Street Smart Brazil owner Luciana Lage knows that learning a language is not only a gateway to a culture and its people, but sometimes can bring to you to a personal crossroad in life.
By Sean Chaffin
Let’s review. Bom dia – hello, good morning. Boa tarde – good afternoon. Boa noite – good evening, good night.
That two-week trip to Rio is booked and you’re brushing up on some Portuguese. For Luciana Lage, teaching her native language has been a lifelong passion. With Street Smart Brazil she offers students a unique way to learn this beautiful Romance language.
“Why do we venture into learning a new language?” Luciana asks. “Because we want to communicate and interact. Very few people decide to learn a language because they are linguists. Most of my clients don’t even like grammar. And they don’t have to like it to enjoy speaking Portuguese.
“We use a communicative approach to teaching Portuguese in a practical way. We use real-life situations that you are likely to encounter when hanging out with Brazilian friends and family, or when you visit the country.”
Class materials are created by Luciana because she needed something more flexible than most textbooks.
Her teaching approach involves getting students functioning in Portuguese as soon as possible; real-life situations to live and do business in Portuguese; Brazilian cultural coaching plus personalized learning for a student’s specific needs.
“Real-life is the key word,” she says. “We want to sound natural when we speak a foreign language. We want to understand native speakers when they use slang words and colloquial expressions. We want to speak correctly, too, but not in a textbook kind of way.”
Luciana grew up in Recife, where she studied business in college. In 1999, she attended San Francisco State University to earn an MBA. She loved the city, but moved back to Brazil two years later after earning her degree. In 2006, she returned to earn a life coaching certificate, met her future husband and began teaching her native tongue.
“I started teaching Portuguese as a gig and hobby: teaching a friend, and then a friend of a friend, and then a friend of that friend’s friend” she says. I loved creating my own materials and helping learners use their Portuguese in real life.
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At A Crossroads
“At one point, the gig became too big and I decided to focus on searching for a full-time job to resume what I thought was my career. A couple of my learners would simply not take my decision. They kept telling me, ‘What do you mean get back to your career? You career is to teach Portuguese. You should open your own school.’
One day a client living in Brazil said: “I’ve taken a lot of Portuguese classes at different language schools. Why didn’t anyone teach me the stuff you are teaching me? This is what I hear every day in Brazil.”
A lightbulb went on.
“I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m in business, and I’m Street Smart Brazil,’” she remembers. “I went from teaching solo to starting a business.”
Her business now specializes in teaching professionals around the world. Music has become part of that too.
“I use music in our lessons,” she says. “At Street Smart Brazil we teach the language and share the culture. Music is an important part of our culture. Songs talk about social, political, and cultural aspects of Brazil, and they change as our values change.
On a more practical perspective, music makes it easier to memorize vocabulary and grammar. Listening to a song over and over again is the type of repetition exercise that we all love doing, right?”
For more information on Street Smart Brazil, click here.