My English language journey: Learning, improving and still having fun!

Posted on June 27, 2022

I spent many years learning English in Brazil, but when I moved to Canada, I realized I still had much to learn. Here’s a little bit about my experience and how I continue to improve my second language.

Learning English in Brazil

As a non-native English speaker, I’ve been learning English as a second language for a very long time, since kindergarten, to be more precise. Yes, that’s right, in Brazil we learn English as a second language starting at a very young age. Learning English as a second language is part of my country's primary and secondary education system. Both public and private schools teach English as a second language, and there are a lot of language centres available for those who want to improve their English and can afford the high fees being charged. In the beginning, it’s a lot of fun, as we’re taught cute songs and vocabulary, mainly related to colours, numbers, family members, seasons, parts of the house, jobs and so on. It’s a time to play, play, play. As we get older, learning English gets a bit harder, because we’re asked to read long texts, look up vocabulary and sometimes also do some listening exercises. But that's all. And yes, almost everybody learns English as a second language in Brazil, but only a few people are really able to speak the language fluently.

Realizing I needed to improve my English in Canada

Moving to Canada made me realize I couldn’t communicate effectively. All the experience I had learning English during my school years in Brazil had helped me build up a very good base for trying to speak like a native speaker, but it was far from good enough. I had to change my mindset so that I could learn and find fun ways to improve and make the learning process interesting to me.

Improving my English in fun ways

Using words in context and being exposed to new words and their sounds has been very helpful. I try to search for words related to things I like and to use these words in conversations during my day. Practising with others is not happening too much nowadays because of the pandemic. As I work, I practise words related to circumstances at work. It’s been great so far.

Another nice idea I had was to watch movies that I’ve watched in the past. I used to watch a lot of movies with subtitles in Portuguese, which is my first language. Now when I watch a movie, I still have the subtitles on, but they’re in English. What have I been learning from all this? Whenever there’s a word I don’t know the meaning of, I stop the movie and look up the word. But most of the time, what I’m really doing is seeing the words and hearing the pronunciation as the movie goes on. So what are some of the old movies I’ve been enjoying watching again to improve my English? My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins are two of them. (Both were released in 1964.)

Looking for more ideas

How do you improve and expand your vocabulary? How do you learn the pronunciation of the new words you’ve been learning?

ESL teachers: I would love to have more tips on how to learn vocabulary. I welcome your advice.

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Daniela Faillace

Daniela Faillace

Daniela Faillace holds a degree in languages and translation studies from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. She also graduated as an English as a foreign language (EFL) teacher from UniRitter in Brazil. Recently, she successfully passed Ontario’s Interpreter Language and Skills Assessment Tool (Portuguese-English).

Before moving to Canada, Daniela taught EFL in Brazil with an understanding of cultural diversity and the ability to help students of various ages and different needs acquire and practise English for use in school, business and travel.

 

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Submitted by Tigger Jourard on June 29, 2022, at 6:27

Excellent article. Daniela's observations highlight the subtleties of expression and idiom, and illustrate the depth of her understanding and appreciation of the glory of languages. I look forward to reading more of her articles.

Submitted by Daniela on June 29, 2022, at 16:36

Thanks Tigger for your lovely comment.
You are a big part of my improvement.
I've learnt so much from you. Thanks for volunteering for our conversation sessions.

Submitted by Andreia Deluca on June 29, 2022, at 8:15

Dear Friend Dani
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and successful journey in learning English as a second language.
All best!

Submitted by Daniela on June 29, 2022, at 16:37

Thanks my friend.
I really appreciate your comment.

Submitted by Galina Todorova on July 4, 2022, at 12:54

Great topic! Thank you for sharing, Daniela. From my experience I would say creating an immersive environment especially for learners with a rich passive vocabulary can be helpful. The immersive environment can be a natural one - being in the country where the language is spoken and surrounded by people and information in that language and using every occasion to speak. It is also possible to create such environment artificially, by thinking, speaking and acting whenever possible in the target language. For example, when I was preparing for an exam in French, I wasn't very confident in my oral French expression. One week prior to the exam, I completely excluded communication in English and my native language even with my family and kids. This helped me to reduce the stress during the oral exam. Now, I study Spanish on my own and apply the same technique. It can be fun, too. Imagine learning the lyrics of your favorite song. Happy to share more if there is interest. Learning is a never-ending fascinating journey. Enjoy :)

Submitted by Daniela on July 11, 2022, at 17:33

Thanks for your comment.
I agree we have to find every occasion to speak the target language.
Your idea of creating opportunities is great.
Good luck on your studies.

Submitted by Annetta M on July 4, 2022, at 15:00

I like how you challenge yourself with English subtitles, Daniela. Well done! When I lived in France and looked for ways to improve my French, I joined a tennis club, took yoga classes at a gym and signed up for art/museum tours in French. I liked combining my interests with language learning.

Submitted by Daniela on July 11, 2022, at 17:35

Hi Annetta,
Great idea of combining interests.
I love scrapbooking and pictures. I will google these topics in English.
Thanks for your comment.

Submitted by <a href="https://www.tutoroo.co/french-tutor" class="url" re on December 21, 2023, at 5:44

Very helpful article! Glad to learn with this information!
English