Personal Project: Finding myself in a second language

February, 2024

Érika Moreira is a talented Copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, hailing from Brasíla, the heart of Brazil. In 2021, she moved to Amsterdam after 5 years at W+K Sao Pãolo where she made a complete switch from creating work in Portuguese to English. In this piece written for Issue 1 of Playground Magazine, Erika touches on her experience as a bilingual copywriter navigating the advertising world. 

Read on for her intro into the project and the piece itself…


In 2023 I had the pleasure of recording a very special podcast for Open Brief with two other writers whom I absolutely adore: Ane Santiago and Elena Knox. They also happen to work and write in a second language. The episode launched and it was a success. Each of us received so many beautiful messages from people who listened to the episode and felt seen and understood, which in turn made us feel the same way. Fast forward to October, when I received a message from a woman named Auste Skrupskyte, who had listened to the podcast and was so touched that she asked me to write an article for a magazine she was about to launch.

Playground Magazine launched in December that same year. I had the pleasure once again of not only being featured but also helping another woman, who uses English as a second language, to start her own business. The magazine features many writers and illustrators from all over the world, and I couldn’t be more stoked to have said yes to Ane when she first sent a message asking if I could record that podcast.

Personal Project: Finding myself in a second language Personal Project: Finding myself in a second language Personal Project: Finding myself in a second language Personal Project: Finding myself in a second language

In November 2021, I wrote a note to myself in my notebook:

“You came here to write. You shouldn’t be afraid of doing that, Érika. You’re more than prepared to do what you’re doing.”

At the time, I’d been living in Amsterdam for two months and was struggling a lot with my new reality and way of doing my work. I’d got the job as a copywriter in an agency that I’d always dreamed about, yet I found myself struggling to write. At least, I wasn’t able to write in the way I was used to, or at the pace I was accustomed to. I had a different vocabulary in English than I had in Brazilian Portuguese, and I couldn’t allow myself to make mistakes or ask for help. It was a period of mental struggle and suffering, and I was filled with doubts about my choices, who I was, and how long I would last in this job. 

I came here speaking what one would call “broken English”. I never had the privilege of attending a private school to have English classes. Everything I know, I’ve learned through films, TV shows, books, and the internet. It was clear that I was overwhelmed by the pressure of trying to speak perfectly, to understand perfectly, and to be perfect. It was even clearer that by trying to be flawless, it made me more likely to fail – and to an even greater extent. I remember Eric Quennoy, Executive Creative Director at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, once telling me that one of the greatest gifts of a creative person is embracing their weaknesses, after all, they won’t be able to hide them forever.

When he told me that, I realised my silly fear was combined with an equally silly idea of becoming someone I could never be. That’s when I decided to embrace the person I am and start focusing on the things I know I excel at, like having creative ideas. If the idea was good enough, writing a manifesto or a script wouldn’t be so terrifying. When I did that, I came up with a headline for Nike that was considered one of the best headlines my creative director at that time had ever seen. Together with this headline, I also wrote a manifesto that was featured in The Guardian as part of a campaign. It told the story of a woman who was also struggling to assert her identity in sports. 

As I wrote about her, I found myself woven into the narrative, connecting in the most profound and visceral way. This campaign marked a pivotal moment in my life, transforming my perception of time from my enemy to my greatest ally. Time has since nurtured my growth and bolstered my self-confidence. I can now confidently express my thoughts in writing and speaking in a second language. I can engage with anyone regardless of our familiarity. I am no longer hesitant to lay bare my weaknesses and fears, creating authentic connections even with those I don’t know really well.

It has been two years since I wrote that note to myself, and that sentiment continues to resonate—not just in the pages of my notebook, but in my everyday life, serving as a reminder in case I ever lose my way again. I am here now to show that it’s completely okay to feel lost and overwhelmed when expressing yourself in a different language, whether it’s in a new country or on a different continent.

Finding the voice that reflects the person I am today was only possible because of the immense support I received from my family, friends, and colleagues at work, all of whom were unafraid to openly share their experiences on this journey. I realized I was not alone, and I was certainly not the only one grappling with this challenge. Throughout this process, I encountered the common advice often given to language learners: read more, write more, and seek out references. However, a crucial piece of advice I’ve gained on my own, and am still learning to embrace, is that staying silent, thinking it will protect you, is not the answer.

Audre Lorde once said that the transformation of silence into language is an act of self-revelation. Perhaps this experience has transformed me into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I’m a Brazilian writer who proudly speaks broken English, but my accent carries the story of my life, of my country, and all the experiences that brought me here…and I will never want to hide or erase that.

Photography: Martyna Jovaisaite Paukste, Art Director: Deimantė Saulytė

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