How to speak like a native (and other Fortaleza updates)

If I had to pick a theme for these past few weeks with respect to my work (because I do actually work here), it would be “speaking like a native.” In the past two weeks, I’ve visited a number of Letras classes to give a presentation on contractions and slang that Laura and I created. And let me tell you, it was hard! I know I use a lot of slang (my b, legit, interwebs), and let’s be real*, when Nat and I were together on campus last year, we basically spoke our own language. Well, at least we did in the house; we might have been slightly more normal in public. But, at the same time, it was still really hard for us to come up with a list of slang! Some of these terms, however “incorrect” or meaningless, have become so integrated into our vocabulary, that it was hard to differentiate what was slang and what was normal.

[ *also a slang-ish phrase I use a lot!]

Overall, I’d say that the presentations were a huge success. I visited four classes and in all of them we ended up discussing the origins of certain slang terms, coming up with crazy example of how they’re used, and trying to work them into conversation. I also used the lesson, which some of the students from my conversation club saw, as a way to introduce some slang into my conversation club. Some phrases include:

Sucks to suck, haters gonna hate, you do you, and sorry I’m not sorry. While some of these (especially the last one) I only use in a joking manner, and obviously only with friends, it was a ton of fun to introduce these to my students.

Outside of talking about slang, the conversation clubs have been going really well! Well, at least I think so! I hope my students agree! We’ve continued playing games (like “Who am I?” the game here you put cards on your forehead with names of celebrities on it) mixed in with some casual chatting. In the next few weeks, I’m hoping to bring in some multimedia stuff too with music and/or tv. And now I better follow through since I think a few students read this blog! 😛

Laura and I also hosted our first monthly “American Movie Night” and we screened “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Laura thought it would be a fun way to start the series. Little did we know that it’s a super popular movie here in Brazil! But, in the end, it worked out. In fact, it more than worked out. We had close to 60 students present! Granted, a few of the IsF teachers brought their students, but we practically filled the auditorium! On a Friday night! It’s was an amazing feeling.




that’s a pretty packed auditorium!


Not only did we have about 60 students present, but just under half stayed for the optional discussion at the end! We talked about main themes of the movie, and related it back to some of our talks on university life in the U.S. (since, as Ferris explains in the movie, he wants to spend the day off with his friends because who knows what will happen once they move away to college). In two weeks we’ll be screening our second movie, Remember the Titans, and I hope we another good turn out!

Our other big project that we started this month were our monthly workshops/seminars for the Inglês sem Fronteiras students. We had hoped to start last month (March), but with Carnaval in the beginning of the month plus getting settled in, we couldn’t get anything organized. We also felt it was better to wait and plan a good seminar as opposed to rushing to put together a bad one. Overall, I think that was best for both us and our students. Our idea for these workshops is to pick one topic for the month and run the workshop every other week, at two different times, in order to accommodate as many students as possible.

This month, I led both seminars and they were on “University Life in the U.S.” The presentation covered everything from the different types of universities (public vs private, large vs small, etc.) to tuition, to student life, and everything in between! Our first seminar was scheduled for before semana santa at 10am on a Saturday. You may be thinking “that’s crazy! You can’t expect students to show up that early on a Saturday! “ Well, here at UFC, IsF only meets on Fridays and Saturdays because of classroom availability. And, classes start as early as 7:40, so we had no doubt that students would show up and they did. Well, seven of them did. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. Not only did I have a small turnout, but I basically felt like I talked at them the whole time. No questions, no nothing. Not even a nod of understanding. Suddenly, I began to worry that I was the problem.

Just last Saturday, I ran University Life in the U.S. (2). I spent the day before mentally reorganizing my presentation—starting off with questions about Brazilian universities to draw a comparison, sparking a discussion beforehand, and frantically messaging the professors asking them to encourage their students to ask questions—would I even work?


I arrived for the noon presentation about an hour early with a plan. I had revised the structure of the seminar, I created a sign-in sheet (something I forgot last time), and tried to pump myself up. I knew that one professor made the seminar mandatory, but I was still worried that his students would be the only ones in attendance. Boy was I wrong! Over 50 students showed up for the presentation! I asked how many hoped to study abroad in the US and only a handful raised their hands, but they still came! Combine that with the success of the introductory discussion, I couldn’t be happier with our this seminar turned out!!!




not a great photo of the seminar but it was dark in the classroom!

Outside of work, life in Fortaleza is still great. Laura and I have been putting extra hours into the dance group and I’ve successfully learned 5 ½ of the dances! (I say 5 ½ because we’ve actually learned 6, but there’s one that I still need to practice more). Just last week we learned two full dances—Rainha do Foclore from Boi Caprichoso and Exaltação ao Garantido from Boi Garantido—in about 3 hours! That’s a lot of dancing!

This last weekend was “Dragão Fashion,” essentially the Fashion Week of Fortaleza. Once of our friends, Camilla, happens to be a designer! We unfortunately had to miss her show because of dance, but we went on Friday and it was so cool! I saw the photos of her collection, and it was definitely better than the one we went to live, but it still felt like a very top model/project runway moment. In fact, I even saw one piece and thought to myself that it was a “make it work moment” (read: it needed a lot of work)


Finally, after a lazy Saturday (I worked most of the afternoon and then spent the night chilling out after a crazy Friday!), Milton and I spent ALL day Sunday at the beach! We met up around 11:30, sat at the barraca all afternoon, ate some delicious caranguejo, and relaxed.


fresh caranguejo (crab) and coconut water!


But, Milton had discovered this barraca the week before and beginning around sunset on Sundays, the barraca turns into a semi-nightclub (evening-club? It goes from like 5-9pm). Once there, we ran into another friend, Daniel, and spent the evening together. What? What is my life that I’m spending my Sunday evening as a beach shack turned party?


Despite those last few paragraphs where I digress from writing about my work here, I want you (whoever you may be) to know how gratifying it is. I can’t lie and say that I haven’t had some frustrating moments (like having a classroom full of students waiting for your seminar to start but no computer to use, or feeling underutilized in general), but for every frustrating/bad/down moment I’ve felt, I’ve had about ten great ones. I’m traveling again tomorrow (I’m writing this Monday night) to João Pessoa, Paraíba, where I’m going to get a chance to teach at the IsF program there and “workshop” with some other Fulbrighters, but I can only hope that the last six weeks of semester end up just as awesome as these first few months have been.

Thanks for making it this far! Beijos!

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One Response to How to speak like a native (and other Fortaleza updates)

  1. Monica says:

    Missy, I love your posts!!
    Fique tranquila quanto aos alunos! Em geral, brasileiros não fazem muitas perguntas em sala, eu acho! hehe.
    Adorei a escolha do filme! Em português, “Curtindo a vida adoidado”. É demais!

    Beijos, querida.

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