This month the BESIG World Blog takes you back to Brazil to meet Eduardo Santos, a business English teacher based in Brazil who has become known internationally thanks to his blog and the talks and workshops he´s given at conferences. In April 2013, Eduardo gave a talk on BRICS at the IATEFL BESIG Programme Day during the IATEFL Annual Conference in Liverpool. In this interview with Michelle Hunter from the BESIG Online Team, Eduardo shares his take on business English teaching and reflects on his recent experiences.
Eduardo Santos has been involved in ELT for almost 12 years, having worked at language institutes in Brazil as an English teacher and teacher trainer. He is currently the Director of Studies of Cultura Inglesa in Recife and also Braz-Tesol Pernambuco President. Eduardo has also been working as a freelance corporate trainer for the past three years, teaching Business English to in-company clients. He has given talks at ELT conferences in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, France and the UK.
Eduardo holds a BA (Hons) in Languages from UFPE and he is also DELTA (Module 2) qualified.
MH: You wrote a blog post recently about the difficulty for many of your students, and indeed yourself, with “Defining Home”. Can you give it a go for us now? Where is “home” for you currently, Eduardo?
ES: First of all, thank you for inviting me to be part of the IATEFL BESIG World Blog. I’ve learnt a lot since I joined the BESIG, so it’s a great pleasure to be part of this blog.
The main aim of the lesson ‘Defining Home’ is to get students to reflect on different definitions of home from quotes previously selected by the teacher and also ideas generated from learners themselves. I guess Recife, my hometown, is where I call home today. I’ve lived here my whole life and its culture, traditions and customs are part of who I am. However, I also feel at home when I’m in London and Buenos Aires, having travelled quite a few times to both cities. I guess, in the end, home is where you don’t feel as a stranger or tourist.
MH: We missed you at the IATEFL BESIG Conference in Stuttgart 2012 because you were presenting at TESOL France’s conference in Paris. What do you now remember from your first experience of a major EFL gathering in Europe?
ES: I must admit I was a bit anxious to give a session in a conference not in South America for the first time. I was worried my ideas would be too different from English classrooms in Europe. However, I was surprised how teachers from different countries could relate to the topic of my talk and give very interesting suggestions from different backgrounds. I also must thank my Personal Learning Network (PLN) for making me feel at home during the entire conference.
MH: Your workshop at TESOL France focused on creativity. What creative differences in ELT do you see between the Americas and Europe?
ES: There were teachers present from many countries in Europe, Canada and Brazil in the audience. They also mentioned how creativity is rarely implemented in classroom activities. I was surprised to see that secondary schools in different countries are mostly exam-based, leaving very little space for creative thinking and subjects which foster creativity. On the other hand, teachers from language institutes try to promote critical and creative thinking in the classroom, which is somewhat similar to what happens here in Brazil.
MH: This year, you presented a talk at the IATEFL Conference as part of the IATEFL BESIG Day. For those of us who were unable to attend, can you summarise your thinking behind the topic of “BRICS: Boosting results in in-company scenarios”?
ES: In the first part of my talk, I presented some common characteristics shared by BRICS economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) which have brought up challenges for the ELT industry. Apparently, these economies have been growing at high speed, and so has the need to learn English. I then presented some issues with corporate clients who have an immediate need to learn the language, but don’t usually know which areas to focus on. This need for results also impact corporations which are not prepared to assess the quality of their employees’ level of English, and so hire English Consulting firms to do the job for them. In the end, in-company trainers have to deliver results to clients, companies and English consulting firms. Finally, I presented some solutions to boost results in scenarios such as the one described above in emerging economies.
MH: What did you discover from your audience that additionally informed your knowledge of the topic?
ES: A business English teacher from Portugal mentioned her clients also have trouble to identify which areas to focus on in the lessons and that companies’ interests are sometimes different from what clients really need and expect. Some corporate trainers also mentioned that foreigners living and working in the UK also share some characteristics which I presented and that it is not very easy to fulfil their expectations.
MH: How far do you personally see the BE trainer’s role as “coach”? In fact, what does “trainer as coach” actually mean?
ES:BE trainer must work as a coach in order to boost results in in-company scenarios. While general English teachers use published materials to fulfil the expectations of a group in a school, the BE trainer needs to understand exactly what clients need and use materials based on these needs with a clear focus on results. Clients’ previous knowledge of the business field must be taken into account as well as his/her abilities in L1, so that the trainer builds up the course based on these aspects.
MH: How easy do you think it would be to swap locations with a European-based EFL teacher? What would, say an English teacher used to working in Germany need to know about doing their job in Brazil?
ES: As far as I see BE teaching in Brazil, this wouldn’t be an easy task. Even though the corporate world shares similar characteristics, workers in Brazil see in-company lessons as some kind of ‘therapy’. Even though they are focused on developing their skills as English learners, they also want to discuss general topics and speak freely at times. They want to use part of the lesson to talk about topics such as football, their trips and the last episode of the popular soap opera on TV. Happy hours and long lunches are sometimes used as lessons where we only speak English, but nothing related to the work environment. Apparently, teachers based in Europe are much more focused on developing clients’ skills and leave little space for other activities. That’s the feeling I got but I might be wrong.
MH: How much closer do PLNs bring us all together? Could our industry now survive without such digital networking?
ES: As I’ve mentioned before, my PLN was very welcoming at TESOL France and this made the experience so special and unique. Digital networking has helped us get closer in terms of generated content, ideas for the classroom and knowledge in ELT. Some blogs, like Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT, generate a lot of discussion enriching our knowledge in ELT and making us aware of cultural differences within our field. I attended two online conferences for free in the past two weeks: the IH TOC and the Virtual Round Table. How would this even be possible a few years ago? That’s the beauty of digital networking.
MH: Lastly, what can we expect from your blog - http://eltbakery.edublogs.org/ - next?
ES: I started blogging in order to post the slides from the workshops and talks I gave back in 2009 while working for OUP. The responses I got from colleagues and readers from my blog were impressive, so I decided to post lesson plans, activities, and lately, reflections on my teaching experience. For the future, I plan to produce more content available for readers to download and also share ideas on teaching and professional development.