Bounce back

to recover, to become hopeful or enthusiastic again, usually after an unpleasant experience (recuperar-se de uma adversidade, “dar a volta por cima”)

That big toy company bounced back from its financial crisis and became a serious competitor in the industry.
Aquela grande fábrica de brinquedos deu a volta por cima de sua crise financeira e se tornou um concorrente forte no ramo.

“Tony is a fighter. We are sure he will bounce back from his heart surgery soon”, said Jill.
“Tony é um lutador. Temos certeza de que ele vai logo se recuperar da cirurgia do coração”, disse Jill.

Referência: “600 Phrasal Verbs” – Jonathan T. Hogan e José Roberto A. Igreja, Disal Editora.

Lessons from the Nordic countries

I have always been a firm believer of the major role education plays in society and I´d better be! After all I have been a teacher since I was eighteen and have had numerous chances to experience first-hand how education can enhance people´s personal and professional lives.

However commonplace this introduction may sound, I sometimes feel that we take education for granted and fail to value it properly. Traveling around three Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) I have had a renewed opportunity to witness the benefits of sound education systems. I was amazed that every single Scandinavian I engaged in conversation with could speak English so well. I mean really well, not flawlessly, but pretty much like native speakers and with the capacity to shift from their mother tongues to English in the blink of an eye. I am not just talking about hotel and restaurant staff or shopkeepers, but the average guy in the street, as well as tram conductors and bus drivers.

Talking to some natives of these countries I found out that students start to learn English at Scandinavian schools from the tender age of 8 or 9 and that the English language program is taken seriously every step of the way, making sure students really develop the ability to interact efficiently in the language. A quick Google search tells me that the Scandinavian education system places higher importance on the integration of theory and practice. With a well thought out syllabus and qualified enthusiastic teachers you can probably figure out the outcome of a seven or eight-year program: by the time students reach the age of sixteen or seventeen most of them are already fluent in English. It is true they have an advantage on their side. Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, as well as English, are all Germanic languages. For them to learn a language that shares aspects of their own native languages surely helps speed up the learning process, but that does not diminish their achievement in any way.

One moment worth mentioning that I believe is revealing of the spirit that I felt Scandinavians have in common took place when I was at the very heart of Stockholm, on my way to the ABBA museum. Oh yes, I´m a die-hard fan of these four brilliant Swedes, though to be accurate, one of them, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, aka “Frida” was originally from Norway, but settled down in Sweden at a very early age. I owe a lot to their music and great lyrics that helped me boost my English in so many ways back in the early eighties. The sheer fact that they are Swedish but wrote their songs in flawless English showcases the quality of Scandinavian education again. But let´s get back on track here, I was on my way to their museum and after getting directions and walking ankle-deep in snow to a bus stop, I stood there, admiring the quaint architecture of the ancient buildings around and thinking I could probably pay for the fare on the bus, something I had forgotten to ask. I decided to make sure I was waiting for the right bus and asked a young Swedish woman who happened to be at the bus stop, Leonor. To my surprise she informed me I could not pay the fare to the bus driver and that tickets could be purchased at the Central Station or through an app that most Swedes seemed to have on their smartphones. Before I had time to consider walking to the Central Station she promptly told me she was taking the same bus and that she could buy the ticket for me on her smartphone app. You can probably imagine how grateful I was not to have to walk to the Station in that cold snowy weather. I insisted on paying her the amount of the fare, but she wouldn´t take my money. Instead she just told me, with a smile on her face, and I vividly remember her words “Let this be my good deed of the day!” Leonor then asked me where I was from and told me visiting Brazil was on her bucket list. I remember thinking to myself later, after she got off the bus, “Wow – bucket list – she used that expression so naturally and appropriately.” Incorporating colloquial expressions like that into one´s speech is usually a sign that someone masters a language or at least feels very comfortable with it. Again the word “education” seemed to keep on echoing in my mind as I rode on the comfortably heated Volvo bus towards the ABBA museum, and what a great museum it is, but that´s another story. My primary goal here is to zero in on the positive ripple effects of education, so let me tell you about yet another memorable moment from my travelogue.

With bike lanes just about everywhere, Copenhagen is by far the most bike-friendly city in the world. Riding a bike is definitely a fun and safe way to discover and explore Copenhagen, not to mention the sense of freedom it gives you. My nineteen-year old son and I rented bikes for a 24 hour-period and I can tell you it was an awesome experience, though you have to be extra careful in the winter as some streets become dangerously slippery because of the sleet. I strongly recommend renting a bike in Copenhagen, especially because cyclists, and pedestrians as well for that matter, are dully respected! Does it ring any bells? That´s right, EDUCATION.

Truthfulness, respect, cleanliness, punctuality, helpfulness, politeness and kindness, it all seems to boil down to education. Education is life-changing, a surefire way to foster well-being and progress and a fairer and less prejudiced society. I regard it as the only means by which we can build a corruption-free society, something we Brazilians are striving so hard to achieve and that we are all responsible for. I do believe each and every one of us can do our bit that in the end will make a huge difference. That´s the point I wanted to make here. I am glad the kind gestures of people I have recently crossed paths with prompted me to bring up this crucial subject once more.

And yes Leonor. You´re right. Good deeds can indeed go a long way. And so can education!

José Roberto A. Igreja has a BA in English and Literature from PUC/SP and is the author of Inglês Fluente em 30 Lições; Como se diz em inglês?; What to say when?; Guia Prático para a comunicação em inglês; How do you say … in English?; Say it all in Brazilian Portuguese!; Fale Tudo em Inglês and Falsos Cognatos – Looks can be deceiving!. He´s also the co-author of Inglês de Rua – American Slang; Fluent Business English; English for Job interviews!; Fale Inglês como um Americano; Phrasal Verbs and American Idioms!, all published by Disal Editora. You can check out his blog at  

Looking to take your English to the next level? Here´s something new.

So here it is, my new work. A book geared towards both the advanced student of English and teachers alike, for we teachers are eternal students as well. A book I wish I´d had some twenty years ago when I myself was striving to go beyond the basics and broaden my vocabulary. It would have helped me a great deal.

What can you expect from it? A bit of everything: dialogues, vocabulary, idioms, phrasal verbs, slang. A 360 degree approach to language, as a matter of fact, with content aimed at students that are making the transition from the upper-intermediate level towards the advanced/proficient level.

For this new book I have written 30 dialogues highlighting mainly informal language.
I regard dialogues as paramount to language acquisition. Dialogues are basically language in motion where everything comes up (grammar, idiomatic expressions, formal/informal vocabulary) in due context. Check out some of the titles below meant to deliberately peak your curiosity:

I think I´ll pass on dessert
Guess who I ran into at the mall the other day?
My Pilates class
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!
I know the odds are against me, but I´ll give it a shot anyway
A funny cabbie
Could you drop the jargon please?
You must have paid top dollar for those tickets!
The head honcho is going to flip out if he finds out what´s going on
Getting dumped sucks!
My WhatsApp group
I felt kind of weird all dressed up in a rented tux!

The dialogues presented along with the other sections of the book will hopefully linger on in the readers´ minds and help them hone their language skills in many ways. I´ve always thought that learning should be a fun process and I´ve made every possible effort to include content that is alluring enough to get readers to go the extra mile.

Among other benefits, I believe this book will help people …

• Incorporate new vocabulary into their speech in a fun and easy way.
• Boost their knowledge of idioms and phrasal verbs through a hands-on approach: not just by reading about it, but also by doing the carefully-planned activities provided in the book.
• Enhance their listening comprehension skills (the books includes an audio CD with dialogues and exercises recorded by native speakers of English)
• Interact in the language more effectively and naturally.
• Brush up on their knowledge of crucial areas of the language. (for the already advanced student)

In short, this new book will hopefully contribute to taking your English to the next level. Enjoy!
José Roberto A. Igreja

FALE TUDO EM INGLÊS AVANÇADO – José Roberto A. Igreja / Disal Editora

Preparing your students language-wise for trips to English-speaking countries.

The bags are all neatly packed. You have double-checked your passport and ticket and feel excited to be heading to a foreign country. All the arrangements seem to have been meticulously taken care of. But have they really? Perhaps it would be wise to remember your destination. Is it by any chance an English-speaking country? If the answer to that question is in the affirmative and if you do not happen to be a native speaker of English then another issue seems to be pertinent: how well are you prepared language-wise to get the most out of your trip, be it vacation or business?

We have all heard hilarious stories about tourists or business travelers who, in a desperate effort to communicate, had to resort to mimicking, since they did not have a minimum working knowledge of the language of the country they were visiting. I was once told about a foreigner visiting England who, in order to convey the idea of the dish he would like to  order in a restaurant, started to imitate a chicken by spreading his “wings” (Oops! I mean “arms”) and uttering clucks. While such scenes may be funny and amusing to “spectators” standing by, they remind us that being minimally linguistically competent in the language of the country one is visiting plays a major role in turning one´s stay into a more pleasant  one.

Bearing this introduction in mind, I now turn the spotlight to us language teachers. How can we better help prepare our students in order to interact in English in the various situations that are likely to come up during a business or vacation trip? And what are these situations? As resourceful and experienced teachers we should be aware of how crucial the syllabus for such an endeavor is. That´s right, the syllabus: the summary of main topics to be tackled. What should the syllabus include? Check out the table below for different situations and the language items that are likely to derive from them. Far from being thorough, I believe that the table below includes, language-wise, what is most relevant for someone who is traveling to a foreign country.



SITUATION: Airport & airplane

LANGUAGE ITEMS TO BE ADDRESSED: Common phrases used by the traveler when checking in at the airport; usual check-in agent phrases; specific language used by the crew on the airplane; language the traveler is likely to need to interact with the crew on the plane; customs officer´s phrases and traveler´s phrases when going through customs; etc.

————————————————————————————————————–SITUATION: Means of transportation

LANGUAGE ITEMS TO BE ADDRESSED: Key phrases used at train, subway and bus stations (to buy tickets and elicit information); usual phrases to interact with a taxi driver; car rental agent phrases; traveler´s phrases for renting a car; language to be used if the rental car breaks down; etc.

SITUATION: Accommodation

LANGUAGE ITEMS TO BE ADDRESSED: Usual phrases to make a hotel reservation, to check in and out of the hotel; language to express requests and needs such as in the case of room service; key phrases to ask for directions and make a phone call; etc.

SITUATION: Food & beverage

LANGUAGE ITEMS TO BE ADDRESSED: Names of food and beverage items; usual phrases to interact with the waiter in a restaurant; names of typical dishes of the country the traveler is visiting; etc.

SITUATION: Tourist attractions & Leisure and entertainment

LANGUAGE ITEMS TO BE ADDRESSED: Language for choosing a sightseeing tour; theme glossary for leisure and entertainment; etc.

SITUATION: Going shopping

LANGUAGE ITEMS TO BE ADDRESSED: Key phrases to interact with the clerk at a store; names of clothes items; names of stores and services; theme glossary for store items; etc.

SITUATION: Health & emergencies

LANGUAGE ITEMS TO BE ADDRESSED: Language to express how you feel and interact with the doctor; theme glossary for the human body and symptoms; key phrases used in emergencies.
It goes without saying that each of the language items mentioned above entails lots of vocabulary words and expressions that are related to them. For instance, words and expressions such as toll road; trunk (U.S.)/boot (Engl.); insurance; free mileage; speed limit; detour and GPS would inevitably be essential items under “car rental agent phrases” and “traveler´s phrases for renting a car”.

Another important aspect to be pointed out is that besides language components, culture tips are a must, and can definitely enhance communication a great deal. Being culturally savvy will no doubt make a big difference when traveling abroad, helping you interact more effectively. Some key topics to be addressed are listed below:

  • Currency: being familiar with the most important bills and coins of the country you are visiting pays dividends!
  • Food: what are the typical dishes of the country you will visit? Be sure to know in advance what´s going to replace your rice and beans while you are away!
  • Measuring units and temperature scale: miles, feet, inches, pounds and Fahrenheit. Get acquainted with these terms for they are the norm in many English-speaking countries.
  • Local customs and traditions: learning about them previously will pay off. After all, remember the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.  Also, remember that the way certain things are in the country you are visiting may differ from your home country. When renting a car in the U.S., for example, you should be aware that most American gas stations are self-service and therefore you should be prepared to pump gas into your rental car yourself!
  • Popular holidays: being aware of important holidays of the country one is visiting will help one better understand the mood and behavior of the local people on those days. We should also not forget that many words and expressions are intimately connected to certain holidays. Take Halloween for example and expressions such as “trick-or-treat” and “jack-o-lantern”.

We should also not forget the differences between American and British English, the two most common “Englishes”, since in some cases there are certain vocabulary variations that might lead the less attentive traveler astray. It should for instance be relevant to remind our students that in England an elevator is called a lift, and that the trunk of a car is called a boot. Some other key vocabulary differences crucial to the business or vacation traveler are listed below:

U.S.                                         England

Zip code                                 postcode
Check                                       bill
Highway                                   motorway
Crosswalk                               pedestrian crossing; zebra crossing

Trash can; garbage can           dustbin; litter bin
Laundromat                             launderette
Subway                                    underground; tube
Parking lot                               car park
Refrigerator                               fridge
Schedule                                    timetable
Bookstore                                   bookshop
Package                                    packet
Taxi stand                                taxi rank
Cell phone                              mobile
Pay phone                                 public phone
Trailer                                      caravan
Vacation                                   holidays
Sidewalk                                    pavement
Shoulder                                    hard shoulder

Where there´s a “need” there´s a way!

We are all familiar with the saying “where there´s a will there´s a way”. For the sake of this article please allow me to introduce a slightly different version: where there´s a “need” there´s a way. An explanation is due: language learning takes place much more naturally when there is a real “need” for communication. As a teacher you may have sometimes experienced the lack of interest your students have in learning words and phrases. Let´s remember they may not always be to blame since the situations created to teach those language chunks may seem artificial to them and won´t really grab their attention at the time. Now, once the opportunity of traveling to a foreign country comes along, where speaking the right word and phrase in English will make all the difference, then that´s the time when learning will take place more naturally and rapidly. On a recent trip to the U.S. I was happily surprised to see how quickly my eleven year old son picked up the phrase  “Can I see the menu for dessert, please?” and used it effectively with the waiters at restaurants. There is definitely no doubt that when the need for communication is crucial, it instills a prompt and more appropriate response from people.

Make no mistake, linguistic competence in the language of the country one will visit will surely guarantee a more enjoyable and successful trip, and that is precisely where we teachers come in: in our capacity to ensure that our students are language-wise prepared to get the most out of their trips!

José Roberto A. Igreja has a BA in English and Literature from PUC – SP and holds certificates of proficiency in English from Michigan University and BYU – Brigham Young University – Utah. He also lived in London where he studied at Hammersmith and West London College. He is the author and co-author of several ELT books, including What to say when?; How do you say … in English?; Fluent Business EnglishEnglish for Job interviews!600 Phrasal Verbs and American Idioms!, all published by Disal Editora.

Referência: “Fale Tudo em Inglês em Viagens!” – José Roberto A. Igreja, Disal Editora.

Helping your students move up the corporate ladder

The first time I read the phrase in bold below was some twenty odd years ago. I was teaching English in a company in São Paulo and the framed picture hanging on my student´s office wall had caught my eye.

“You can´t do today´s job
with yesterday´s methods
and be in business tomorrow” Anonymous

It made perfect sense to me, and indeed I used it when I wrote my very first Business English book, Fale Tudo em Inglês nos Negócios, back in 2011. Since then there have been others, Fluent Business English, a book I co-wrote with Robert C. Young in 2012; Fale Tudo em Inglês nos Negócios – Livro de Atividades (2013) and now, “just fresh out of the oven”, my most recent brainchild: Talking Business.

Like all my previous Business English books, Talking Business portrays the corporate lingo you are likely to hear in companies across the U.S.A. The 20 units of the book cover in a comprehensive way the most usual business idioms used by American executives, which are introduced in a lively fashion through articulate corporate dialogues. With sections such as “usual phrases and questions in the business world” and “corporate acronyms and abbreviations” the book also provides plenty of practice and includes an audio CD with dialogues and exercises recorded by native speakers of English.

Check out below for some of the topics and dialogues featured in this new book.

A hectic schedule – Working overtime to meet deadlines
A new supplier – I googled them and guess what I found out?
The board meeting – Have you been eavesdropping on them?
Technology – Heading towards another big revolution yet!
Innovation – Thinking out of the box
The new gadget – A paradigm shift!
Trade shows – Is everything all set for the Houston fair?
Online advertising – They seem to be interested in our online campaigns
A dream job – What is it like?
Making presentations – I was wondering if you could give me a few useful tips
The merger deal – Scenarios
Corporate scandal – How could a respectful and clever executive get into this?

Hopefully all the carefully selected business jargon and varied activities present in Talking Business will help students move up the corporate ladder.

Keep up the good work!

Talking Business – José Roberto A. Igreja / DISAL EDITORA

Career in Information Technology

Click on the link to listen to the job interview “Career in Information Technology” and then check out the vocabulary below.


Vocabulary & expressions – Career in information technology
Right off the bat: immediately.
Take pride in: do something carefully and well.
Impressive: outstanding; remarkable.
I’ve always been into computers: I’ve always enjoyed a lot computers.
Geek (inf.): someone who is not popular because they do strange things or do not know how to behave in social situations; nerd.
Computer freak (inf.): someone who is extremely interested in computers.
Altogether: completely; entirely.
Thorough: detailed; complete.
Precisely: exactly.
In the long run: later in the future.
To speed up/sped up/sped up: to make something move or happen faster.
Intranet: a computer network used for exchanging information within a company.
To envisage/envisaged/envisaged: to imagine or expect as a likely or desirable possibility in the future; to have a mental picture of.
Definitely: absolutely; doubtlessly.
Multitasker: a person who does several things at the same time.
On the move: busy and active; traveling from one place to another.
Set up a meeting: arrange a meeting; schedule a meeting.

Referência: “English for Job Interviews” – José Roberto A. Igreja e Robert C. Young Disal Editora.

We can try to cheer him up

Click on the link to listen to the dialogue “We can try to cheer him up” and then answer the comprehension questions below.


Comprehension Questions

  1. Why has Dave been feeling miserable?
  2. How do they plan to cheer Dave up?
  3. What does Ray think Dave needs to do?
  4. What does Don think of the idea of going to a club tonight?
  5. What else do they plan to do?
  6. Whose car are they going to take?

Referência: “Inglês Fluente em 30 Lições” – José Roberto A. Igreja, Disal Editora.

Successful entrepreneurs. What does it take to be one?

Click on the link below to listen to the dialogue and then answer the questions.


Dialogue comprehension
1. What are the main qualities of an entrepreneur in Don´s opinion?
2. Does luck play any role at all in turning a company into a successful business according to Don?
3. Does Alan plan to start his own company some day? How does he feel about it?
4. What advice does Don give Alan about starting his own business?

Now find words or expressions in the dialogue with the following similar meanings:
a- a small business that has just been started: _________________
b- try hard; make a lot of effort: _____________________
c – become weaker or less important:_________________
d- make neither profit nor loss: _______________________
e- manage a company; control a company: ________________
f- have a big influence on; be very important: ____________________
g- determined; hardworking and ambitious: _____________________
h- talent; natural ability to do something: ________________________
i- become frightened to do something you had planned to do: ________________
j- an attempt to do something: ________­­­___________
k- influential person or organization, esp. in business or politics: ______________
l- the point where a company neither makes a profit nor a loss: ______________
m- become successful: __________________________
n- lucrative: ______________________

Referência: “Fluent Business English” – José Roberto A. Igreja e Robert C. Young Disal Editora