A Note to Brazilians: How to Be a Success in the United States

It's not easy being an immigrant in a country with a different language.  But the key to success is to master the English Language.  Maxine Margolis in Little Brazil remarks that most Brazilians in the United States only speak English at a novice plus level.   This lack of proficiency in the language is going to make it very difficult for Brazilians to rise up the economic ladder.  One cannot take advantage of job opportunities that arise if one does not know English very well.  

There are many Brazilians who learn just enough English to get by in their occupation.  For instance, a Brazilian chef who knows only the English words for cooking and food service. This is obviously a vocabulary that is too limited to be of much help in expanding one's future job or social possibilities.

Many Brazilians when they first come to the United States primarily stay in their social circle to Brazilian friends and acquaintances.  This obviously is very important psychological protection from the harshness of life in a foreign city.  (Especially as one as tough and "rude" as New York.)

While keeping one's ties to Brazil and Brazilian friends and acquaintances, one had to study English.  The goal is to become proficient enough so that one can confidently approach native English speakers in order to widen one's circle of friends.

I have met some Brazilians who have "given up" on learning English and just want to stay lin their Brazilian circle.  They comment that English is "too hard" to learn, that they "tried" and have become "discouraged."  Yes, English is hard to learn, but it can be mastered.  And here are some helpful hints in learning English:

1.  Buy cassette tapes in Portuguese on learning English. These are available at some of the Brazilian product stores.

2. Sign up for classes in English as a Second Language. You will derive support from knowing that there are many other people exactly in your same situation -- people who are having a rough time in learning the language.  And you will probably find that you are certainly not the worst of the English speakers.  

3. Go to the children's section of large book stores and look at their cassette tapes with accompanying booklets.  These tapes are age-graded.  Buy several tapes at the level at which you are approaching.   This is a fun way to learn English.  As you get better in English, you can buy cassettes for higher age-grades.

4.  Buy several different types of book on learning English grammar and a good Portuguese/English dictionary.

5.  If you have a computer or a friend has a computer, buy a language software package, such as Language Assistant (available in the larger computer stores), that will translate the English to Portuguese.  (These packages are certainly far from perfect, but even when the translation is poor, it does save you time in looking up each word separately in the dictionary.)

6. Ask at the local library if there is a volunteer available that will help you learn how to read in English.  

7.  At the Brazilian product stores, purchase English-speaking movies with Portuguese sub-titles.  Watch these movies numerous times each.    

8.  Buy English magazines and translate at least the main head lines using your dictionary.

9.  Buy English CDs that have the English lyrics in the cover booklet and translate the lyrics into Portuguese.  Then keep singing along with the lyrics until you can sing the song with ease by yourself. 

10.  If you know of a job or social opportunity available, study the English vocabulary associated with this endeavor.  Buy books, magazines, etc. in English dealing with the field that interests you.

The secret is to become proficient enough in English to the point that you can feel confident in approaching non-Brazilians with the intention of expanding your friendship circles.  It may seem that on the surface New Yorkers are hard to approach, but perseverance will pay off in the long run.  Make friends and don't be afraid to ask for help in speaking English.  And be sure to let them know that you appreciate them helping you to improve your English. (Many Americans think it rude to correct other people's English.)

The secret to success is perseverance.  Keep studying and keep going to school.  Even if you never attain your goal, you will become a better person in the process of trying to reach that goal.  



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