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‘I’d come so far on my English journey that I was now confident to express myself and I was no longer afraid of making mistakes.’
Andreza’s first real conversation in English didn’t happen until she was an adult. It was a telephone call with a university, which she remembers as a terrifying experience that she simply had to get through! It became the first step on her largely self-taught English learning journey that has seen her cement a career in Cambridge Assessment English’s Madrid office where she uses English daily. Her English skills have gone from strength to strength and she says she draws inspiration from her love of classical ballet and the arts.
I was born in a small city near São Paulo, and I always wanted to learn English, but I never had the chance, as my parents couldn’t afford classes. We did learn English in school, but it was a very basic level. After I finished school, I felt that communications and public relations were interesting career options for me as people always told me I was naturally expressive. I decided to go to college to study public relations in São Paulo, which was a big decision because I was the first person in my family to go to university and lots of friends couldn’t choose this route at that time.
Once I arrived at university, one of my teachers told me I must have English in order to secure jobs in the PR industry. However, my big challenge was time, as I was balancing work and classes. I managed to find a few hours a week to study English myself which helped me improve, so I’m largely self-taught, but I was also lucky enough to get a place on an online government programme in Brazil, which helps students get the skills they need to study abroad.
I’ve been an amateur ballerina since I was 14 and my love of the arts is a great source of creativity, so I try to translate this into my work.
Interestingly I’d never had a real conversation in English until I was an adult, but that all changed one day. I was thinking of studying abroad, so I started applying for internships and I contacted the International Education University in Madrid, and a lady called me back to invite me to an event they were hosting. She spoke to me in English, and I was super nervous, but I got through it! It was then that I realised that I needed to get better at English!
I then moved to Madrid, and I was still not speaking very good English, so I tried to expose myself to English as much as I could. I started working in marketing agencies and both of them had a very multicultural team who were using way more English than I was used to. I had two American colleagues and one of them didn’t speak Spanish, so we had to speak in English. She was very patient and helped me get over my fear of speaking in English which is a problem we have in Brazil – we might understand English, but we don’t want to speak it. I was also asked to write adverts for marketing campaigns, plus content for blogs and social media. She gave me tips on how to express myself in a better way. I also started writing in English and I had a colleague who was proofreading everything I was writing, which was a big help.
Eventually I decided to take a formal class and I studied for about three months in an English school in Madrid, but once again it was very hard. I couldn’t enjoy classes because my level was very mixed. While I had become confident in expressing myself, I was having trouble with my grammar as I’d never properly studied it. One thing that really helped me was paying attention to how people speak, which words they use and in which context.
I then applied for a job at Cambridge Assessment English which was perfect for me because they wanted someone who spoke English, Spanish and Portuguese with a PR background. I got an interview where I had to present a marketing strategy for our online test Linguaskill, switching between Spanish and English multiple times which was a real challenge! I’d come so far on my English journey that I was now confident to express myself and I was no longer afraid of making mistakes. In my current role I do a lot of public relations work helping to write stories, building relationships with the media and organising events, and to do these I use English on a daily basis. We use English a lot in our day-to-day interaction as we’re in close contact with teams in Cambridge, Italy and a lot of our centres who are more comfortable speaking in English.
In the communications industry you must be creative in order to face the challenges of your job. I’ve been an amateur ballerina since I was 14 and my love of the arts is a great source of creativity, so I try to translate this into my work. When people ask if it is a hobby, it’s hard to say yes because it’s more than a hobby. It’s something that I’ve always connected with; it lets me think about things from another perspective and moves my heart. Also ballet is something you never stop learning, and I’d like to continue with my studies in this area. The advantage is that now I can access precious resources in English, lots of reading materials, films and other sources that weren't available to me before.
In the future I want to keep studying. I would like to take a Master’s, something more academically focused. I don’t want to study anything related to PR and communications – and I’d like to combine something else with PR.
It will let me use another part of the brain and get a different perspective. Let’s see what I find!
About Andreza Carvalho
Andreza works for Cambridge Assessment English in Madrid in the PR and Communications department.
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