By Rafael Colacicco and Jay Forte, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Living and working in Brazil, and especially Rio, is a dream for many with the tropical climate, rich culture and emerging economy – especially in the oil industry. Yet most find the biggest barrier to entry is speaking Portuguese, which is why BridgeBrazil is a Portuguese language school focused on business-language training for foreigners.
Francis Olaberinjo, 39, is a petroleum engineer for Petrobras, Brazil’s largest state-owned company, and one of the biggest companies in the world.
Mr. Olaberinjo came to Brazil to attend training – in Portuguese – at Petrobras’ head office in Rio de Janeiro. First however, he was sent to BridgeBrazil, where had the opportunity to learn the language for three months.
Born in Nigeria, Olaberinjo will live in Brazil for six months. His Portuguese started from scratch, but now after three months in Brazil, he can communicate well with his coworkers, and was happy to share his experiences in an interview:
Why are you in Brazil?
Well, I work for Petrobras, a Brazilian company, and the company gave me the wonderful opportunity to attend training in Brazil.
Is this your first time in Brazil?
No, on the first time I came for one month. Now it’s my second time and I’ll be here for six months.
And why are you learning Portuguese?
Since Petrobras is a Brazilian company, most of the workforce speaks Portuguese, and the company needed me to learn it in order to have better interaction with my coworkers.
How would you describe your experience with the country and the language?
It has been wonderful. Especially now that I can communicate better and make myself understood at work. My colleagues have also been very supportive and willing to help me with specific vocabulary whenever necessary.
Can you describe your routine in Rio?
For the first month, I only came to my Portuguese lessons and went back to the hotel. I was taking the full immersion course, which means eight hours of classes per day. Then for the last two months, I basically wake up early, I come to classes in the morning and in the afternoon I go to Petrobras, which is a couple of blocks from here, to work for the rest of the day.
What do you find most difficult about the Portuguese language?
The structure. It’s very different from English, especially the order of the words in a sentence. I’m getting used to saying things backwards. For example: in English I am a Petroleum Engineer, but in Portuguese I am an “Engenheiro de Petróleo”.
And how have classes at BridgeBrazil helped you?
They’ve helped me a lot. I feel more comfortable with the language and I get a lot of positive feedback from my colleagues at work about my Portuguese.
You’ve taken two courses, the full immersion, and private4. Which one worked best for you?
Because of my work, the Private4 schedule worked best. I have classes for four hours in the morning, and in the afternoon I have the chance to practice at work. For me the real life practice is the most important. The full immersion though, provided me with a solid basis for me to start communicating at the office.
What advice can you give to people who want to start learning Portuguese?
Be patient. Don’t compare your progress to others. Just be focused. Practice a lot and be open to corrections. Being friendly to people helps a lot too. They will be more willing to help.
To learn more about BridgeBrazil, visit their website, or contact either location in Brazil:
Maria Cristina Zappa
Rua da Quitanda 191 / SL – Centro
Rio de Janeiro – RJ
Tel: +55 (21) 2220-8659
Sandra Monica Szwarc
Rua Augusta, 2445 – 3rd floor – Suite 6
Sao Paulo – CEP 01413-100 SP – Brazil
Tel: +55 (11) 3081-1837
* This is an Advertorial for BridgeBrazil.