Hoje tem uma novidade muito legal! Estamos começando uma série de entrevistas com profissionais do inglês e aqui está a primeira – Kenneth Beare (ou só Ken) é o guia do ESL About, aquele portal de inglês gigante com um mundo de exercícios, lições, planos de aula e muito mais.
A conversa durou mais de 20 minutos e hoje apresento a primeira parte, em que Ken conta como um cantor de ópera (ele mesmo!) acabou se tornando professor de inglês, fala de sua experiência de 20 anos ensinando na Europa e dá uma super dica: saber identificar content words e enfatizá-las na hora de falar pode fazer maravilhas quando você conversa com um nativo (veja no fim desse artigo os links de lições que ele mandou sobre esse tópico.)
Para descobrir mais sobre content words (e ouvir as estórias do Ken) é só ouvir a entrevista. A transcrição dessa primeira parte segue abaixo – e você pode também baixar o arquivo de áudio MP3 e o PDF, que além da transcrição tem comentários e expressões explicadas.
Ouça a primeira parte da entrevista aqui mesmo:
(Ana) Hi everybody, this is Ana Luiza of inglesonline.com.br – today I’m talking to Kenneth Beare, the guide of English as a second language at About.com. To access the ESL guide, go to esl.about.com. So, hi Ken! Thanks again for agreeing to give an interview…
(Ana) … to Inglês Online.
(Ken) Alright! My pleasure.
(Ana) Alright. So Ken, let’s get started. Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got started in the ESL field, how it all progressed, and how you ended up doing ESL at About.com.
(Ken) OK! Well… I didn’t start off to become an ESL teacher, but I did study a lot of languages. I studied to become an opera singer. For a matter of fact, I sang for about… professionally for about ten, fifteen years and mostly in Germany but also Austria…
(Ken) Yeah, yeah… but as you probably know, the opera business is, is… you know, it’s like any business in the Arts, it’s very difficult… And between gigs, as we called them, which mean, you know, short, a month, jobs at a given opera house, I began teaching English as a second language to, you know, help pay the rent.
So, that’s kind of how I got into that. So I was teaching English on and off, mostly in Germany but also in New York City for about ten, fifteen years between my singing engagements. And also I was going to Conservatory, I got a second degree in Germany.
So, anyway, long story short, eventually… you know, I was married, had a child and decided I had to get real about making a living… So I, I took a TESOL diploma from Trinity College in London, while I was teaching in Italy. My wife and I had moved down to Italy, to Livorno, which is in Tuscany, it’s just south of Piza, and I… so I, so I sort of polished up my qualifications and dug into the actual teaching profession a bit more.
About the same time, I became interested in using computers, and this is about 1996 I guess, so back in the pre-historic days of the internet. And I was lucky enough to come across an advertisement for a company called (…) They were looking for a guide to English as a second language. And so I applied for the job, jumped through the hoops, and also because I was transitioning in my career to focus more on English teaching I took it very seriously.
And things started there, and started off slow, but, you know, as with most things on the internet, there was exponential growth and that’s kind of how it landed. And during the course of creating materials I started also working for companies creating courses for CD-ROM, mobile phone and DVD, so I became much more focused on producing content. You know, sort of based on the lessons I had been teaching for all those years.
(Ana) Wow, that’s a great story, I bet that’s a little known fact about you, right? An opera singer turned ESL professional.
(Ken) There are a number of us out there…
(Ana) Really? OK. Alright. Well, so you had a lot of experience, of international experience, right?
(Ken) Yes, that’s right. I spent over twenty years in Europe.
(Ana) And in your experience, which area of English presents the most difficulty for learners?
(Ken) Well, to be perfectly honest, I think most learners have the most difficulty when they have to use English with native speakers and… that doesn’t mean their English teacher who might be a native speaker in class, that means when they visit an English-speaking country and they’re confronted with native speakers for the first time.
It is so frustrating to have worked so hard at your English and then be confronted with people who speak in idiomatic English… And you can study all the idioms you want, but when someone’s speaking quickly, and they’re speaking in idioms, you know, talking baseball basically, in the United States… that can be extemely frustrating for students and it’s…
A number of students told me over the year and I’ve noticed this repeatedly, they really have no problems communicating in English, or few will have problems communicating in English with other non-native speakers of English. It’s when they speak to the Brits or the Americans or the Australians that life becomes very difficult.
(Ana) And Ken, is that because of the natural speed of the native speech, or because of the idiomatic expressions that only Americans know, or, I don’t know, the new words that appear every day?…
(Ken) Yeah, I think that’s also due to the fact – certainly in the United States – that we… unfortunately, tend to butcher the grammar… that people…
(Ana) I think we do that everywhere…
(Ken) Yeah, yeah, I’m sure it’s the same in Portuguese, I mean, if you speak the language as a native, you do things also orally, you know, you break off,.. As you know, English is a very… it’s called… what is it? Time-stressed language, which, in other words means that we, you know, really focus on the content words and sort of skip over the pronouns, the helping verbs, etc.
So for people who grow up speaking a syllabic language, for example Italian, and I’m not sure but maybe also Portuguese, where each syllable, even if it’s glossed over, is pronounced correctly… That can be very hard for the ear because they’re used to seeing the language written and expecting that… you know, they’ve learned the pronunciation rules now, and when they hear people speaking, they’re glossing over that, like [makes funny noise].
That’s very frustrating and I’ve found over the years that just… It’s interesting on two fronts, as far as comprehension is concerned but also as far as pronunciation is concerned, and this is also a big problem… a challenge, rather, not a problem, is that once students become aware of this… this, you know, time-stressed nature of English, that you basically gloss over things and you get them to exaggerate that, their pronunciation improves immediately.
Because they’re not worried about pronouncing every single word, but rather they’re focusing on the content words as we naturally do in English. And students are suprised, “I’m not pronouncing it correctly!” Oh, but you are, but you are!
(Ana) Ken, that’s really interesting. Can you give us a specific example of a phrase, a sentence that you would do that?
(Ken) Oh, yes I can, I have a great… Well, let’s say… Here’s a simple sentence: “John gave me a book”. John, gave, book are the three principal content words so “John gave me a book” is pretty easy to understand.
Now, I might say something like “I have been working hard a week.” There, I’ve got: working, hard, a week, are the three main stress words, but I said “I have been working hard a week.” So you hear those three stresses, and you obviously hear that there’s a lot more there. But because it’s glided over, it becomes more difficult to understand. Maybe that’s not the best example, but off the top of my head that’s what came up.
(Ana) No, I think, I think we can understand. So you guide the students in, let’s say, stressing those three words more heavily than the rest of the sentence. Is that it?
(Ken) Yeah, that’s correct. There are some exercises I do. First of all, I do a little bit of, you know, consciousness-raising about this problem, make people aware of it, because often that’s not something that people are aware of, and then I give them some examples… A sentence with four content words, and then I write this huge, long sentence, or as long as I can come up with, also with the same amount of stress words.
And then I’ll speak both of them and it’s surprising how, even though the second one is longer, it’s still almost the same amount of time. And that’s because of the way the language is stressed. And there’s always some sort of an A-HA! moment that occurs, and then I’ll have a sheet prepared, and I’ll ask the students to underline the content words.
So first of all they have to figure out, what are the structural words that I don’t necessarily need to stress, and what are the content words? It takes a while to figure that out. And of course, there are a lot of exceptions like everything else in English.
But once they become aware of that, then I’ll have them maybe go through a paragraph of something that they would like to present, or they’ll write out something that they would like to talk about. And that helps them underline the content words and really focus on that. And it’s really amazing the improvement they’ll see, in a really short time span because they’re not so worried about pronouncing every… correctly.
(Ana) Yeah, equal weight, right? Every word with equal weight.
(Ken) Yes, which isn’t natural.
(Ana) Can they go to esl.about.com to learn more about content words? Do you have…
(Ken) Yes, I’ve done a number of exercises, also lesson plans for teachers that they can print out to use in class.
(Ana) That’s great, that’s a great tip.
(Ken) And I’ll follow up with the… I’ll send you an email with links to some of these resources we discussed so that people don’t have to spend hours searching around the site.
(Ana) Great! Thank you… That’s specially good for the beginners because I think they may get a little lost, you know, people who just got started.
(Ken) Yeah, yeah.
Ken nos enviou uma lista de recursos relacionados ao que ele discutiu na entrevista – dê uma olhada:
Não perca a segunda parte da entevista na semana que vem – até lá!
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