A Business English Student’s Experience at Bridge

On a Tuesday evening after class, I met with Matias Salinas from Ricketts Birkhizer, an international company that produces household and personal care products. About a year ago, Matias transitioned from the Marketing department in his native Argentina to his company’s Sales department in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Like many of our students, Matias is a young professional who came to Bridge on his own initiative.  At the time of our interview, he had been at Bridge for three weeks in the Private-Group Combination program.  Here is what he had to say:

Matias, Could you tell us more about your transition from Argentina to Brazil?

Matias Salinas: Well, it was very challenging in the beginning because I went without being able to speak Portuguese. 50% of the time, I have to speak in Portuguese because I am working with Brazilian customers that don’t speak English or Spanish. The other 50% of the time, I am required to speak in English when I’m working with my boss and other personnel. It was a very challenging transition.

Do the employees at your company come from many foreign countries?

What’s happening nowadays in Brazil is that, for example, the board of my company is from many different countries; the president is from Belgium; the marketing director is from the United Kingdom; the Financial Director if from Colombia; the Sales Director is from Brazil. There are examples of this at my level as well. There is a guy in marketing from Argentina; there is a guy in marketing from Mexico, one from India, one from Peru, China, and so on. We are a very international company in terms of personnel. I live and work in Sao Paulo, which is very cosmopolitan.

It sounds like an interesting work environment. What was your motivation for attending a course at Bridge?

It was a personal decision for me. When I started to learn Portuguese, the language started to take over my English skills; I started to forget vocabulary and I just wasn’t as fluent. Taking a course at Bridge was a great way to make some quick improvements in my English. One of my colleagues came to Bridge to study for company training. He told me that he went to an English course that was awesome, that it would be my time and that I could make what I need of it.

What do you think of the Private-Group Combination Course?

It is just great! It’s great because it is always different. In group classes, I always get to hear different kinds of accents and ways of speaking from people all over the world. This really helps to increase your level of listening comprehension. Also, the background of the students is very different, and the teachers as well. For example, one of the teachers has experience teaching English in Korea. Because of this, we can talk about customs and they way people do business in Korea. Another teacher has experience teaching in South America so we can talk about the culture there. The main point I’m trying to make is that you really increase your cultural understanding, not just your English skills. You increase your perspective of the world.

Where are the other students in your class from?

Mexico, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Japan, China, a girl from Brazil. That’s all. It is a very good mix. I’ve learned a lot from these people of different cultures, cultures that are completely different from my own, and very fascinating.

I don’t teach English anymore, but when I did, I always enjoyed working with diverse classes like yours.

Yeah, I agree. When I came to Bridge, my expectation was to increase my knowledge of English, improve my vocabulary, improve my business presentations, and everything connected with the language. My plan wasn’t necessarily to increase my personal knowledge, but that’s what happened.

That’s fantastic to hear. Not many students expect that, but it is an added benefit of studying with people from so many different countries.

Yeah, I agree.

How has your experience been outside of class?

Great. The word is great. I’ve been to bars, I’ve been to nightclubs, I went to the zoo, I went to Rocky Mountain National Park. I feel safe here, I feel secure.

What has been the most enjoyable experience that you’ve had outside of school?

It is difficult to say. It is my first time in the United States so everything has been really new and interesting but I really enjoyed Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is massive and beautiful. It really was an amazing experience. Today, for example, I’m going to a baseball game. I’ve never been to a baseball game before, I’ve only seen it on television.

Are you a baseball fan?

Not exactly, but I want to experience the game in person.

As I understand, you learned some sports vocabulary today in preparation for the game.

Exactly. Look, yesterday in one of my lessons, we worked only with the book preparing for a presentation. Today, we discussed cultural topics that we could both relate to like rugby. Here, what you learn depends on your interests and needs. If someone wants to prepare for the TOEFL test, or improve English for presentations, that’s what the student does, that’s what Bridge does–they work with you to create the plan together, to build what you need. For example, I have a Japanese friend here. We hang out a lot, and he is preparing for the TOEFL test. His course plan is completely different from mine because he has different objectives.

Could you tell me about your experience staying with a host family?

Well, its great. The family lives near City Park. The mother and father are Kate and Michael. They are wonderful. For me, I can’t imagine coming here and not staying with a host family. It wouldn’t be the same. It is an excellent compliment to my course because it helps you to live everyday life as an American. This forces you to eat dinner at 6:00pm.

This isn’t common in Argentina…?

It is not common at all in Argentina! I usually eat dinner at 10:00pm. The host family is a great experience.

Has it helped you with your English?

Yes, a lot. If I had gone to a hotel, maybe I’d just go home and stop speaking English. Maybe I would just Skype with friends back home speaking my own language. Because I’m staying with a host family, I get to keep speaking English. It’s great.

Is there anything else you’d like to see or do before you return to Brazil?

I’ve already done a lot but this Thursday maybe I will go with my host dad to play soccer. He is a huge fan of soccer.