed, extra school expenses to face, insurance and medical costs to meet, and a home or apartment to pay for, you will need to supplement your teaching income by tackling a wider array of English-related tasks or work assignments.

When cash gets tight, as it inevitably does in balmy Brazil, and your students find they can no longer afford your private language classes, you must look elsewhere for work opportunities to be able to weather the economic storms.

Part 14 next week…

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil&rsquot;s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil&rsquot;s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

Teaching English In Brazil Part 12

By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here&rsquot;s part 12 of Joe&rsquot;s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

Mid-Morning Utility Break
I arrive in my apartment around 10:00 a.m., which, because of the guas de maro (waters of March), is pretty fast timing, considering all the traffic problems our bus encountered along the way.

My wife greets me at the front door and hands me a message from Flora, a teaching colleague of mine. The message says that Flora has a movie for me to transcribe, and wants to know if I can pick it up at PriceWaterhouse around noontime and before my next class.

I call Flora back to tell her that we can meet in the lobby at twelve.

No, Joe,” she says, “I’m too busy to meet you myself. You’ll have to take the movie from my husband. Would you please be a dear and help me out with this problem?”

“Sure, Flora,” I grunt in acknowledgement. “No sweat. I’ll take care of it,” as I hang up the phone.

In addition to teaching, I also did freelance work for Home Box Office (HBO) of Brazil. My job was to transcribe the dialogue for films, movies, television series, news programs, documentaries, and other TV shows for the History Channel (Civil War Journal), the SuperStation (Biography), and the NBC Television Network (The Today Show, Dateline).

It was a lucrative and challenging area for an English teacher, but an extremely cliquish one as well-and very difficult to penetrate. It was also exceedingly demanding of my teaching time and all too regularly crept into, and interfered with, my social and family life.

As an example of what I mean, transcribing an hour program such as Great Chefs of the South, Biography or Modern Marvels can translate into approximately six to eight hours of non-stop, butt-busting work on the computer, television, headphones, and VCR. You are stuck in your home for all this time while you’re trying to complete the task.

It was a boring, tedious, and meticulous job assignment whereby every word and line of dialogue was listened to, typed, repeated, checked, and then saved to diskette for eventual dubbing or subtitling prior to being aired.

And there were other considerations for me to keep in mind: because of the high service and use charges in São Paulo, my monthly utility bills were going through the roof every time my electronic devices were kept on for longer periods than normal-and certainly over the course of an entire day’s work.

The same thing was true for the telephone lines and my Internet Service Provider. In addition, embedded within these regularly-billed items were such exotic charges as “frequent-user tax” and “value-added tax,” “rate adjustments” and “readjustments,” “additional fees and tariffs” and “penalties and late charges,” “interest charges” and other add-ons.

Many newcomers to Brazil are completely unaware of these hidden charges. You will become an expert on them, I assure you, once you have been a frequent utility, telephone and computer user. Your lifestyle may need to be “readjusted” as a result of them as well.

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil&rsquot;s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

Teaching English In Brazil Part 11

By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here&rsquot;s part 11 of Joe&rsquot;s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.
It Looks Like Rain
As the subway car pulls up to Santana station, I peer out of my window for an on-the-spot check of the weather. The clouds have that dark and menacing appearance of a late-summer rain shower, as my sense of dread tells me it&rsquot;s going to pour like the dickens!

Sure enough, no sooner do I finish my thought than it immediately starts to drizzle. In a few minutes, the drizzle turns into a heavy and penetrating downpour.

I run for protection under one of those fiberglass-covered bus stops along Rua Dr. Gabriel Piza. As luck would have it, I&rsquot;m able to step aboard a bus bound for Avenida Nova Cantareira, which is just close enough to my apartment that I won&rsquot;t have to walk too great a distance for very long.

I always carried a small portable umbrella in my bag for just such a situation – you never know when the skies overhead will suddenly open up and all hell will break loose on top of you. And it can really rain in this city! You would think you were in the middle of a deluge somewhere in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

One time, I was accompanying my student back to her place of business after a lunchtime restaurant class – another one of those wonderful teaching perks I previously talked about – when all of a sudden the clouds unleashed a powerful rainfall of antediluvian proportions along Avenida Paulista. Within seconds, the streets were awash in a raging torrent rivaling the Mississippi River in strength and ferocity.

After I was successful in escorting the student safely to her office, I still had to go out into that storm to catch the subway for the trip back. By the time I reached my apartment, I was the spitting image of a very cold, and very wet, street rat – even with my trusty umbrella in hand.

Residents of the major cities all face this terrible dilemma of flash flooding during the dreaded rainy season. City officials and state bureaucrats alike have so far failed to come up with a permanent solution to this seasonal set of circumstances, which many feel are due to rampant, unregulated overbuilding and to inadequate drainage systems, among other complicated causes. It remains a serious and potentially life-threatening hazard for anyone caught in the middle of these habitual rainstorms.

Because of this, teachers are strongly urged to avoid scheduling any late afternoon or evening classes too far away from their apartment, home or business, particularly during the months of January, February and March. This will help you to avoid being stuck in traffic somewhere, or up to your literal ears in rainwater.

Fortunately, the rains tend to come when the majority of your students are on vacation or on holiday, but you can&rsquot;t always count on the seasons to obey your carefully worked-out schedule.

Illness can sometimes be the result of over-exposure to bad weather, or too dramatic a fluctuation in the temperature, or too many hands shaken during a major influenza outbreak. Sooner or later, it may even require a little trip to the local health clinic.

A reader recently wrote to me requesting information about medical insurance and hospital facilities in Brazil. Although my experience with these matters is limited, my family and I did have occasion to use the local doctors for treatment of various degrees of illness.

And, at the risk of sounding like a senator up for reelection, it is an absolute necessity for teachers with families to have adequate and affordable health insurance in case of sickness or emergency situations.

Language instructors should shop around for qualified insurance agents – and try to obtain the best available rates from them – for single, married, or family coverage. Again, your friends, relatives and teaching associates can probably guide you better along this well-beaten path than I can.

As a self-employed professional, however, be prepared to pay mile-high insurance premiums for your children and spouse, unless your language school has appropriate medical coverage under its health plan (not always likely, or even possible). It&rsquot;s worth the extra effort to check it out and make absolutely certain.

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil&rsquot;s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil&rsquot;s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

Teaching English In Brazil Part 10

By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here&rsquot;s part 10 of Joe&rsquot;s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

To facilitate my meanderings around town, I usually wore a light polo shirt or cotton print over a clean pair of sport slacks and some comfortable walking shoes. In hot weather, a clean T-shirt, sneakers and blue jeans were added to the ensemble. For cold snaps, a long-sleeved dress shirt with a heavier pair of pants was the order of the day, topped off with a smart woolen sweater or an insulated jacket.

Depending on where you intend to live and teach in Brazil, your wardrobe will need to be modified given the region’s climate and weather patterns, but most instructors should be able to adapt swiftly to the prevailing trends in informal teaching attire with little to no problem.

However, I’ve known some male colleagues to over-abuse the wearing of jeans, so much so that the jeans started to take on that rough-and-ragged look more beloved of Harley Davidson bikers than steadfast English teachers. And a few of the younger ones used to wear their open-collared shirts a little too open for my more conservative dress tastes to approve of.

A bit more discretion and decorum are good rules to follow when conducting in-company classes; at home is another story, where informality and comfort are the major themes.

And men, please take this next piece of advice to heart: do not forget to shave. It only takes a few minutes of your valuable preening time in the morning to make this a regular part of your daily routine. I grew a small beard to keep my mouse-colored moustache company, so I didn’t have all that much facial hair to scrape off.

You have no idea how scruffy-looking a male teacher with a five o’clock shadow appears to a group of sleepy-eyed students at seven o’clock in the morning. It’s like talking to Z Colmia (Yogi Bear).

Unless you are Ben Affleck or Thiago Lacerda-in which case, you wouldn’t be teaching English, anyway-you are much more presentable with a nice, close shave or an expertly trimmed beard.

Even my female colleagues were not immune to violations of the dress code.” One teacher I knew used to wear a super low-cut blouse over skin-tight stretch pants that left nothing to the imagination.

Another friend once came to work wearing a ghastly array of costume jewelry and gold pieces, with rings flashing from every finger, and bracelets galore all up and down the length of her forearms. She also absolutely reeked of her own liberally applied perfume. It took all my powers of concentration to fight back the unseen fumes that floated up toward my supersensitive nostrils every time we chatted.

The point of classes is not to parade oneself as if in a fashion show, nor is it to distract students from the session-particularly those with short attention spans. You will want to look your best but not overdo it.

A professional outlook and appearance to match are the best combination for all language instructors, who don’t get enough respect and recognition in their profession as it is. Inappropriate or over-elaborate dress can only lead to ineffectual lessons.

These may seem like minor quibbles, but even experienced professionals can overlook these basic but strategic tips.

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil&rsquot;s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

Teaching English In Brazil Part 9

By Joe Lopes
Just when we thought Joe had finished his excellent series of articles on English he sends us more! So here we have part 9 of the series so far. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

In this next installment of my series on teaching English in Brazil, I cover some of the more practical aspects of the profession, as well as look at other types of jobs that are available to teachers.

Weather Patterns: Dress for Success
I quickly glance at my watch and see that it’s now 9:00 a.m. I fly down the stairs to the lobby – no time to wait for the elevator – where I deposit my visitor’s badge, and then head straight for the exit.

On my way out, I run into some former students, who either wave friendly hellos or exchange brisk handshakes with me, as I brush past the guards and bolt across the street before the traffic light changes. Streaking across the plaza, I bound down the steps of the subway station and break out into a light sweat.

The temperature is already 29o Celsius, or close to 84o Fahrenheit. It’s hot and stifling in downtown, which is shrouded in a dull, orange-gray mist that covers much of Avenida Paulista. The noise and pollution levels have risen dramatically – and in close proximity to the temperature reading – as rush hour in the city reaches full throttle.

Today, I decide to take the subway to Santana, and then switch for a bus to Zona Norte (North Zone); all told, about a 45-minute ride on a good day.

I always tried to dress casually but presentably for each teaching session, knowing that São Paulo can go through four different seasons in one day; it can be chilly in the morning, warm around midday, brutally hot in the afternoon, and rain like a tropical monsoon in the early evening. If you are out in this mess, you are constantly susceptible to the elements and must, therefore, dress appropriately.

On one occasion, I simply overdressed, thinking it was going to get colder later on. When the temperature rose higher than expected that same afternoon, I found myself melting under a ton of extra layers of clothing. By the time I got home, I was a pale vestige of my former self. After a refreshingly cool shower, abetted by several delightful glasses of bottled water, I went to sleep off my debilitating dehydration. From then on, I religiously set my Sony clock-radio alarm to the all-news station and listened intently to the weather forecast before deciding on what to wear.

Another time, I almost came down with heatstroke after rushing to a job interview in Pinheiros under a broiling noonday sun. With my baldpated head, I should have known better than to expose myself at that hour, but I was in a hurry (as usual) to get there and forgot to take the necessary precautions.

I finally arrived to the interview with a monstrous headache and a decidedly green pallor to my visage. I managed to survive the ordeal, but only after I had wolfed down two mouthfuls of aspirin accompanied by a hefty ice-cold glass of lemonade courtesy of my future employer. My head hurt so much I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom and splash water all over my face – and right in the middle of our conversation. It was a fairly embarrassing moment, to say the least.

The next time I went out in that sweltering heat, I made sure to wear a good sunscreen or baseball cap to protect my pale skin from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil&rsquot;s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

Teaching English In Brazil Part 8

By Joe Lopes
Here is the eighth and final part of Joe&rsquot;s article about teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant link at the end of the article.

The Breakfast Club
Due to the daily diversion of having to find an empty classroom, some of my more resourceful students decided at one point to meet me at a coffee shop or restaurant in order to hold an impromptu study” session, while we enjoyed an aromatic sip of Brazilian coffee or a nibble of that delicious French bread.

“Coffee Class,” as I came to call it, was most helpful to break the ice for new students or to get to know the ones you have better – but it could be a real chore for professional teachers. In the first place, there’s no way to teach anything at a coffee shop. You can’t use classroom materials or learning aids if you have to stand up constantly and gulp down your stimulant; you can’t make meaningful conversation, or work on your students’ pronunciation, if they answer you with a baguette protruding from their lips; and you can’t assist in your students’ struggles with the latest phrasal verbs if the many onlookers who step up to the counter keep interrupting by asking the attendant for another cup of Carioca (a small and very strong espresso).

A restaurant or luncheonette is better than a coffee shop for regular early morning lessons. At least you can sit down for an hour or more and concentrate on a particular grammar point.

Try to choose a place that’s clean and decent for yourself and your charge, but not too pricey. If you’re lucky some students may even pay for your breakfast, courtesy of their company’s meal ticket or voucher program. This is a very welcome benefit that can save financially strapped teachers some extra change. Be sure not to overlook it.

And be cognizant of your surroundings. Looking for a place to sit near Praa da Repblica, Avenida São João, or (heaven forbid) Praa da S, can be fairly intimidating. Be cautious and observant at all times, evenings as well as mornings. This is sound advice for any urban-dweller regardless of country or city.

In-Company Horror Stories
There are five minutes remaining in the class, but some of my students give indications they have to leave, so we adjourn the already shortened session and say our mutual goodbyes.

“Bye, gang,” I tell them, over the din of morning greetings and bits of hallway conversation, “and see you on Wednesday. Oops, I almost forgot. Please sign the attendance sheet on your way out. Thanks a lot.”

“Bye-bye, Joe, see you later,” they intone in unison.

Most of the students I taught in-company were pleasant, eager, unfailingly polite, and from the upper-middle-class stratum of Brazilian society. Some were also very good speakers of English due to certain situational advantages (i.e. frequent overseas forays, high school in the States, parents who were native speakers) that their poorer coworkers further down the economic food chain were not exposed to.

These socioeconomic distinctions, while not as readily apparent in more mainstream American business life, can be quite noticeable in class-conscious Brazil. They can manifest themselves in both intricate and disarming ways, such as in how your students speak, dress or act.

Like most normal individuals in a group situation, adult learners of English can appear at times to be manipulative, bossy, gossipy, childish, selfish, domineering, quarrelsome, jealous, suspicious and, above all, petty. Although they are generally respectful of the teacher, they do not always hold their compatriots in the same regard. Granted, employees of firms are under a great deal of pressure nowadays to be ever more productive, but they are also overly preoccupied with making measurable improvements to their language skills. This added level of stress can lead to some annoying personal habits, even to bizarre emotional behavior.

It’s reality television brought to vivid life, as you suddenly discover that some of your formerly tolerant student body begins to express blatantly belittling opinions of their working-class brethren, while other, less stable members exhibit definite paranoid-schizophrenic tendencies.

One of my students was a manager who loved to take up class time with her personal pet peeves, and forced everyone to look at her huge album of photographs from her many European trips. Another manager was absolutely convinced her superiors were watching her every move, and was in a perpetual frazzle over some callous complaint the senior partner had made about her work. One time she broke down in abject resignation over her job situation, right before the start of class. It took a Herculean effort on my part to put her back together again in time for the lesson.

And then there was Luiz Antonio. His was a most “amusing” case: a bright, overachieving auditor of about 30, he missed over half his lessons due to too many late-night numbers-crunching sessions. When he eventually decided to show up for class, he complained that we were still covering the same subject matter:

“Why we are yet in that topic?” he griped.

“What do you mean?” I asked, puzzled.

“Last time I here, we do same thing, prepositions. Why never we can go in to new topic?”

I then proceeded to berate him in a fruitless attempt to make him take some responsibility for his frequent absences, as well as his total lack of desire to do even the slightest bit of outside homework-and if anyone needed help with his prepositions, Luiz Antonio was a prime candidate.

It was a losing battle, though, but from it I learned a valuable lesson, and one I must impart to all my readers: do not try to force your students into coming to class or doing their homework. They are much too busy worrying about their careers to be able to keep up with lessons.

Yet, if given half the chance, they will readily grasp at any straw as an excuse for their lame language performance. The only thing that teachers can do to circumvent this situation is to document the absences as a way to substantiate the students’ inability to pass the course or to go on to the next highest level.

Here’s one more “horror” story for the record. Since ours was an early morning class, Luiz Antonio would often interrupt the lesson by throwing his head way back, opening his mouth widely, and emitting a long, protracted-and very loud-yawn.

I politely hinted to him that somebody in the room needed to get some extra sleep before showing up for class, but my subtle asides went unheeded. Since he was an infrequent visitor to class at the time, I didn’t concern myself too much with his antics.

Finally, a teaching colleague of mine, who taught Luiz Antonio at another level and who did concern herself with his outlandish behavior, put a stop to his diurnal display by informing him that he was being offensive to her and disruptive to the other members of the group; and that if he continued to gape in that animalistic fashion, she would personally escort him from the room herself.

Given that my colleague’s rebuke was a bit harsh, it did help to curb the yawning problem to everyone’s satisfaction. Everyone, that is, except Luiz Antonio, who promptly quit coming to class soon after that exchange, and then went so far as to file a formal complaint against my colleague with the head of the language school.

An English language instructor must adapt to the ever-changing rules of classroom etiquette in order to successfully deal with the heavy workloads of overburdened adult learners.

The teacher must learn to handle the few troublesome types with the deftness of a seasoned camp counselor, and endeavor to lead them back to the main reason why they are taking classes in the first place: to learn English, not to receive ad hoc psychoanalysis or handholding.

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil&rsquot;s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil’s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil&rsquot;s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?