André Luiz’s friends were surprised when he told them he was learning English. "Why?" they asked, "You already speak English."
However, New Zealand’s peculiar workplace ‘Kiwi English’ is quite unique and can take time to get your head around.
For André, learning English is a fantastic way to also learn about our local culture and feel part of his community.
André currently works as a geographic information systems (GIS) analyst with the Hastings District Council. A geologist by profession, he worked for an international company in his native country Brazil.
He moved to New Zealand with wife Samara, and their two children in 2017, originally settling in Invercargill before the analyst/advisor job brought the family further north to sunny Hawke’s Bay in 2021. Around the same time, André officially became a New Zealand resident and enrolled in English Language Partners’ free English for Employees course.
In English for Employees classes, employees learn about Kiwi English and culture. The classes cover work-related literacy and numeracy in a way that suits the learners’ needs.
André’s personal goal is to be understood clearly at work so he can provide professional advice in his area of expertise. For André that’s about learning to be clearer, more precise and focused when writing emails and communicating with colleagues. This is especially important for André because his role is to give technical advice.
Janka McBeth, André’s English Language Partners’ teacher, says learning in class is one thing, but taking learning out of the classroom is an important step - one that André totally embraces when he speaks with his colleagues. “He comes back and tells me what worked and what didn’t, and then tries again,” Janka says.
Besides work-specific language, André prioritises learning idioms – which are notoriously tricky because the words have a figurative meaning very different to their literal meaning. ‘To go the extra mile’ doesn’t actually mean you have to sprint around the sports field! André says:
“It's important to understand idioms, to feel part of the team,”
Cyclone Gabrielle tore through New Zealand in early 2023. André was a crucial member of the Hastings District Council’s disaster response team because of his mapping and GIS expertise. English classes helped André communicate with confidence during this challenging time.
“At first, I didn't know how I could be useful in a disaster, I hadn’t been in anything like this before, but you have to have GIS people, they are an important part of the job because they have to locate all the roads, each and everything that you could put in a map, and other tools for decision making.”
André’s says being new to Hawke’s Bay meant he didn’t know the wider region well, but with Google, he quickly produced maps that showed where roads and bridges existed and had been destroyed, where helicopters could land, and where cut-off communities were located.
“It felt good to be able to help. I put all my effort and knowledge into something to help the community. And it's really important to feel part of that.”
Hawke’s Bay is now firmly home to André and his family. He recently visited Brazil for the first time in six years, and the trip marked the first time he had missed an English lesson!
Janka says there isn't a real end to learning a language, as there’s always more to learn, something she says André understands well.
“Some people would say: ‘I’m done’. But André’s always fine-tuning his English. He‘s a perfectionist and a great example for others, as he’s still learning.” André agrees:
“You always have something to learn. You never stop. Never finish.”
Do you want to improve your English at work? Enrol in an English for Employees course in 2024.
We offer free classes at 21 language centres around the country for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.
Find out more on our website Learn English with us - For work (englishlanguage.org.nz)