Category Archives: teaching English

Bye Brazil, Hello Argentina!

Who's that Guacho???
Who’s that Guacho???

After my 1-month ECVA program in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I said my farewells to my awesome new friends I’d made and hopped on a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was cold and rainy, much different that the balmy weather I left behind in Brazil.  The mood of Argentina was also more melancholic, which you could tell by their love of Tango and theater.

The first ECVA host family I stayed with in Argentina was with a wonderful woman named Eva. Eva lives alone in the suburbs of Buenos Aires – it tooks approximately 40 minutes to the city center with the train. The train was incredibly cheap – only 20 cents! Eva sported me around the city showing me all of the sights. Her energy was amazing, always on the go! She even commuted to a university 4-hours away twice a week to take a class she was interested in.

Eva’s English level was fairly basic. She could understand more than she could speak. She has a son that lives in San Francisco (where I live), and she wanted to improve her English to be able to communicate with her adorable grandson who was born in the U.S. We sang children’s songs (The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round was a big hit!) and we looked at simple English grammar and sentence structure.

I used role-play techniques to prepare Eva for her next trip to the U.S. She told me that she loves going to Starbuck’s near her son’s home in San Francisco, so we acted out ordering coffee and other things in a cafe. We went to the grocery store together and compared vocabulary in English and Spanish.

After being bombarded by meat in Brazil – I was thrilled to find that my host mother was a vegetarian. I couldn’t have asked for a better placement!


Meet our Newest Host Family: Soraya and Flavio!


I just received confirmation that Soraya and Flavio are going to host the ECVA participant, Felipe from Atlanta! They have already started communicating between themselves on a regular basis. I am so happy that the placement worked out. Felipe is going to love Sao Paulo and he couldn’t have asked for a better host family.

ECVA Host Family Interview

I went to meet a potential host family for an ECVA participant named Felipe. Felipe is 23-years-old and lives and is applying to go to Sao Paulo in October. He is originally from Colombia, but moved to the US as a child. Celise met a woman that works at the tech company she teaches English at who was very interested in learning about the ECVA program and the possibility of hosting Felipe. I went to meet Soraya and her husband Flavio for dinner to explain how the program works exactly and what their responsibilities would be as hosts. I told them that they would need to offer Felipe a private room and 3-meal per day. In exchange for this, Felipe is required to help them practice their English for 15-hours-per-week. The interview went very well!

Advanced Lesson with Bibliana

brazil 20105

I recently joined Celise at her lesson with Bibliana. Bibliana is a Brazilian woman in her 30s who is married to a French man. Her English is very advanced, however she speaks with a strong French accent because she speaks French with her husband at home. She has been taking classes with Celise in order to change her accent and to improve her English speaking skills. We met at a cute cafe that serves coffee and a delicious variety of chocolates and pastries. I had a coffee with milk and a piece of chocolate called a brigadero. We sat upstairs on the balcony. The cafe looked like it was someone’s grandmother’s house. There were photos on the walls, kitchy furniture, four long eared furry pet rabbits and birds in a cage. I introduced myself to Bibliana and we had an interesting conversation. It turns out that Bibliana is a lawyer, but she also DJs on the side. Her husband is a famous DJ in Sao Paulo at a popluar club. She told us she could get us on the list anytime we like!

The lesson was fun because we talked about phrasal verbs, which can be kind of tricky. They are expressions that we use on a daily basis that we don’t tend to think about as confusing. But for non-native speakers, they really need to be memorized. Phrasal verbs are verbs combined with prepositions in English to describe specific acts. Examples of phrasal verbs are:


Make up

Make out

Sleep in

Set up

Set out

Set down

Get back

Get on

Get off

Turn in

Turn on

Turn out

Move out

Move forward

Move back

Move to

Party for “Raid!”



Last Friday night, my host brothers Joao and Paulo threw a house-warming party for me. The funniest thing is the way they spelled my name. Instead of Heidi they spelled it Raid (pronounced like Haij). They pronounce the “R” like we pronounce the “H” and they pronounce the “D” like a “J”. I thought it was hilarious, and called it the “Raid” party. It was really fun and I met about 10 new Brazilians. I prepared some appetizers, while the boys prepared some drinks. We played music and danced, and everyone was trying their best to speak English to me. I dabbled at my Portuguese and somehow – we all managed to understand each other. I was so excited to get to know everyone and feel welcomed in Sao Paulo.

IMG_2946 IMG_2932

English Lessons with my Host Brothers


The goal of the ECVA program is to get the host family comfortable speaking in English. I bought some notebooks for my host brothers to keep a daily journal in English. I just asked them to write about what they did, someone they met, or something interesting that happened each day. Then they read it to me, and we discuss what happened. I correct their mistakes and make a list of vocabulary words that they need to work on. I divide the lists into different topics such as food, sports, computer and technology, furniture, shopping, etc.

For the most part, my host brothers just enjoy conversing in English with me. We often make lunch or dinner together. Cooking and eating together make easy conversation topics. Sometimes we watch TV together. The other night we watched a couple of episodes of The Simpsons in English. I let them use the Portuguese subtitles to help them understand. Watching movies in English is always a good way to teach people expressions in English.

Joao is more advanced than Paulo, so I sometimes call him on the phone just to make him practice speaking English. Paulo and I have more simple dialogues. We talk about what we did each day, and what we should make for dinner. We also talk about our families and their differences. Celise came over one day to help with our lesson (you can see her and Paulo in the photo).


Intermediate Lesson with Erica

Intermediate Lesson with Erica



Many of Celise’s students work at the same tech company called Habber Tec. She usually goes to their office and holds the lessons in the meeting room upstairs. I went to the lesson with Erica the other day. Erica’s parents are Japanese, but she was born in Brazil. She showed me some photos of her family. One of them showed her mom and her grandmother in front of the biggest plate of sushi I had ever seen. Celise asked her what she did the previous weekend. She went to an Italian Festival and she described the amazing food she had eaten there. Erica loves tennis, so we also talked about this. I asked her about where she normally played in Sao Paulo. She said it is very expenisve to play here and you have to rent courts. Her and her husband are taking lessons together. Erica is extremely busy and also just started taking a Spanish class. I also speak Spanish so I threw out some basic phrases, but she got a bit flustered so we returned to English. We talked about her commute to work each day and her favorite things to do in Sao Paulo. She recommended that I go to the northern outskirts of the city to hike up a big hill and get a spectacular view of the city. Thanks, Erica!