Difficulties Faced by Brazilian Students when Learning English I have not yet started teaching English


I have not yet started teaching English here in Brazil, but for the past year I have been correcting the English of my Brazilian husband. He is a pilot, flying international routes for twelve years and furthermore, he was working in an English speaking country for the past three. Still, he needs constant correction on a variety of different aspects of the language and keeps on repeating the same mistakes, as some of the mistakes are actually the way the language is thought here.

A year into correcting him every second of the day, (we worked together twenty-four seven, so I never took a break from correcting him) he will still say USID instead of used. Or COMPUTERIZID instead of computerized. Here in Brazil, students are thought in school to pronounce the ED as ID, and many TEFL courses are thought by Brazilians who will in turn teach the wrong pronunciation. If my husband, after a year of constant drilling, still manages to still say USID sometimes, I believe that students who study English for two hours a week will find it very hard to forget the ID and pronounce the ED as it should be. Another problem is the M at the end of the words. All the M's at the end of words in Portuguese are pronounced N. So a Portuguese speaker will say hin instead of him and then instead of them. This is very hard for them to correct as they do not notice that they are making a mistake, because for them there is no such thing as M at the end of a word. We used to fly to a destination called Dammam, in Saudi Arabia, and when talking to the controllers, all of the Brazilian pilots working for our company, used to say Damman, so the controllers used to ask them to confirm that they mean Dammam. The pilots will then confirm back to them that yes they mean Damman! It was very funny to hear. So in my opinion these two pronunciation matters are going to be difficult for the students to correct.

Then there are certain verbs in the Portuguese language that have a different meaning to the words that they sound like in English. The verb provar in Portuguese means to try something on, so a Brazilian would tell you, I want to prove my uniform. The same applies to pretender which means to intend, so you would have someone saying, I pretend to say, instead of, I intend to say. There are countless words and verbs that are like this, and it is difficult to make the student forget what the word means in Portuguese and use the correct word in English.

Letters have different sounds in Portuguese; R is H in the beginning and end of a word. If someone wants to say that their favorite color is red, it will sound something like, my favorite color is head!

In Brazil, English is not spoken anywhere other than during lessons. It is very rare to meet a person that can speak English, and as a result students will have no opportunity to practice their pronunciation outside the classroom. This may result in taking a long, long time to get used to pronounce English correctly. A question that I have been asking myself is how am I going to be dealing with this during the lessons. Should I correct the students when they make mistakes in pronunciation or should I let it go' If I choose to correct them, I know that every second I have to be stopping to do so, and if I let it go, I am sure that they will never let go of the wrong pronunciation. I have already decided to make the students aware of this as early in the course as possible. I will ask them to take some extra time outside the lesson to download English speech in order to listen to the pronunciation. In my opinion what I discussed above is what will give the most problems to Brazilian students learning English. They can know that the color red is called red in English, but they will be saying head for a long time, or they know that they have to use to try, (when trying clothes) as they have learnt it, but to prove will always come out first!

I am going to do the best I can to make the students aware of these problems but then it is up to them to work on them at home or at any chance they have to overcome them. I am not going to be expecting miracles after the experience with my husband, I am sure going to encourage them to try and forget Portuguese when they are talking English!

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