This is a play in two acts and you, your classmates and your teachers are the main actors:
Many of you started at a very young age. At that time, all you really cared about was to glue colorful stickers onto you notebooks and get as many as stars as possible for homework completion. When the teacher asked for volunteers, you´d be the very first ones to raise your hands and work as her assistant. Singing songs, playing concentration games and watching cartoons in English were among your favourite classroom activities.
Then you grew older and your interests changed. The world of technology opened new horizons. Boys would beg their teacher to play their favourite “Youtube” videos at the end of the class like “The Italian man who went to Malta”
or “Achmed the dead terrorist”
. Girls would die to see again another Glee song while boys would frown at the idea. The teacher would tactfully play a Taylor Swift clip instead so as to practise clothes vocabulary or a Ben Harper clip for extreme sports vocabulary. But the roles were starting to change. Boys would often help their teacher with incidental sports vocabulary they ´d unconsciously learnt playing video games. Girls would come up with the most unexpected idioms learnt from watching “Friends”
or “How I met your mother”
. The teacher would beam approvingly.
Then you turned fifteen and your English classes seemed to have lost their flavour. All you really cared about was to talk about the parties from the previous weekend or check your facebook, tumbler and Instagram accounts in class. In addition, you´d seen the perfect aspect and future forms at least 10 times before and your teacher insisted on presenting them again and again and again! You felt that there was nothing new to be learnt. But then you slowly started to realise that whenever you travelled abroad alone or with your family or met English native speakers, you were the one to lead all conversational exchanges. When you watched movies, you no longer needed subtitles in Portuguese. You were able to write posts in English on your friends´ timelines quickly and expressing your intended meanings. Then it dawned on you: “Yes, I´ve made it”!
Many of you resumed your English studies as adults. On the very first day of class, you feared that you would be the only one who was still struggling with the verb “to be” exor with ‘”there is/there are”. You would humbly apologise to your teacher and confess to the most unforgivable flaws one could display. After two months of classes, you started to relax and realised that, despite your limited command of English, you were already capable of communicating in English. Your classes provided you with an opportunity to talk about yourself and about the world. You could measure your progress day after day. In addition, your classmates shared similar interests and difficulties and your teacher was there for you.
When you reached the Intermediate level, it seemed that your English had got stuck. No matter how many times your teacher had corrected you, you still made your favourite mistakes like “I live in Porto Alegre for all my life” or “ She´s using a beautiful dress” . To make matters worse, listening extracts had got more and more difficult since native speakers insisted on linking, omitting and reducing sounds. You still could not tell the difference between “sheep” and “ship” and “cheap” and “chip”. Why don´t Americans, Australians, Canadians, British, Welsh, Irish and Scottish people just use one type of English?
Nonetheless, you were brave enough not to give up and you continued your quest, despite your tiredness. You would come to your English classes very early in the morning or after work perceiving that you were getting closer to your target. All of a sudden, everything you had learnt started to make sense. In the blink of an eye, you can now understand the main ideas of complex texts on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in your field of expertise. You can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers or other speakers of English quite possible, without strain for either party. You can produce clear, detailed texts on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue, presenting the pros and cons of options. Then it dawned on you: “Yes, I´m a winner”!
Dear students, congratulations on such an important achievement! It´s all because of your hard work and effort! Dear teachers, many thanks for leading them through this path! Dear parents and adult students, we thank you for entrusting us and our teachers with this great responsibility and for believing in our work!
CRISTIANE R. CORSETTI
Cristiane is our Training and Educational Solutions Consultant in Porto Alegre. This text was her speech at the Master 2 and Express Master 2 graduation ceremony delivered last Monday.