Episode II: English for Software Development

English benefits different careers in different ways. Whilst coding involves learning programming languages, English can also play a part in helping software developers, find out in this episode of the Natural English Podcast as we hear from Mateus who works in an Edtech company in Brazil. We also talk about some of his challenges when living abroad in the USA, plus whether programming languages are really that similar to conventional languages! Check out the lesson for useful vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation tips, based on this conversation.


Intro: The Natural English Podcast: Success stories from beyond the English language barrier. Follow along with the transcript linked in the description.

Nahum - Natural: Hello, my name is Nahum and welcome back to the Natural English Podcast, the podcast where we hear success stories from beyond the English language barrier. Today I am joined by a friend, a colleague and a semi-professional Frisbee player. Welcome to the podcast, Matheus.

Mateus: Hey. Hello. I'm glad to be here. I think that Semi-professional is too much. I'm not even at that level.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah,

Mateus: ..But yeah. Hello.

Nahum - Natural: Good to have you here.

Mateus: Good to be here.

Nahum - Natural: Semi-professional maybe a slight exaggeration, but you do play frisbee, right?

Mateus: Yeah, yes I do, not right now because of the pandemic and everything, but I really enjoy playing even though it's not that common in Brazil. And if you go to the U.S. or I think Europe, I think you can talk more about that, it's way more common to see people throwing a frisbee to another person, not a dog, than in Brazil.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah, I've got a few friends who have dabbled in frisbee, but it's not like super popular in the UK.

Mateus: Yeah. I mean, I guess that's not as popular as soccer or like football.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah, for sure. So Mateus, we're going to talk a little bit about your current profession and also your journey, learning English as well. In a couple of sentences, how would you describe what you do?

Mateus: I have a bachelor's degree in computer science. So I design, I test, I maintain and I develop software applications, in general. That's my profession. But now, since I work at Natural, which is a language school, I think you know that, I work with Web applications and they are all developed to help people learning a new language. So, yeah, that's what I do.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah, so as you said, you're a developer. Yeah, you work at Natural, which is a language school. So working across different languages. And you yourself, when did you start learning English?

Mateus: So as far as I remember, I think the first time that I had to try to learn any language, English in this case, I remember I was trying to translate Pokémon cards a long time ago.

Nahum - Natural: Ok

Mateus: Yeah. And then my reading improved because of that. And I guess Brazil in general is very influenced by American culture in general. And all the movies and stuff they read is really common, like to see stuff in English and I guess that influenced me. And then I had English classes over middle school and high school, but I don't know if you know that, but at least here in Brazil, these classes are not very good. Really simple and basic, they're mainly "to be" verbs forever. And people make fun of that.

Nahum - Natural: "To be" is an important verb, let's not forget!

Mateus: It is, but not just the "to be" verb for eight years or something like that.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah.

Mateus: And actually it was one of my worst grades during high school and middle school, I didn't like English at all.

Nahum - Natural: Sure.

Mateus: But I had to, in a way. And then in college I had a chance to study abroad and there was this scholarship in Brazil. You basically had to do this TOEFL test and then get a minimum score and then you could go. So even though, like, I knew that my English wasn't that good, this TOEFL that was a little bit different with all the speaking and the writing parts, which were and are I think my weakest points. So I tried it was like basically listening, reading, and it was grammar. And I got the minimum grade and then I studied for a year in the U.S. So I guess, yeah, I always say that I really learn English when I was studying abroad.

Nahum - Natural: Where in the US did you go?

Mateus: I went to Auklet Wisconsin. State of Wisconsin was a really cold place, but I really enjoyed my time there.

Nahum - Natural: I think what a lot of people will be wondering was how was it going from Brazil where you said you'd kind of learned some English at school, maybe didn't feel that confident, and then you arrived in the US surrounded by native English speakers. How was that experience of arriving, getting used to the language?

Mateus: Yeah, I can say that was terrifying. Like,

Nahum - Natural: Very honest.

Mateus: Yeah. I mean, it's kind of a long trip, like around I think was like eight or nine hours. I don't remember exactly, but I remember that I see it on the plane. And then I was like, OK, why am I doing that? I'm going to a different place with different people with a language that I don't exactly know. I didn't know how to say all the days of the week, for example, like I didn't know some basic stuff.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah

Mateus: Like I remember being the plane and then I could watch a movie and then I was, OK, let's start the subtitles. And then they didn't have subtitles.

Nahum - Natural: Oh wow.

Mateus: So yeah,

Nahum - Natural: But that's unusual for a plane, I thought the plane would have the options.

Mateus: Yeah. I don't know if it was... I don't remember...Coppa airlines. Yeah. Yeah. I didn't have this or at least I didn't know how to use that because it was in English. The interface was in English. But then I think. After, I don't know, three or four weeks, I just accepted that I was there and then I had to learn and I had some Brazilians, there with me too. Good thing there wasn't many, so it was me plus another three Brazilians, which is not, which is like for most colleges, the people went over, the scholarship was not allowed. Yeah. So it was good that I didn't have a lot of Brazilian to talk (to), otherwise I would not learn English there.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah, I think I suppose it was nice to have like some familiar faces, familiar language around you, but it's always best to immerse yourself as much as possible I think when you go abroad.

Mateus: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Like if you go abroad and you don't and you just stay with Brazilians, which is like, I think the most common thing. It's way more comfortable to stay in your comfort zone so you don't learn that much like you can. And you it doesn't matter if you know that. And think, OK, even if I have a lot of Brazilians, I'll not hang out with them, it doesn't work like that, you will hang out with them just because like it's the same culture, you know how to communicate, you know how to express yourself way better with them. So, yeah, you kind of don't have an option if there's a lot of Brazilians or your own people.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah, you are for sure. And I think a lot of people have stories of kind of mistakes with the language, or I certainly do in Spanish and Portuguese. Did you have any experiences like that?

Mateus: So I definitely had, but I think people would not correct me that often. Like even though I know that it wasn't like speaking perfectly, I think it was OK. I think I understood what he said so I'm not going to correct him. I remember that I think was the first week or something like that that I went to Wendy's. And like ordered a burger or something, and then the guy said, "Is that all?" And I said, OK, "Is that all?"... yeah with fries... "Is that all?". I don't know, five or six times the guy (finally) understood that I wasn't from there. And then he used his slow motion mode "Is that all?". Oh yeah. That is all. And then. I mean I definitely had way more stories than that but I can't remember right now.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah. It's, I guess it's the simple things like from that moment you knew when you went to Wendy's they're probably going to say "Is that all?", you know what to say from that moment.

Mateus: I had to practice afterwards.

Nahum - Natural: So yeah, you've had a mixture of studying at school some time abroad. And what about in your profession as a developer? How has English helped with with your profession?

Mateus: So I think, like, we do have a lot of material in Portuguese about like coding and computer science in general. But well, we have way more like much, many more much more things?

Nahum - Natural: Many more things

Mateus: Many more things, yeah are in English, and most often they're better too so I think almost everyone that studies computer science reads, like knows how to read stuff in English, or at least like the minimal, because almost everything and the documentation of stuff and I don't know if you find a bug or problem in your code you're probably gonna search in English. So I guess that's very important because of that. And at the same time, not right now, because I work in Brazil. I think working as a software developer is one of the professions that is easier to work abroad just because you can work from home, but you just need your computer. And it's kind of the same language for everyone. So if you're like a doctor and you want to say part of the body, it's different for English and your native language. But in programming, language is like is the same. You all have the same language like Python or Java, we have C, and everyone knows the same language, and the same terms. So, yeah, if you want a profession that you can work abroad, you know, don't have to work in a country, I think computer science and software development in general is a good field.

Nahum - Natural: Actually, the homework from the last podcast looked at this idea that coding is like a language and in my head, I'm going to be honest, I'm a little bit scared because there are 13 year olds, 14 year olds out there who are learning to code at school. And I haven't really I haven't really looked at it. It's kind of been in my head very maths based. I'm not really, I'm not great at maths, but, yeah, so what would you say, in your opinion? Is it is it like learning a language, is that true?

Mateus: I don't think so... like I'm pretty sure that there are some studies saying that it is similar or anything like that. And I can see that in both you have the vocabulary and then you have the structure, which is grammar. So I guess that in that way it's kind of similar. In both cases you learn by making mistakes, too, like it's good to you have to practice to learn. But like I think a natural language is not close to a programming language it's much more complex in a programming language because like when they're coding, you basically have a problem and you have some tools to solve that problem. And then these tools, depend on the language. But I mean, you have to learn the tools and then know how to use them. And I can see why people say that. But I don't think that I agree that it's the same thing. Yeah, it helps.

Nahum - Natural: Just because you're fluent in French doesn't mean you're going to be good at Java.

Mateus: Yeah, yeah, I don't think so.

Nahum - Natural: I'm sure there's a lot of disappointed people listening.

Mateus: Yeah. I mean, and also I think it's going to be hard because most times like people that like to learn language, they're like you, they don't like hard science that much. And I mean it is a hard science, so.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah, OK, that's that's great. I mean, I'm a bit disappointed that I have no particular advantage if I decide to learn coding. But yeah, it's nice to hear that there are kind of vocabulary points in it. I guess you don't, you don't have to speak it. There's no pronunciation so...

Mateus: Yeah there's no pronunciation or listening.

Nahum - Natural: Are there are there any phrases in English that are particularly useful in your job?

Mateus: I'd say that one of the most common is "I have to search on Stack Overflow". So stack overflow is a forum, a really famous forum that people post their questions and bugs in general and other people help. And I can say right now that 95 percent of my job is just go to Google and search how to do something. Like, I know that this is possible, I kind of know how to do it, but I always have to search how to do it. And I think ninety percent of the results are on Stack Oveflow. So, yeah, I think

Nahum - Natural: The Bible, the Bible for coding.

Mateus: Yeah, definitely, definitely it's really important.

Nahum - Natural: But I guess "I'm going to Google it" is probably something you maybe don't like to admit to people, but in your head you're thinking, yeah, I'm going to Google it.

Mateus: Definitely and I mean. I love Google. I think I search everything on Google and always in English too, like the results in English are always better than the results in Portuguese.

Nahum - Natural: OK, yeah, it's good to know.

Mateus: Unless it's a really local thing, but I think I always search things in English.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah. Yeah. You said it's kind of a universal language so it doesn't really matter what language the information's in, it's going to be the same advice or instructions.

Mateus: Yeah. I also, I read somewhere I don't remember where, like how curious it is that English is the universal language, even though it's not like, like Mandarin should be the universal language because they have way more speakers of Mandarin, at least native speakers of Mandarin then we have of English. But yeah, I guess English just dominated everything and now everyone has to learn English.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah, a lot of students will say that they know some English, but they, they're scared of making mistakes. So what would you say to someone who has that kind of mentality that I don't want to make mistakes. I don't wanna be embarrassed by the way I speak. How have you overcome that?

Mateus: I'd say, don't worry, be happy.

Nahum - Natural: Play the music!

Mateus: Yeah play the music and then relax a little bit. I understand like I think it is hard to go out of your comfort zone anyway. It doesn't matter if it's your language or another skill or anything, but especially with learning a new language you learn by making mistakes. So like at some point you just like to lose (waste) your time by not trying to do that because you're not learning if you don't try. And this sounds like a cheesy and obvious and everything, but that's like the truth. You have to try and you will make mistakes and then you will learn with them. I think like when I was in the U.S. and I said that at some point I just accepted it. I don't remember exactly what happened, I guess. Oh, that's OK. I don't have an option in my case was easier that way because I was living there and I had to eat. I had I had to buy things. I had to go to places. I had classes. I had a life...

Nahum - Natural: Life or death situations. Like, can I order a Wendy's or not?

Mateus: Yeah, you can just use Ifood or you can go to there and you have to talk to someone and I had classes too, I had exams and everything. I studied computer science while I was there, so I guess in my case it was easier like I , I didn't have an option. But yeah I think you just have to have this mind(set) that it's the only way and. I mean, most of the times that people are better than they think, like they think, OK, my English is really basic and I really don't know. And then, like, I think everyone has a story or a friend that said, oh, yeah, I went to the U.S. for a week because, I don't know, Disneyworld or something like that. And then I realized that my English was good. I could talk with anyone. And yeah, I mean, sometimes you just think that you are not that good. But when you actually use it, you learn that, OK, I'm not that bad. I can communicate with people and everything.

Nahum - Natural: Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah. Don't underestimate. You're right. A lot of people, a lot of students I've taught in the past say, I only know, basic, basic things and then they're able to have a pretty good conversation in the class. So, yeah, that's great advice. And yeah, thanks, Matheus. I think we'll end it there today. It's been excellent to hear about your journey with English as a developer, how it's helped you and how it compares to learning a language. I'm still disappointed, but one day I might give it a go. I'm sure my children in the future will know more than I do.

Mateus: Yeah, I mean, you should try it. I think everyone should try, if you like, especially if you like logical problems in general. I think you would like to learn how to code and everything.

Nahum - Natural: OK, so there's there's some hope. Yeah there's great. Well thanks Mateus and thanks everyone for listening in to this podcast. Remember that you can go to our website in the description to access transcripts, a summary of vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation points, and look out for the next podcast coming soon! Goodbye.

What is the Natural English Podcast

The Natural English Podcast is the podcast where we hear success stories from beyond the English language barrier. Be inspired by other people’s journey with English and study along with the transcript, corrections, and homework tasks.

Access Full Natural Experience

Download free lessons connected to this podcast, including vocabulary lists, games and homework tasks to practice your listening and reading skills.

Share this post