A bit over two years ago now, I pitched an idea for a book to Disal. This book, which I’d always wanted to write, was about language development for teachers – about the fact we teachers of English need to study a lot (more) about the language we teach, and the fact that we usually don’t. At least not enough.
The book would basically cover three vital areas: vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. It would feature some relevant theoretical concepts on these areas, as well as study tips and exercises. Above all, the book would be aimed at teachers – not students! – of English, especially Brazilian. It has always been my contention that we talk very little, sometimes even not at all, about teachers’ language proficiency when we talk about teacher development, and this is an immense disservice to us all. What’s more important for a teacher than knowing the subject they teach? How can we not talk about it when it’s clear to everyone that ignoring a problem will never solve it?
It was with immense joy that I received the editor’s reply telling me that not only were they interested in the book, they were sending me a contract in the mail! I was, quite simply, overjoyed. The book I’d always wanted to write was going to be published, and perhaps it would be a first step towards raising more awareness of the importance of LDT in Brazil, and towards generating further discussions on how teachers can improve their knowledge of language.
There was, however, a tiny little… hiccup: The book would have to be written in Portuguese.
My knee-jerk reaction was, of course, to find the whole thing absurd. How can a book about language development for English teachers be in Portuguese? Wouldn’t it be akin to writing a book for math teachers in which we avoided talking about numbers? Anatomy without body parts? I was, to be honest, quite taken aback at the suggestion, and even went so far as to write an email turning the contract down and saying I wouldn’t do it – an email I never sent, of course.
I posted on Facebook at the time – A question: Why are so many books written for teachers of English in Brazil written in Portuguese? (You can see the original post from June 2014 and read the comments here: https://www.facebook.com/higorcavalcante/posts/4326845226965). Some of the replies to my question there, especially those by Stephen Greene, Natália Guerreiro and Luiz Otávio Barros, as well as a long phone conversation I had with the editor a few days later, eventually brought me around to seeing the proposition from a different perspective: How helpful would a book in English be if teachers refused to read it in this language, either because they couldn’t understand it or because they thought they couldn’t? How would such a book help teachers if they were never going to get their hands on it in the first place?
You’re reading this post in English here, so it can be assumed that you’re not one of the very many English teachers in Brazil who simply can’t speak – or read/write in – English, or who can, but with great difficulty. But you know they are there, and you know we’re not speaking of a tiny group of professionals, of a small minority. Also, there is a massive group of English teachers in Brazil who, despite being (quite) competent in the language, feel more comfortable with reading (and speaking) Portuguese in professional contexts, and who might also not buy a book which was written in English. How would the book help them then?
I acquiesced, eventually. (OK, it only took me about 10 days or so. LOL) I wrote the book, Inglês para professor, in Portuguese, and I have to say I’m very proud of it, and I think it’s been very well received. I have no doubt the book is helpful for teachers of English at any level, provided they can read in Portuguese, of course. All the examples are in English – actually, there is a lot of English in the book – so in the end I was very happy with the result and indeed I am very proud of it. So much so, in fact, that Inglês para professor 2 is well on its way, and it’s probably being published at some point in the first semester of 2017. But writing it in Portuguese was, of course, a compromise.
Ideally, we’d be living and working in a country where the lingua franca among teachers of English in any professional context would be English, not Portuguese. Imagine, for a minute, how empowering it would be for teachers if we were all proficient; if we all could teach any level, write articles, present in conferences. If we could all share the beautiful work we do with colleagues from all over the world, and learn as well from the incredible work that they do. Perhaps it would even go some way to curbing the prejudice we’re so often subjected to for not being native speakers of the language.
Finally, after this somewhat lengthy introduction, my posts here on Blog Disal will focus on specific areas of language we (Brazilian) teachers of English often have difficulty with, and next month I’ll start by tackling some aspects of pronunciation that might prove hard for Brazilian teachers. See you then!