Instructor Spotlight: Fabio Goes, Brazil
For this post, we asked webinar presenter Fabio Goes to share some thoughts about his teaching philosophy, experience teaching English to speakers of Brazilian Portuguese, and interactions with CELPIP test takers. Fabio lives in Brazil and delivers the CELPIP-General Overview webinar monthly; visit our webinar page to register for an upcoming session.
How long have you been teaching English? How did you become interested in it, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I began teaching English while still in college. By that time I already had an international certification and thought I could make some money by teaching while still studying, and to my surprise I liked the experience far better than I expected. At that time I was teaching young adults and I thought the interaction with my students in the classroom was both rich and fun, so I ended up choosing to be a teacher rather than just teaching throughout college.
In what context(s) do you teach CELPIP prep?
I run the CELPIP-General Overview webinar once a month. Although the webinar is always the same, I get a lot of personal satisfaction when the participants tell me at the end how important it was for them. I guess as a presenter I may sometimes think that what I do is more of the same yet again, but the prospective test takers whom I present to every month are different. When they let me know how grateful they are or how important the webinar was for them, I am reminded that I can indeed make a difference and offer people something of relevance.
Do you prefer teaching online or in person, and why?
I tend to favor in-person classes. Online is effective but also prone to connection issues. When we teach remotely, there is always a chance that something will go wrong, whether it is an audio or video issue, or the connection itself, and that chance is multiplied by the number of people in the group, so if the group is large enough it is inevitable that someone will have some kind of trouble at some point. That detracts from the experience of the entire group.
What are the most common first languages of the learners you teach? What are some aspects of learning English that they tend to pick up fairly naturally?
The first language of most of my students is Brazilian Portuguese. They tend to pick up a lot of relatively sophisticated vocabulary easily, because about 40% of English words come directly from Latin and the meaning of these words is usually immediately transparent for people who speak romance languages (e.g., conversation / conversação; transport / transporte; circumnavigation / circumnavegação).
What are some challenges that your learners commonly experience? Can you explain a couple of strategies that you use to help them work through these difficulties?
Brazilian students have difficulties with the core constructs of the language, such as auxiliary and modal verbs, which simply do not exist in Portuguese. Also, beginners tend to make some weird associations, such as thinking that does is the plural form of do. I guess that since the conjugation of the verb do in the simple present in Portuguese has a different form for each person (e.g., faço, fazes, faz), but English does not, they often mistakenly internalize that the English verb does not change its form ever, and later on when they see nouns such as tomato/tomatoes or torpedo/torpedoes, they start associating does and goes with plural noun forms.
To correct this, I explain to them that the English 3rd-person singular form does is a descendant of an older form doth, as the verb was originally conjugated do, dost, doth. As complex as this may sound, it’s helpful to Portuguese speakers, because it corresponds to the way Portuguese verbs are conjugated and allows learners to abandon this misguided idea of does and goes being plural forms of do and go.
What would you say is the most common concern or difficulty that CELPIP test takers express in your webinars? What advice do you give them?
I would say that they often express misconceptions regarding the way that Writing and Speaking tasks are rated, such as assuming that their CELPIP level will be based on the number of mistakes they make or thinking that grammar is the most important factor that Writing and Speaking raters consider. Also, test takers often don’t have well-defined strategies for dealing with Reading tasks, taking notes during Listening passages, or approaching Speaking tasks. Our free CELPIP webinars include strategies for every part of the test, so the best advice I can give is for them to attend or watch as many webinars as they can.
Can you recommend some resources local to your city or country where learners can work on their English skills? For example, are you aware of any useful local websites, conversation clubs, online study groups, etc.?
I think online resources tend not to show any local colours or flavours, because they are open to audiences worldwide, so a language website from a fellow Brazilian does not look that different from, let’s say, another one created by a German. One thing that feels a bit more local is the library of a famous Brazilian-American binational center, in Copacabana. It is open to the public and features a large collection of books in English. In fact, before the pandemic, lots of people who lived nearby used to go there just to study in a quiet place. I’ve also done a fair share of lesson planning over there, as I work two floors up on the same building and the teacher’s room may get a bit rowdy sometimes 🙂
In my teenage years I used to spend an enormous amount of time in another of these libraries—a British one—which unfortunately no longer exists. But that is how I discovered Bradbury, Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Hebert and so many other writers from the 813 and 823 (American and English Literature) rows of bookshelves. Libraries usually have a special place in my heart.
What are some online or print resources that have helped you to establish your teaching philosophy, deepen your understanding of English, or prepare engaging CELPIP prep lessons?
I come from an older generation, so my teaching philosophy comes a little from textbooks (not websites) and a lot from mirroring the teachers and professors I saw as great examples of qualities I wanted to have. How I got to deepen my understanding of English is also twofold: from reading extensively—which I absolutely recommend!—and from teaching. Teaching forces us to review and further analyze what we know so that we may better convey it to our students.
Do you have a story of CELPIP learner success that stands out to you?
No one has ever come back to a webinar to let me know how he or she did on the test, so I can only hope that I have indeed played a small part in many people’s success stories. It certainly does not seem unreasonable to imagine that. Before I started presenting webinars I prepared a student for the CELPIP. She was particularly afraid of getting low scores despite my telling her that she was ready enough, and she received Level 11 in two of the four skills. Talk about being proud!