have been working as an English teacher in public
schools since 1992. On the first years, as I didn’t
have any experience in teaching a foreign language,
I used to teach my students the same way my teachers
taught me in the 80’s. My classes were based
on some grammar rules (verb TO BE, Simple Present,
Simple Past, Simple Future...) and lists of vocabulary
(words in English and their correspondence in Portuguese)
the students could look up to translate texts.
students were doing the exercises, I used to
walk through the desks helping them and
talking to them about different subjects. This
proximity made the students feel free to express
their opinions about our English classes. They
complained a lot. They used to tell me they didn’t
know exactly why they were learning English and,
despite of the fact that they were learning English
since the 5th grade in elementary school (they
were in the 1st grade of high school), they couldn’t
elaborate a simple sentence to talk to a foreign
person. I could understand their feelings, because
that was the way I felt when I was finishing high
school. Because of this, I was always trying some
different activities to give my students a different
I was conscious that teaching a language couldn’t
mean only to teach its structure (Coracini, 1995).
It is not true that if students master parts
of a language (morphology, syntax...), they will
be able to put everything together again and
be fluent in this language. For the students
it’s much easier to transfer their knowledge
in a new situation if they have learned a language
a language, teachers should also teach their
students how to use this language in
a real context of communication, i.e., students
have to learn a language to communicate (Widdowson,
1991). Because of this, it is important to give
students opportunities of interacting with other
speakers to use the language (Valentini, 1999).
Knowing this didn’t mean that at that time
I had a solution for my problem.
I had already read about some techniques in which
students are supposed to practice some expressions
as they were living a specific situation. However,
using these techniques with my groups would be,
not impossible, but really difficult. I have groups
with 40 students. English classes are twice a week,
fifty minutes each. Besides that, students, specially
in high school, are not motivated to learn English,
they say they will only learn English in language
of this I was always asking myself: “since
a language is a vehicle of communication and socialization
(Watson-Gegeo, 1988), how can I teach my students
through a social interaction?”.
In 1999, I started reading about the use of new
means of communication specially in the teaching
process of a foreign language. Such studies show
that computers can be used not only for science
or mathematics but also they can be used in languages.
many researches showing some teachers’ experiences
using email to teach English as a Foreign Language:
Hackett (s/d); Warschauer (s/d); Tella (1992);
Bauman (2000), Nagel (2000); Souza (2002).
Some of the advantages of using email in teaching
a foreign language mentioned in these researches
a. have a learning process happening in a real
b. have readers and writers together in a meaningful
dialogue; the writing has a real meaning;
c. students write not only for their teachers,
but for a real interlocutor. Everything they write
have to make sense; they have to find the right
word to express what they really mean;
d. there is an immediate, interactive audience.
The students don’t need to imagine who
they are writing to. They have an immediate feedback.
In 2001, I decided to develop a project with my
students in the 1st grade of high school in a public
school. In this paper, I am going to report the
first part of my own experience based on some data
that I collected at the first semester of 2001.