An interview with Jacinto Moreno.


Jacinto Moreno recently spent two years in London, England, studying English but also working very hard to support himself.

In this interview with Cornel Rowley he discusses his remarkable opinion that it can be more economical to study English abroad rather than attending a college or having private lessons in your home country.


C.R: How did you make your calculation that studying English abroad need not cost more than staying at home? What were you comparing?

J.M: Well, I took into account the costs of attending a good college or institute in South America for a comparable period of time – in my case, two years. Of course the original expense of the airfare is high but over the period the totals are not so different.

C.R: Does your calculation include the cost of a good school in England?

J.M: Well, to be honest, no – I went to a budget college. It wasn’t the best but it had good teachers, who were mostly native English speakers.


C.R: So maybe your comparison isn’t equal?

J.M.: In my opinion the school isn’t the most important part; the chance to speak with native English speakers and to mix with them every day is much more important.

You have to be open to the new experience and use your intelligence to benefit from it. Many students who go abroad to study don’t even attend a school; they just learn by working in the foreign country and listening and talking.

C.R: That sounds a bit casual to me.

J.M: Well, look at it this way – the student has the chance to practice English all the time. You can speak to people where you work, or in the street, in a bar….

I have met the other kind of people who study in a London college all day then return to their solitary room to study some more. That’s no good – that can be like being back home. It’s necessary to make contacts but guys like this never meet English-speaking people.

C.R: How important is it to get a job?

J.M: The money is important because with a part-time job you can earn enough to live on and, of course, you have to speak English where you work, that’s just as important as the money. You must avoid working with people who speak Spanish because it’s too easy to speak Spanish all day and you’ll never practice English.

The law allows foreign students to work 25 hours a week and the standard full-time week in the UK is 44 hours, so that’s a good percentage in a country where wages are high by South American standards.

C.R: I imagine that a lot depends on what sort of job the student can get?

J.M: Yes, when you arrive and maybe don’t know much English you can only get physical work. But when you speak some English and make friends you can do much better.

I started as a glass collector in a bar because I couldn’t speak well enough to get a better job. After four months I was promoted to bartender and I had to speak English.

Nobody notices the glass collector and ‘you just get to speak to the glasses’. But a bartender has to speak to everybody.

C.R: So then it became natural to speak English?

J.M: No, I don’t think so – you’ve still got to make the effort. But everyone is different, some people learn more quickly than others. For example, my sister spoke very good English after only a year there – people congratulate her on her English. Also, a Brazilian friend of mine was even better; it’s about talent, study and hard work.

C.R: So you rate the experience of actually being in the other country very highly?

J.M: Ten out of ten! It’s not just about learning English; it also means learning about other cultures. Don’t forget – it’s easy to go over to mainland Europe from London, even for a day or a weekend, so you can experience many different countries.

It’s a life-enriching experience that I’d recommend to anyone. It’s good for them personally and it’s good for their own country when they go back home.

C.R: I understand that you went further afield, you spent some time in India?

J.M: Yes, I was there for two months.

C.R: Did that improve your English?

J.M: No, but they made me speak it. I had the chance to listen to Indian people speaking English and it was useful to compare and note that my English was better than theirs.

I also met a lot of Australian and Swedish people on that trip, so I was practicing a lot. The Indians I met didn’t speak pure English – they mix it up with a lot of words from Indian languages too. But I didn’t have any trouble understanding them.

C.R: Are you prejudiced in favor of British English after your two years in London?

J.M. Could be. I prefer British English because it’s clearer and I’m not the only person who says that British is best. All the sounds are sharper and more easily understood. Of course it’s easier to speak American English.

C.R: Is it an adventure that’s only suitable for young people?

J.M: Your age is a big factor. If you go when you’re young you’ll learn more quickly. My sister went at age 17 whereas I went when I was 23 and I could notice the difference. But it wasn’t just my sister, I noticed that most younger people I met seemed to be better speakers.

I’ll tell you another thing – it’s even better if you go abroad to study your own subject in the foreign country. For instance, if you’re an engineer or scientist and can go abroad specifically to study your professional subject.

You’ll learn more quickly and it will be more interesting because you’re doing something you like.


C.R: Can I suggest that it’s probably easier for you to talk to strangers in any country? I mean, you strike me as an extrovert kind of guy who could talk to anyone. How important is that?

J.M: Yes, it makes a difference. I was a bit closed and ‘shy’ before I went to the UK and the whole experience of studying English abroad made me more extrovert.

After all, you’re on your own and you have to make it work. I arrived in London with US$100 in my pocket. It’s very important to make new friends, otherwise you’ll be lonely.

C.R: I suppose the early days are the worst?

J.M: You’re right there – the change of culture isn’t easy. Everything is different; the food, even the water tastes different. I rejected everything at first.

I was sure I would leave in a maximum of four months. But I soon started getting used to it. It all depends on the individual; some people couldn’t stand it.

You have to understand that it’s not going to be paradise and it’s not going to be a dream come true. You’ll be alone, you’ll have to work, maybe some people won’t speak to you.

And the British weather is the worst in the world. I don’t like the cold but, coming from a tropical country, I really appreciated the change of seasons and the English snow.

C.R: Thank you, Jacinto, I’m sure your experiences will help our readers.