As many people’s lives changed during the pandemic, Andrea’s life also changed. She had to change her on-site educational work to be a full-time teacher working from home. Due to this change, Andrea started looking for new ways to connect with people, to create an inclusive society. 

How did SPEAK become an option?

The co-founder of SPEAK Fundão, Emma, brought into the conversation what the project is about. Since Andrea wanted to improve her Portuguese and at the same time she is good at speaking English, it seemed like a good match. This was even before SPEAK Fundão was launched in the city. This conversation sparked Andrea’s interest in SPEAK.  

“I saw SPEAK as a doorway to a whole new and diverse social network allowing me to use something I’m good at (talking English!!) to help others. I was attracted to becoming part of a group of people working to make our society an inclusive one, regardless of where in the world we originate from.” 

This is how SPEAK became an option for Andrea for learning and sharing. She joined both the buddy and the participant experience. 

The SPEAK Journey so far

Andrea has just completed her first round of sessions at SPEAK, leading a group of English Conversational with a co-buddy. She has also participated in a Portuguese language group, both of these offline groups in Fundão, which were some of the first groups opened in the city. 

After the sessions, what Andrea takes from her experience is a lot of memories, including belly laughs and all the stories they shared during the language group. ”I remember one of our participants miming stepping onto a big motorbike. Proof that communication isn’t just about the words that come out of our mouths!”.

Building an inclusive society with language groups
Andrea and her English Conversational Group

She felt honoured to be part of these people’s lives, to be part of this community and to create an inclusive society.

Andrea is excited to begin a new round of an English Conversational language group shortly, “with a mix of brand new and returning faces already signed up”, and also to keep improving her Portuguese at the same time. 

How SPEAK stands out 

What sets SPEAK apart from the rest, according to Andrea, is the sense of community that we are building together. This is why, even though she has a full-time job as an English teacher, she is always looking forward to the next SPEAK session, because it is different from a regular teacher-student experience. She describes the sessions as not just about improving language skills, but also learning about each other’s countries, cultures, foods, likes and dislikes, and more importantly, building friendships and a support network that we all want to be part of. And at the same time building an inclusive society.

Andrea has built a connection with not only her participants but also with her co-buddy.  “My co-buddy for some of these sessions has been my son, and seeing him deep in conversation with someone who he probably never would have crossed paths with had it not been for SPEAK has sent my mum-radar into orbit!”

So for her, this is the actual meaning of building a community and that is the reason SPEAK stands out from the rest. Because of the impact on people’s lives.

Andrea’s top tips if you want to be a buddy

Sometimes, starting your journey as a buddy can be difficult because it is a new experience, but what Andrea suggests for the ones that are new (and for the ones that already have experience), is that as a buddy you need to be mindful that people have different comfort levels for speaking in public as well as confidence in their language abilities. Basically, understanding that each of your participants is different is the key to knowing how to lead your sessions. She invites buddies to try to encourage both group sharing and discussion for helping those that have difficulty to start a conversation. And besides that, she shares that the materials that SPEAK provides buddies are helpful to generate conversation. 

For anyone thinking about being a buddy, Andrea’s message is clear: Don’t hesitate! 

It’s a fun way to meet people and give something back to the community you live in. Being a SPEAK buddy isn’t about teaching grammar or anything scary like that! In fact, it’s not about teaching at all. It’s about being willing to share, and all you need is fluency in the language you’re sharing!

What are you waiting for?

Be a buddy at SPEAK Fundão today and start creating unforgettable memories. You will be part of an amazing new community led by Juliana, who is building bridges between Brazil and Portugal and Emma, the founders of the SPEAK city.  

If you’re not in Fundão, check out some of our other cities or lead an online group from wherever you are! 

Author: Doménica Torres

Doménica is a marketing intern at SPEAK. She is curiouse for what the world has to offer. She is originally from Ecuador but lives in Portugal since 2019. Besides her marketing passion she also loves music as her hobby.

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