Snapshot: Fernanda da Silva Carvalho (Brazil, 2015/16)
May 11, 2020
Language is a powerful instrument of human connection. When our classes fail to connect people to themselves and to one another, it’s time to rethink our purpose as teachers
I remember I used to teach a group of international students. I knew they were going through a lot of struggles in their personal lives and some of them were going through depression. One day, I decided to take them outside. We went to an open field in our campus, it was a sunny day, blue sky, and I asked them to write on a piece of paper what they were feeling at that moment. To my surprise, they started sharing very personal struggles they went through back in their home countries, one of them said he had gone to prison once. It was a very emotional moment and made me realize that teaching a language should go beyond language itself, language is a powerful instrument of human connection. When our classes fail to connect people to themselves and to one another, it’s time to rethink our purpose as teachers.
My English, My Rules: Your Guide to Language Empowerment
I believe our students need more than language, they need to feel empowered. The purpose of this book is to give learners a sense of belonging in the English language and bring a new perspective into teaching and learning English
As a language student, I remember feeling very frustrated because I couldn’t speak English fluently. Later on I came to realize that my concept of “fluency” was simply impossible to be achieved; I therefore felt my English was never enough. For me, being fluent meant not making any grammar mistake, not having people asking me “what did you say?” or saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand what you said”. I wanted to watch movies and understand every single thing and, obviously, I wanted to sound like a native speaker.
Well, everything changed when I started teaching international students in the United States. This experience made me realize that my students were going through the same struggles as me, trying to achieve an unachievable concept of fluency and, as a consequence, feeling constantly frustrated and insufficient. They ended up losing their voice and becoming invisible...
I believe our students need more than language, they need to feel empowered. Instead of having native speakers as role models, why not have non-native speakers that went through the same learning journey as theirs and became ‘successful’? Why are native speakers allowed to be creative 'using' English and our students are not? Is language a property? Who owns it?
As professionals in the education field, it’s also our job to raise our students’ awareness about language empowerment. That is why I wrote the book My English, My Rules, to help language learners realize that there is nothing wrong with having an accent, that they don’t need to sound like native speakers, and that failures in communication are not always THEIR fault.
The purpose of this book is to give learners a sense of belonging in the English language and bring a new perspective into teaching and learning English. It includes theories of language teaching, neuroscience, and coaching in a practical way.
I would love to learn Chinese or Japanese. I believe it would be a big challenge for me and it would help me become a better teacher as I would put myself in my students’ shoes. Well, I am currently studying to become a holistic therapist. The urge to help people to improve their communication has made me realize that I want to be able to help people in other aspects of their lives too. Therefore, I’ve been reading about psychology, neuroscience, and even astrology. I love making connections about everything I learn and my main purpose is to help people achieve their goals and become a better version of themselves.
Fernanda Carvalho is a former Fulbrighter, certified Neurolanguage® Coach with a Master's in TESOL. She believes in a holistic approach to language teaching, which involves people's development as a whole and not only language itself.