Gisele Bündchen Reveals the Crazy, Fun Way She Learned English

01/07/2014 at 10:45 AM EST

Gisele Bündchen Reveals the Crazy, Fun Way She Learned English
Gisele Bündchen and Jimmy Fallon
Lloyd Bishop/NBC
Music may be a universal language, but it helped Gisele Bündchen learn a specific one – English!

The Brazilian supermodel spoke only Portuguese and a little bit of Spanish when she arrived in New York in the mid-1990s to pursue a modeling career. But after struggling to communicate with anyone she met, she soon picked up English – from an unlikely source.

"My wonderful cassette tapes, Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey, saved my life!" Bündchen, 33, revealed Monday on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

"They were great teachers, so I have to thank them one day if I ever meet them in person. They were very inspiring."

Asked which songs helped her in particular, the mother of two even sang "Mama, mama, you know I love you!" – a line from Boyz II Men's "A Song For Mama."

Bündchen is keeping her native tongue alive in the family, though, revealing that she speaks to her 4-year-old son Benjamin only in Portuguese. (Daughter Vivian is just 13 months old and not quite ready for language lessons.)

As for husband Tom Brady? Says Bündchen: "He tells me that he speaks two languages … football and English."

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