By Joe Lopes
Here is part 2 of Joe’s article about teaching English in Brazil. To read part 1 click the relevant link at the end of the article.

In the Wee Small Hours…
I leave my home before the crack of six. Since it’s fall and the sun is up, I feel a little bit safer, but during the winter months I walk briskly to the bus stop under cover of complete darkness. There are only a few commuters around, which fills me with a shared feeling of commiserating with my fellow paulistanos. It can be pretty bleak out here at times, especially when it’s damp and foggy.

Before I moved to Brazil, I was told that most people in São Paulo worked a normal nine to six shift, or something resembling those hours. So why do I have to get up so early? The answer is that the average salaried employee gets paid for eight hours of work a day, with one unremunerated hour for lunch.

As far as taking English classes are concerned, employees must not let them interfere with their regular job function. That’s why most in-company private language instructors teach limited hours, starting at 7:00-9:00 a.m.; then during lunch hour, between noon and 2:00 p.m.; and finally after the close of business, usually around 6:00-7:30 p.m., and sometimes beyond.

These teaching hours are fairly consistent for most regions of the country, with only minor variations here and there, depending on the locale. In Rio de Janeiro or the Northeast, for example, where things tend to be a bit more relaxed,” overall, the teaching environment is not as physically debilitating as it is in workaholic-driven São Paulo.

For teaching in the many established and accredited English language schools, such as Alumni, Berlitz, Cel-Lep, CNA, Cultura Inglesa, Seven, União Cultural, Wizard, Yazigi, and many others, the hours are dictated by the needs of the student body, which is primarily made up of school kids in the lower and upper grades (75 percent or so) and a proportionately smaller percentage of adult learners (around 25 percent).

Since my teacher training in New York focused exclusively on adults, I gave up trying to earn a living in places like Alumni and Cultura, which cater mostly to kids and young adults, and for which I lacked the appropriate pedagogical background.

Besides, to work as a permanent employee in one of these institutions would require official certification by the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC), a needlessly time-consuming prerequisite for private instructors. The salaries at most accredited schools are so miserly in comparison to private tutoring you’d be better off giving them a wide berth.

I decided early on to make my fortune giving private lessons in-company and in my home.

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

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

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’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?

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