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

Business For Fun & Profit
I embarked on my in-company career in 1996-97, working for a small English-language school that I located through a wanted ad in the O Estado de São Paulo newspaper. Coincidentally, the same advertisement appeared in the Folha de São Paulo daily as well.

Normally, sending out resums or answering classified job ads in Brazil are a waste of time, but once in a while an opportunity does arise for the enterprising individual that actually appears to be a legitimate teaching assignment. Don’t pass up the chance for a quick interview – and possible offer of employment – by ignoring them. Always give the local papers a quick perusal in case something worthwhile pops up.

The school I worked for was run by Eleonora, a Brazilian teacher of Business English who had lived for several years in the United States, and who was contracted to teach in-company to the employees and partners of PriceWaterhouse, a large multinational accounting and consulting firm with headquarters (at the time) in downtown São Paulo.

In order to work for the school, however, I had to be officially registered with the city as a self-employed language instructor – one of those inescapable necessities mentioned earlier. To accomplish this, I hired a despachante, an individual who knows his way around the myriad complexities of Brazilian bureaucracy. He’ll charge you a fee for his services, but it’s a small price to pay for having it done right, and for your peace of mind.

Although I was a certified EFL teacher, no one ever asked me for my teaching certificate, not even Eleonora. So the question of whether one is necessary to teach in Brazil remains open. Is it an absolute requirement? No, not really, but it does help to have one.

Most language schools provide some form of teacher training to potential applicants, but as you can imagine, the quality of the training is variable. If you don’t have a teaching certificate, then you’ll just have to wing it. If you do have one, then you will already know how to teach English to foreign language learners, and this is a definite plus in the over-crowded, competitive São Paulo teaching market, as is being a native English speaker.

After a few months at Eleonora’s school, I started to make some valuable personal contacts among the employees, secretaries, managers, directors and partners of PriceWaterhouse, all of whom encouraged me to branch out on my own as their private language instructor.

This proved to be a most lucrative move on my part because of the additional business it brought me, and I must emphasize its importance to all potential private teachers: if you are able to get a foot in the door of a large corporation as a private instructor, you will pretty much be able to set your own fees-within reason, of course-and make your own hours, which will most likely revolve around your students’ availability for classes.

The employees of the company will be the primary objects of your focus. Since establishing personal relationships in Brazil is so important, doing a good job for your students-and having them like your teaching style, too-will enable you to obtain multiple referrals and job leads, which can sometimes mean the difference between survival or failure in the business.

It may also open up other job prospects, such as translation work, on-the-spot consulting, interpreting, one-to-one coaching, and a host of others, as you become a virtual part of the company itself. The more you know about a particular company – and the more you have in common with one – the smoother the fit will be for all concerned.

After having worked on Wall Street for a number of years, I was able to use this past experience to my advantage in dealing with accountants, auditors, consultants, and other financial experts. Teachers should always look for facets of their own background and personality that will give them that competitive edge when considering an in-company teaching assignment.

This sounds so simple, yet you’d be surprised at how many teachers ignore it, or worse, dive into realms of job possibilities they are totally unprepared for, such as recording or voiceover work, only to realize later on they jumped in way over their heads.

Unless you’ve had some relevant experience in a particular area, go easy upon entering unfamiliar terrain.

Part 5 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

To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

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’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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