What’s the rush?

A not-very-happy piece of news has been recently published about Brazil by Education First [1] on its worldwide English language test (https://www.ef.com.br/epi/): Brazil was ranked 41 in an 80-country list. This low-English-proficiency result has been the headline on many popular news websites, language institute social networks, and blogs since it came out a few days ago.  It is important to note that Brazil has scored better and better since the first edition of the English Proficiency Index in 2011, but there seems to be a rush for English proficiency that bothers every working adult in the country. Now, is the hurry good or bad?

Although this question seems to have an obvious answer to adults who are eager for better employment prospects and social progression, the rush for proficiency in English in a developing country like Brazil is dangerously associated with economic constraints. According to a report by Data Popular Institute for the British Council in 2014[2], the ideal English course in Brazil should have an affordable monthly fee and last for approximately two years. The little time plus little money formula has caused the language market to become more and more creative. Not always in a good way.

First, the trivialization of the terms “basic”, “intermediate”, and “advanced” levels is one example. Quick-fix language programs frequently offer once a week classes in which learners can go from basic to intermediate in as fast as 1 semester; and from intermediate to advanced in not but another semester.

Another product of that formula are the online language programs. Despite being perceived as a good idea, affordable online language programs lack personalized attention and interaction. In exchange for a lower fee, users are left with videos and audio materials followed by form-focused activities that outline a unit of study. That is also true for mobile applications that claim to offer “basic to advanced” programs with a sequence of self-access online materials that lead to an end-of-unit test.

Last, but not least, is the English teacher – a professional who often knows better –, but stands between fast track programs and technological miracles. In order to survive the creativity of the English language market, teachers restlessly resource to ready-made materials and lessons. Not to mention the many acronyms that encapsulate material design, grammar instruction, and skill teaching into small portions that fit into 60-minute language classes.

Learning another language takes time. It takes work. It needs patience and perseverance. I am convinced that Brazil is working its way to the top of internationalization. So are adults to their career advance. However, the rush to the top might result in slips and trips. As the saying goes, “Your direction is more important than your speed” (Richard Evans).

[1] Education First is an multinational company that offers study abroad programs in 116 countries. For more information, see www.ef.com.br.

[2] https://www.britishcouncil.org.br/sites/default/files/learning_english_in_brazil.pdf . Accessed on November 14, 2017.

Anderson Maia

Anderson Maia is currently the dean of a campus at Universidade Federal do Pará and a PhD in TESOL candidate at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. He was the academic manager at Centro Cultural Brasil Estados Unidos for 6 years, an adjunct TESOL professor at private colleges for several years, and has been an English language educator for 15 years in both Brazil and North Carolina, USA. He holds a degree in English and an MA in TESOL from Greensboro College, USA.

No Comments

Post A Comment