The delight and pain of being who we are: An invitation to a language learning ego-trip (by Lucrécia Raquel Fuhrmann & Ana Beatriz Ruiz de Melo)

This week’s guest bloggers are Lucrécia Raquel Fuhrmann and Ana Beatriz Ruiz de Melo. Lucrécia is a Ph.D. candidate in Education in Canada. She holds a Master’s degree in education from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, and a Bachelor of Arts/Letras from the Universidade Luterana do Brasil. She has taught at elementary and high schools, and specialization courses in Brazil. In Canada, Lucrécia has been teaching English as an Additional Language at two elementary schools, which gathers all her studies interests and subjects: language and literacy, education management, and international relations and diplomacy. Ana is a student of English Languages and Literature at the Universidade Estadual de Londrina (UEL) since 2020. Ana holds a scholarship with the project “Ideological and Academic Literacies Juxtaposed”, for which she received Honorable Mention for Scientific Merit for her presentation of this work at the 2021’s Annual Meeting of Scientific Initiation of UEL. Since October 2022, Ana is an Undergraduate Visiting Researcher Student at the University of Regina, under the supervision of Professor Andrea Sterzuk.

“Há um lugar místico em mim / Algo assim bem escondido / Um planeta inexplorado, um horizonte perdido […] / Explorador [a] sem experiência / Marinheiro [a] de primeira viagem / Embarquei de peito aberto / Levando só a coragem”.


These verses are from a song by a Brazilian rock band called Egotrip, entitled “Viagem ao fundo do ego,” which means something similar to “trip to the bottom of the ego” in English. They say there is a hidden spot within oneself, like an unexplored planet, a lost horizon. They talk about the self as an inexperienced explorer who goes on that ego trip, bringing nothing but courage.

Hereupon, we want to invite you to an ego trip. Not because we want to increase our self-importance, but because we want to unveil some inward ideas that do not come out frequently. We came across these ideas while learning English in an English-speaking context. We call our short tour an “ego trip” because it combines two important ideas about language learning: motivation (Ryan, 2019) and investment (Darvin & Norton, 2021; Norton, 2013). Since learning a language is a process that frequently does not show, outwardly, in the sense that it happens mostly inwardly, we think it is crucial to look towards one’s process to make it figureoutable – possibly a neologism – to other people.

We believe it’s important to divide the path here for a while. We are two authors with different backgrounds, united because of our passion for learning and teaching languages. We were born and raised in a country with one official language, Brazilian Portuguese, an inheritance from the Portuguese colonization in South America, and more than 300 Indigenous languages that, in addition to Indigenous traditions, influenced the Brazilian Portuguese rhythm and vocabulary, making it different from European Portuguese. As an inheritance from slavery and the migration process, languages from African matrices were incorporated into our vocabulary, making the Brazilian Portuguese language rich and unique. 


My language baggage includes German, my ancestors’ language, and Greek because of my dad’s work. He taught me Greek in my childhood, so I learned the alphabet and some expressions when I was nine and could read in Greek. Another language I bring to the table is Spanish because our neighbours in South America speak it. Especially in Rio Grande do Sul, we were exposed to that language frequently, and even some words in our daily speech come from Spanish. Currently, I am learning French.

At this point in my narrative, I must ask myself why I wanted to eliminate my accent in English, considering all the richness I’ve just presented. It gears me towards the ideas of wayfinding and attunement when learning a language, and the role in compounding the growth mindset, which is the basic idea people have about learning and intelligence (Dweck, 2006). They are not self-help and related ideas, but the principles people use to survive in a new environment when the world as they know it has changed (Ellsworth, 2019), and they must find new ways to keep going and make things figureoutable.

I study wayfinding (Ellsworth, 2019), a concept form architecture that means those routes buildings have to help people to exit them when in danger or challenging situations, and Grant’s idea of attunement (Pinar, 2019), which means the attentiveness one has to their inner voice when navigating the world, when learning English (Fuhrmann, 2022). They involve people’s survival strategies in a new language and context, like the strategies I applied to fit into Canada to survive in the natural, cultural, and academic worlds. Throughout my journey, I devised strategies to learn the language, practice it safely and show myself to people. One of these strategies is being part of an English learning community over Facebook. They bring together non-native speakers who take learning the language seriously (Vika, 2018), but I lived in Brazil at that time and did not feel brave enough to join them.

Then I came to Canada in 2019 to take my Ph.D. degree under Dr. Andrea Sterzuk’s supervision. She was very welcoming and used her awareness and friendly ears (Sterzuk, 2016) to help me with my initial struggles. And that Facebook community gave me a safe environment for practicing the language. There I met friends who understood my struggles and supported me throughout my learning journey. In 2020, I started to host speaking clubs to practice the language and become familiar with different accents in English. Being a host made me practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing and the whole process it entails, such as searching for topics, summarizing them, listening to people reading and speaking, interacting with them, and answering questions.

I could list other strategies, but I will summarize everything with the interview in this podcast. It was a live interview on Instagram, my first experience in going live speaking in English after all my work learning the English language. Impostor syndrome, limiting beliefs and other inner things that prevent people from learning a language, aging when it comes to learning a language and neuroplasticity, and the idea Dweck brings about the growth mindset concept are among the topics in the podcast.


I have always learned easily. I learned how to read at 4 years old, practically alone. My dad gave tips, and I made them useful. I always loved English, but just started an English course at 19 years old since money for this had never been a reality until that moment. Only after I started a good job was it possible. Before that, learning English was something I did by listening to music and watching TV. Nowadays, I am learning French by myself, the way I did as a self-taught kid.

In 2019, the same year I started to learn English, I decided to start my undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature at Universidade Estadual de Londrina (UEL). I always say my love for languages made me what I am today. In 2020, I had already started a research project and published an article in my 1st year (Melo & Cristovão, 2021). In 2021 my plans to come to Canada started to take shape. In 2022 I got a scholarship from the Government of Canada’s Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP), which connected me with Dr. Andrea Sterzuk.

At the beginning of my path, I always felt uncomfortable with my accent. How can I speak English if my accent does not allow it to sound natural? It was in my second year at the university when I had this topic called “standard varieties of English” in one of the courses and found out that there is no such thing as standard English. I learned that since English is spoken worldwide, there are many different varieties of English. This depends on where in the world English is spoken. According to David Crystal (1997), the Standard English of an English-speaking country may be defined as a minority variety that carries the most prestige and is most widely understood. He points out that, in the end, standard English is just another variety of English.

Besides “standard English,” we have the term “World Englishes” which refers to many different varieties (certainly including Brazilian-accented English), not one norm. Kachru (1985) categorizes the use of English into three concentric circles, something very interesting I have learned and regularly try to bring up: the inner circle, represented by the traditional bases of English; the outer circle, which includes countries that have gone through extended periods of colonization by the users of the inner circle varieties; and the expanding circle, representing the most significant expanding numbers of English speakers nowadays, used mainly for business and international purposes, where we can insert Brazil. Of course, there is a lot of discussion about this that can be brought up on another opportunity.

I learned that it is not because I wanted to speak English that it must be done without my Brazilian accent, since this is an integral part of my identity and will not change. So, I decided that when teaching someone a new language, I would make this fact figureoutable and spare my students the myth of native speakers, as I wish my teachers had me.

As we started with a Brazilian song, we would like to finish with another one. It is a song by Caetano Veloso, played by Gal Costa. The beginning stanza says, “Cada um sabe a dor e a delícia de ser o que é.” Roughly translated, it means, “Everyone knows the pain and delight of being what they are.” We invited you to an ego trip that showed some of our struggles and paths that made us who we are. Like ourselves, every English learner has conflicts, pain and delight. Considering this, it sounds like nonsense to try to fit everyone into an imagined native speaker mould, someone who is always in the colonizer’s mind that tries to entrap people in a discourse that makes them feel as if they do not measure up.


Crystal, D (1997). English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Darvin, R., Norton, B. (2021). Investment and motivation in language learning: What’s the difference? Language Teaching56(1) pp. 1–12, doi:10.1017/S0261444821000057

Dweck, C. (October 9, 2014) Developing a Growth Mindset. YouTube, Developing a Growth Mindset with Carol Dweck

Ellsworth, E. (2019). Solid Broken Changing. Dragon Tail Books.

Fuhrmann, L. R. (2022). Currere as a Wayfinding Process of Writing the Learning Self. In:  E. Lyle. Re/centring Lives and Lived Experience in Education. Brill.

Kachru, B. B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistics realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk & H. G. Widdowson. English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures, pp. 11–30. Cambridge University Press.

Norton, B. (2013). Identity and language learning: Extending the conversation. (2nd Edition). Multilingual Matters.

Pinar, W. F. (2019). Attunement. In Moving images of eternity: George Grant’s critique of time, teaching and technology (pp. 261-322). The University of Ottawa Press.

Ryan, S. (2019). Language learner motivation: What motivates motivation researchers? In J. Schwieter, & A. Benati (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of language learning (pp. 409–429). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

 Sterzuk, Andrea. (2016, August 24). Fostering effective communication in future teachers (part 2). Faculty of Education Internship Seminar. University of Regina, Canada

Vika (September 9, 2018). 7 Things I Learnt about English during the Fluency Challenge. Search Medium,

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