English teacher in focus
English Teacher: Alexandre Duarte
Lives: São Paulo, Brazil
Loves: Basketball, live music, BBQ
“We went to Disney Land and never came back”
When São Paulo-born Alexandre Duarte was 10 years old he and his family went on a trip to southern California. “It was the 1980’s. Things were hard in Brazil,” he says. “Inflation was super high. My mum was a single mum with three kids. She had some friends that told her she would have better opportunities in the US so she decided to go. We went to Disney Land and never came back.”
“I didn’t know any English when I arrived. I started attending ESL classes.” He then went on to complete his junior high and high school education there. “There were Black, White, Latinos, Asians students. I hung out with the Latinos because I understood Spanish. In a month I was able to speak Spanish. It’s just speaking Portuguese the wrong way,’ he jokes. Later on Alexandre lived with his family in Boston, home to a large Brazilian community, and then, once he finished school, all over the US, via his work, “I’ve been to over 43 states. I heard all kinds of accents.”
He didn’t return to live in Brazil until 2012. “It took a little adjustment, I’d never been an adult in São Paulo, my slang was from the 1980s, people looked at me like I had come out of a time machine.” It was back in the land of his birth that he began teaching, “I found out I can learn a lot from the students. I teach lawyers, doctors, dentists, psychologists.’ He says that he draws on experience working as a court interpreter in the US as well as his degree in simultaneous and consecutive translation. He’s worked at the World Cup and Olympics and now teaches groups and private individuals for Eszett.
He finds that as a native Portuguese speaker he is able to quickly diagnose common mistakes other Brazilians make when speaking English, “I can translate expressions literally,’ he says, “After five minutes, I can tell [if they need help with] prepositions, or have problems with ‘th’ pronunciation.” He always tries to introduce idioms to help his students feel more confident in the language.
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