Breaking Language Barriers

For many, January is a time to make New Year’s resolutions. For many of us living in the Algarve, this might be to learn or improve our spoken Portuguese. Meet Sílvia Ribeiro, who has been working on developing a unique approach to help with what many expats find a frustratingly difficult language to learn.

Sílvia Ribeiro is a native Portuguese speaker, originally from the north of the country. Trained as a nurse, she worked in Belgium but returned to Portugal five years ago. When she moved to Faro to pursue her nursing career, she met her boyfriend, who is an expat, and she eventually moved to Vila do Bispo.

After working for a couple of years as a nurse in Vila do Bispo, Sílvia realised it was time for a long-desired change in life. A year-and-a-half ago, she started her own small business teaching Portuguese to foreigners and expats. Sílvia understands that learning a language is not easy for everybody, so that’s why it’s important to make it easier and funny, so it doesn’t feel like a huge struggle or frustrating.

Sílvia believes her methods are unique and effective in supporting the expat community. She thinks this is because her background is not in teaching, but she has a strong understanding of multiple languages besides Portuguese, mainly English, French, and Spanish, which allows her to understand language barriers.

“What makes my approach unique is the intimate scale. I work with small groups and create a close-knit learning environment. On sunny days, which is most of the time, we sit in my garden, we have a few chairs and a whiteboard. I take away the usual “school setting environment” that can be very uncomfortable for many expats who are seeking the relaxation of living in sunny southern Portugal, while keeping it professional and pleasant at the same time. The environment in my classes is very calm – full of light and plants.”

Having been an expat herself, Sílvia empathises with the challenges learning the native language presents. “I want to work for expats like I once was. There are many, many young adults moving to Sagres and Vila do Bispo looking for a place to settle – their lives and dreams – and they come to me because they want to learn Portuguese in a flexible and structured way.”

Sílvia is proud to have developed her own nine-month programme, as well as her own brand of home videos for the classes. She has also created a podcast where she mainly speaks about Portugal’s culture.

“I know that there is nobody else doing what I’m doing in this area because these aren’t just drop-in classes or following a standard textbook.”

So the next time someone asks you ‘Fala Português?” maybe you should “Fala com Sílvia”!


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