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Last updated at 11:57 BST, Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Monica Vasconcelos

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Brazilian singer and songwriter Monica Vasconcelos has been living in the UK for over a decade. She has recorded seven albums to date and has performed at major venues such as Ronnie Scott's jazz club, the Barbican Hall and the Jazz Cafe.

The first word she learnt in English was 'cat'. Monica was five years old. Fast-forward a few decades and The Guardian newspaper's John Lewis says of her singing: "She's able to … purr while staying beautifully musical, the calm centre amid a storm of frenetic rhythms."

Learning English has helped the artist to communicate with a broader audience. "It's good to be able to sing in English and to feel a certain intimacy with the language so that I can convey emotion."

The route to feeling comfortable with the language had some obstacles. "I didn't have a lot of money as a kid; I didn't go to any posh school to learn English. And I was like, having lessons say twice a week, one-hour lessons for, maybe two years, that's what I could afford at the time, but at some point … I simply got into reading these abridged versions of English literature classics."

"At first it was very difficult to read those books. Gradually I became familiarised with patterns of language and I was able to join the dots and suddenly I realised I'm reading this book in English. I was over the moon about it!"

She advises learners not to give up. If you do it 10 minutes a day you'll notice after a while that somehow you've managed to put it all together and you are able to speak."

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